You’ve probably already heard and been alarmed by the scary statistics that show just how many of us suffer from sleep disorders or choose to stay up far too late. As a result, lots of women have been looking for ways to improve their own sleep cycle.
Of course, one of the major culprits causing our collective lack of rest is the blue light emanating from all of the devices we seem to have permanently glued to our hands. But what if you wanted to use your device to actually help you get to sleep (or to have better sleep) instead? Whether you need an alarm clock or some ambient sounds to help you get more shuteye, here are four of the best sleep apps available right now.
1. Sleep Cycle alarm clock
The Sleep Cycle alarm clock app tracks your movements in order to determine where you are in your 90-minute sleep cycles. This can either be done by using your microphone or by using the phone accelerometer — a device in your phone that measures movement or vibrations — which requires you to place the phone on your mattress. (Safety note: do NOT place your phone beneath your pillow or under a thick mattress.)
When it reaches your chosen alarm time, the app begins to gently wake you during the lightest sleep state of your last sleep cycle. It’s called a “wake up phase” and it lasts about 30 minutes in order to rouse you as gently as possible.
The Sleep Cycle app also features two different snooze options: “the intelligent snooze,” which allows you to “snooze through your wake up phase” or a more traditional “regular snooze,” which lets you choose to snooze for one to 20 minutes, as many times you like. It also works in airplane mode, if you’re concerned about a late-night call or text disturbing you when you're asleep.
Available in the App Store and on Google Play.
2. Relax Melodies
If you need a few gentle sounds to lull you to sleep, you may want to give this app a try. Inspired after one of the creators suffered insomnia due to tinnitus, the app allows users to create and add their own soundscapes to the app’s guided meditations. It draws from more than 100 different relaxing sounds, from white noise to soothing melodies. You can either opt to listen to your mix all night, or you can set the timer to end at a specific time. If you struggle with sleep apnea or are a light sleeper, this is a good iPhone app for you to try.
Available for iPhone and Android.
3. Sleep Calculator
This one isn’t exactly an app, but it is a personal favorite. I first heard about this website from a guest on the “Another Round” podcast and it has been a lifesaver. Basically, you just decide when you want to sleep and when you want to wake , and the Sleep Calculator tells you the optimal time to go to bed in order to wake between one of your 90-minute sleep cycles. This way, you rely less on your alarm clock and you feel more rested when you wake up.
The goal is to start trying to fall asleep at least 15 minutes before your record bedtime, as it takes the average person that long to fall asleep. It has definitely helped me determine an appropriate bedtime for myself on multiple occasions and definitely improved my sleep quality.
4. Sleep Better: Sleep Tracker
This tracking app helps you determine which waking activities affect the quality of your sleep. One of the many health and fitness-related apps created by Runtastic, the app not only tracks your sleep, but features a “smart alarm,” keeps track of which daily habits impact your sleep and reviews your sleep statistics to make sure that you’re getting enough rest.
However, my favorite feature by far is the Dream Notes, which allows you to keep up with your dreams. As a person with an active imagination who tends to have her fair share of nightmares, this helps me out a lot when I’m trying to remember what dream symbols to look up the next morning.
Available in the App Store and on Google Play.
Bonus tip: if you have bad dreams as often as I do, dream dictionaries are a must. They help me determine what my sleeping brain is trying to suss out, and turn — say, a terrifying nightmare about all of my teeth falling out — into much-less-scary warnings about the perils of burnout. It’s definitely easier to get back to sleep when you have even a vague understanding of what your subconscious is trying to unpack.
So, if you're interested in improving your sleep quality, head to the app store ASAP. With each sleep app, you'll be able to better understand your sleep cycle and finally get a good night's sleep.
Lauren McEwen is an Atlanta-based freelancer and the social media manager for "Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis."
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