I spend a lot of time thinking about sleep — usually when I should be sleeping. While digital brain drain is often the reason why you can't get your Zzzs, technology can also help you get more shut eye. The best apps and gadgets to help you get to sleep combine science, soothing sounds and smells, and smart technology to lull you off to dreamland — all without drugs.
While it may be tempting to turn to over-the-counter or prescription sleep solutions, some of these options can have wacky side effects. My doctor recommended that I take allergy medication at night to help me fall asleep. I did, it worked, and I was psyched to put an end to my sleepless nights. But then I learned that many allergy medicines are linked to an increased risk of dementia, according to an article published by Harvard Medical School. Since my grandmother has dementia, this has me rethinking that quick fix.
And, let's not forget about some of those prescription medications that don't actually induce sleep but instead turn off your conscious brain. I tried one of these and began sleep walking, and there are myriad reports online about people sleep eating and sleep driving. People have even committed crimes while asleep. Um, no thanks.
While New York Magazine recently reported that the idea of sleeping through the night is relatively recent phenomenon, sleeping poorly is still frustrating. If you're at your whits end, these apps and gadgets just might be the answer you've been looking for.
1. Sleep Check-Up App
Not being able to sleep can be beyond frustrating. Personally, if I don't get enough sleep I am as cranky as a three-year-old who missed a nap. If you can't sleep, and you don't have time or money to visit a sleep clinic, you can bring the clinic to you.
SleepRate, a sleep solution medtech company, has launched “Sleep Check Up,” a professional sleep evaluation app, to assess users’ sleep and help them identify and understand their sleep problems with medically backed evaluations, according to a press release from the company.
"After just one week of sleep monitoring, the app diagnoses a wide range of behavioral sleep conditions, such as insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, sleep deficit, and more, using SleepRate’s advanced data analysis technology and patented algorithms," the company noted in the press release. "Sleep Check Up’s core technology is FDA-approved, and its separate therapy module utilizes licensed sleep therapy protocols developed at Stanford University."
Can't sleep? Perhaps you've been using the wrong blanket. You might need a sound blanket instead of your regular comforter. Cambridge Sound Management developed a new sleep technology called Nightingale. Designed by acoustic experts, Nightingale immerses your bedroom in perfectly tuned sound blankets, masking disruptive indoor and outdoor noises to help you sleep better.
"Unlike traditional white noise machines, Nightingale takes into account bedroom type, bedroom acoustics, and personal sleep conditions like snoring and tinnitus," a press release from the company stated. "Nightingale utilizes the walls to reflect soothing sound blankets throughout the room, creating a uniform sound field which ensures the brain cannot localize on the source of the sound, a common shortcoming of white noise machines."
While the blanket of sound won't keep you warm, it should get you safely off to la la land.
3. Athlete Recovery Sleepwear
Perhaps you've heard that spending time in a far infrared sauna can help you sleep better. I recently went to a spa in the desert, and I was super psyched to check out this sauna because my sleep problems run deep. According to a study from the National Institute of Health, far infrared technology has many benefits, including helping your body heal faster, and helping you sleep. Now you can get this technology built right into your sleepwear.
Along with NFL player Tom Brady, Under Armour developed Athlete Recovery Sleepwear, which leverages the power of far infrared. "Far infrared is a type of energy on the infrared spectrum that has several benefits for the human body," Under Armour's website noted. "Our goal was to harness it even when you’re resting. The soft bioceramic print on the inside of the garment absorbs the body’s natural heat and reflects far infrared back to the skin."
Healing injuries and sleeping better? Yes, please.
Aromatherapy often gets dismissed as new age mumbo jumbo, however studies have show than aromatherapy can provide relief from anxiety and depression, promote an improved quality of life, and it can improve sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic.
French company AromaCare is developing an aromatherapy dry diffuser that uses essential oils so you can create personalized aroma sessions in your own home. There is even a sleep aromatherapy capsule you can pop into the diffuser right before bed, and 20 minutes later you should be sleeping like a baby.
"Often the consequence of increasing anxiety, mental fatigue and sometimes even depression, sleep disorders (difficult to sleep, multiple waking at night, early waking in the morning) can compromise the quality of life on a daily basis," the website stated. "Aroma Therapeutics offers a pleasant blend of essential oils with sedative, relaxing and hypnotic qualities."
I wonder if they make one that smells like freshly baked cookies ...
5. NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb
Using this NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb might be the closest you ever get to being an astronaut. According to How Stuff Works, the idea of "night" changes in outer space because an orbiter zooms around the Earth multiple times a day. What's more is the effects of microgravity and weightlessness can disrupt the quality of sleep in space.
Enter the lightbulb that encourages production of melatonin — the hormone that promotes sleep. "Unlike typical light bulbs that emit high levels of short wavelength blue light that suppresses melatonin, the NASA lightbulb’s patented filter reduces blue light by 50 percent to facilitate a better night’s sleep," according to catalog Hammacher Schlemmer.
I mean if it's good enough for astronauts, who am I to protest?
6. Relax And Sleep Well App
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to get hypnotized, now you can find out while you're slipping off to sleep. Relax and Sleep Well is a high quality hypnosis and meditation app by best-selling self-help audio author Glenn Harrold, dubbed as one of the world's most successful hypnotherapists.
Included in Healthline’s list of the Best Insomnia Apps of 2016, Relax and Sleep Well offers four free options as well as paid features. The app combines powerful hypnotherapy techniques with state-of-the-art recording technology.
"The special background sound effects have been recorded in certain keys and frequencies to help enhance the meditation effect and guide you into a deep state of mental and physical relaxation," according to the website.
Curious about whether or not you can be hypnotized? Trying it from your own bed seems like a pretty safe way to explore hypnotherapy.
7. Sleep Genius App
This is another one that was first conceived in outer space, and NASA featured it in its publication Spinoff. The Sleep Genius App helps you set your ideal sleeping and waking schedule to promote more restful sleep.
"Discovering your perfect bedtime, and keeping it consistent, is the linchpin to reclaiming your sleep health," the website advised. "You ideally need to go to bed within 15 minutes of your target bed time."
The app also includes special features for waking so you're not jarred from bed by an alarm. Instead, Sleep Genius gradually awakens you with a gentle five-minute "Revive Cycle" scientifically created to rouse from sleep with soothing sounds.
"The progressive alarm helps you wake from any sleep stage with periodic sound cycles including micro phases of gradual frequency and volume shifts," the website explained. "This helps you to wake gradually preventing elevated stress caused by noisy alarm clocks and sudden waking. In time, your brain will learn a new wake rhythm allowing you to rise naturally as our ancestors did."
If you really wan to get old-timey, this app might be for you.
8. mySleepButton App
Sleep researchers have discovered that as you fall asleep, you often experience visual images and “micro-dreams." These diverse images your imagination conjures up may actually help you fall asleep, whereas your tendency to think in a verbal, analytic, problem-solving mode can delay those coveted Zzzzs. Enter cognitive shuffling in the form of the mySleepButton App, developed by Cognitive scientist Luc Beaudoin.
"The Cognitive Shuffle involves thinking of random items that are easy to visualize, non-threatening, and conducive to sleep," Beaudoin explains on his website.
The app helps you select the words to begin your cognitive shuffling word association, which helps you keep your mind off issues that prevent you from sleeping. Sweet dreams, my friends.