You could make a great case that technology is culpable for society’s escalating sleep struggles. From stress-inducing work emails to the blue light emitted from your favorite devices, our gadget-centric lifestyles aren’t conducive to restful, natural sleep.
At the same time, technology provides solutions to soothe your weary mind and usher in the Sandman.
From binaural tones that lull you to sleep to sleep monitors and dream interpreters, these apps can help you fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and spot the behaviors that influence the depth and restorative power of your slumber.
GETTING TO SLEEP
Whether you’re into white noise, a crackling campfire, or gently falling rain, this app provides dozens of soothing sleepy-time sounds. Best of all: The sound cycles are seamless, so you don’t have to worry about obvious track loops and other disrupting distractions.
Switch it on, and you’ll promptly piss yourself. Kidding! Despite its unfortunate name, this is a high-tech app that combines voices, tones, binaural beats, and the science of “neurolinguistic programming” to create a new, unique sleep track every time you use it. If other background noise machines and apps haven’t worked for you, this one just might.
RELAX & SLEEP WELL
$1.99 (iPhone) or Free (Android), relaxandsleepwell.com
If you suffer from insomnia, you’re willing to try anything to get to sleep. Why not give hypnosis a whirl? This app features two half-hour hypnotherapy sessions from bestselling author Glenn Harrold. Along with Harrold’s dulcet voice, you’ll be lulled to sleep with sounds effects “recorded in specific keys and frequencies to help guide you into a deep state of mental and physical relaxation,” the app’s developer claims. Give it a chance, and you’ll be surprised how well it works.
WHILE YOU SLEEP
This app uses your phone’s built in accelerometer to assess your body movements throughout the night. With this information, it can assess how deeply or lightly you’ve been resting, which it uses to produce graphs and data outlining your sleep patterns. Use it to judge which foods or cocktails screw with your sleep—or to figure out how long you stayed awake after popping that Ambien.
Like the last app, this one tracks your movement as you sleep. While it doesn’t produce nocturnal movement data that’s quite as accurate as Sleep Time+, it does record audio throughout the night. By checking your sound graph the next morning, you can tap on specific time points and listen for snoring or other breathing issues. (This is handy—or incriminating—if your bedmate complains you’ve been snoring all night.) And yeah, someone’s definitely going to feature this in a scary movie sooner or later.
Free (Android only), play.google.com
You probably already know this, but “lucid dreaming” refers to the idea that you can teach yourself to recognize and drive your dreams without waking up. It’s not science fiction; research shows it’s possible. And this app teaches you how to do it with instructional courses, sounds cues, dream log functionality, and other features. Use it to become an “oneironaut” (a dream explorer).
SLEEP CYCLE ALARM CLOCK
Some research suggests that aligning your wake time with certain phases of your sleep cycle can help you hop out of bed feeling more refreshed. Download this app, slip your phone under your bed sheets, and—based on a range of wake times you’ve pre-programmed—the alarm will sound when it senses you’ve entered the ready-to-wake-up portion of your cycle.
A snake slithered through your dream, or an old friend waved to you just before you woke up. If you’ve ever wondered what your dreams mean, this “dream dictionary” app can help you tease out the hidden symbols and clues buried in your mind’s unconscious wanderings.
FITBIT CHARGE HR
There are a dozen different activity trackers that double as sleep monitors and movement-based alarm clocks. But our pick for accuracy and all-around functionality is the FitBit Charge HR. Not insignificant is the fact that, unlike some similar trackers, it’s thin and light enough to wear comfortably all night long.