Yes, I know it sounds totally counterintuitive, but your phone might actually be your answer to more peaceful sleep. Well…”as long as you’re not actually looking at your phone,” says Mary Ellen Wells, PhD, a director and associate professor of neurodiagnostics and sleep science and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
That’s because staring at any light-emitting screens—by scrolling through Instagram or catching up on *just one more* episode of Game of Thrones—will keep your mind alert and make it harder for you to fall asleep.
Instead, your bedtime routine should revolve around doing something soothing or just plain boring to help you wind down, according to Wells. Your solution? An audible sleep app like one that focuses on meditation or is preloaded with the sounds of a waterfall to drown out your partner’s snores.
Here are the top seven sleep apps to help you drift off, according to Wells.
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Meditation is a solid way to destress before bed so you can actually sleep through the night, making this app super handy, according to Wells. Calm is technically free, but you’ll need a subscription to use it. And if you’re willing to shell out the coin (about $59.99 a year), it’s totally worth it.
With sleep stories (including some narrated by Matthew McConaughey), soothing music, and guided lessons on gentle movements that will relax the body, Calm could be the answer to making sure your anxieties don’t come to bed with you.
If you haven’t already downloaded Headspace, an app filled with meditations for every possible situation, I’ll give you moment.
Got it? Good. To help your mind relax, Headspace has created sleep packages including “sleepcasts” which are 45-to-50 minute stories (about cats at a marina, or descriptions of a stormy night). You can even manipulate the speaker’s voice to be louder or softer than the background ambient sounds.
Stories not your jam? No problem. Listen to a wind down that guides you through falling back asleep and deep breathing, or sleep music instead.
Pillow is a sleep tracker that will automatically sense when you fall asleep so it can monitor your movements, record you so can discover if you snore or sleep talk, and track your sleep stages. With the app, you can compare your most recent night’s sleep to others to determine what’s keeping you up—whether it’s that extra cup of coffee or skipping a workout.
The key to this app, though, is how it works with your Apple Watch’s accelerometer (it tracks your movement since it’s attached to your wrist).
With the Relax Melodies app, you can set sounds and meditations to play all night long or program them to turn off after a set amount of time so you can drift into sleep and rest in silence.
Try this routine to wake up refreshed: Listen to one of the app’s quick meditations followed by the sound of rainfall to help you stay in dreamland until your alarm goes off.
Pzizz uses psychoacoustics (a.k.a., the psychological affects of sound) to treat insomnia.
The app (which works offline, too, so you don’t have to be connected to the internet) has more than 100 billion sleep music sequences called “focuscapes” to help you stay alert during the day, and customizable narrations with programmed alarms called dreamscapes to help you sleep and nap.
This sleep app is all about waking up. Instead of programming an alarm, Sleep Cycle monitors your sleep with sound analysis through your phone and wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase—the time when you’d wake feeling most rested (don’t worry, you can still set an approximate time, so you aren’t late for work).
At the end of the week you can look back at your sleep quality, compare it to that of other users, and track what might be causing your restlessness (like too much coffee or not enough exercise).
White Noise and its collection of sounds is ideal for people who want to quiet their minds when they find silence disturbing or need to drown out the sound of loud roommates.
Though there is a free version, it has ads, which Wells says would counteract the work of even the best apps. So consider purchasing an upgrade if the free version doesn’t do the trick. Whichever you choose, you can mix and combine any of the programmed sounds for a customizable sleep experience.
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