Sleeplessness plagues much of the U.S. population, and the evidence is everywhere. Look no further than the popularity of products such as energy drinks, sleep medications, mattresses geared toward a better night’s sleep, and smart phone apps.
As a matter of fact, the sleep industry was projected to reach $32.4 billion in 2012, reported The Fiscal Times in July 2012. The number represented a nearly 9 percent year-over-year increase since 2008.
An estimated 40 million Americans experience chronic, long-term sleep disorders annually and about 20 million encounter occasional sleeping problems, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In a CDC survey, adults reported sleep-related difficulties related to memory, concentration, driving, finances and work performance. And let’s not forget mood—stress, crankiness, over-sensitivity.
Learn about the sleep-mood connection from Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine
It is no wonder smart phone users are increasingly purchasing apps created to help achieve a good night’s sleep. There are many to choose from on iTunes and Google Play. Here are five favorites.
Think of it as your own, personal at-home sleep study and the alarm clock you’ve always dreamed of having. The Sleep Cycle alarm clock app employs the iPhone accelerometer to monitor your movement and determine your sleep phases throughout the night. It wakes you in your lightest sleep phase using a 30-minute alarm window.
Once you wake, you indicate how you feel and look at data form the night. A graph tracks your sleep cycles. After a few days, the appwill use these graphs to determine your sleep quality from night to night. You can enter notes to help you track patterns that may help you understand what behaviors prevent or encourage a solid night of sleep. Additionally, you can set a timer and listen to soothing sounds as you begin to slumber.
Another alarm clock, sleep lab dream come true, Sleep Time by Azumio caters to non-iPhone users and iPhone users alike. This app also uses the phone’s accelerometer to monitor sleep activity throughout the night and displays data in a graph. The developers worked with Stanford University tocreate its proprietary algorithm for analyzing sleep. It also includes soundscapes to help transition you from consciousness to dreamland.
Based on the premise that sleep quality and heart rate are related, Sleep by MotionX tracks both. While the price isn’t exactly free, this app is one worth spending a few dollars on. Not only does it log and chart your sleep patterns and wake you with at the optimal point in your cycle, it canalso be used to track your daily heart rate using the phone’s camera and record daily steps as well as activities such as walks and jogs—it even calculates distance, calories and average cadence. The powernap setting allows you to track and monitor any quick snoozes throughout the day. You may also set daily goals and get sleep and activity recommendations from the “coach.” An extensive online manual helps users maximize their purchase.
Visit the National Sleep Foundation to learn more about sleep disorders
If you’re looking for a free sleep app, the iHOME+Sleep is the way to go. Although it lacks the functionality of the paid apps listed above, it is a popular choice for many iOS device users. It includes customizable alarms for nighttime sleep as well as naps and also tracks sleep statistics such as day-to-day bedtimes and wakeup times as well as your running average hours per day.
For those who simply want assistance unwinding and fallng asleep, Sleepmaker apps are considered the No1 series of relaxation apps. Users can choose from six versions—Rain, Storms, Streams, Waves, Wildlife, and All in One. Then, simply set how long you wish them to play, and fall asleep.
Would you like to drift off to a gentle storm coming or medium thunder with heavy splatter? Do you prefer a heavy night campfire with nightlife or the sound of birds near a river? Each app features multiple soundtrack options and allows users to adjust the volume just so. What people love about the Sleepmaker line is the naturalness of the sounds. They are all real, recorded live in digital uncompressed formats and looped by a motion picture sound engineer.
Get more sleep statistics and information at the Better Sleep Council
While these apps do not help you with disordered sleeping, they may assist in finding patterns and allowing you to relax. Talk to your health care provider about your sleep concerns and what you can do to improve your nightly rest.