Smartphones are often the last thing we see at night and the first thing we look at in the morning -- but gazing into the glow of screens is not at all conducive to sleep. Research has shown that staring into the blue light of tablet or smartphone displays actually suppresses the production of melatonin, leaving you feeling wide awake.
But while that bright blue light may not exactly be a soothing digital lullaby, smartphones can help expedite your journey towards dreamland in other ways. Several apps have been specially designed to help you drift off quickly and easily without requiring you to stare into your phone.
Trouble falling asleep is not uncommon. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that, here in the U.S., 30% of adults have symptoms of insomnia. Whether you find yourself tossing and turning frequently or just occasionally, a few apps are out there to help you get to sleep faster.
- MySleepButton. This cognitive science-based app, which works on Android/iOS, aims to help settle a busy mind by having it focus on one mental image at a time. Just select how long you’d like the app to play, then a woman will begin saying words such as “pencil” or “teddy bear.” By imagining each of the simple images, the brain is prevented from dwelling on other concerns. There’s even a mode that allows you to imagine drawing various items. It's available as a free download on iOS. For Android users, it’s $2.99.
- Sleep Genius. Astronauts have used Sleep Genius to help them fall asleep, but the earth-bound will love this app just as much. The program combines four neuroscientific elements known to help the brain enter into sleep mode. Sleep Genius will even wake you up in the morning, but not in the harsh way that a beeping alarm clock would. With its Revive Cycle Alarm, users will be gradually awakened over a five-minute period with soothing sounds. Other features include a Power Nap mode, a Relaxation Program, and the ability to monitor the quality of your sleep. It's available in the App Store for $4.99.
- Sleepmaker Rain. If rainy days make you want to curl up and take a nap, this app might have the same effect on you at bedtime. Even at night, the brain is wired to be alert to sounds that might signal danger. Research shows that a little white noise or nature sounds can help drown out sounds that might cause your sleep to be needlessly interrupted. Choose from a variety of rain sounds, from medium level rain against a window to “torrential downpour.” Restless kids might benefit from this app at bedtime, too. It's available for free on Android.
- Relax & Sleep Well. This app uses hypnosis and meditation to help reduce stress and anxiety, allowing you to fall asleep easier. Created by hypnotherapist and self-help audio author Glenn Harrold, this app offers a 27-minute hypnotherapy session over a background of soothing sounds. The special frequencies of the background sounds pair well with the meditation and aim to help you slip into a deeper meditative state. It's free on Android and $1.99 for iPhone users.