The Best Sleep Apps to Download Right Now
Whether you want to be lulled out of insomnia via soothing sounds, or want high-tech intel about your sleep patterns, start here.
For the average American adult, getting an adequate amount of quality, nightly sleep is hard enough to come by even when the world doesn’t feel like it could implode at any second (for reference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines short sleep duration for adults as anything less than seven hours a night).
Throw a global pandemic and subsequent economic turmoil, a long-overdue civil rights movement and reckoning with global warming, and an incredibly contentious upcoming presidential election into the mix (among a seemingly endless number of other national and international crises), and getting good sleep in the year 2020 feels damn near impossible.
“When we initially become stressed, our bodies naturally resort to less sleep simply as a ‘fight or flight’ mechanism,” explains Shelby Harris, PsyD, a behavioral sleep medicine therapist and clinical psychologist in White Plains, New York. “We begin to have trouble with falling asleep and staying asleep because our brains are essentially on higher alert, waking [often] due to anxiety.”
Thankfully for all of us, technology is catching up to our collective increasing need for better sleep. Below, a round-up of six of the best sleep-aiding apps currently available for immediate download. Some help track your tossing and turning patterns while others promise to lull you out of insomnia via soothing sounds, but all maintain the same underlying goal: Better sleep.
One of the O.G. meditation apps, Calm also offers sleep-boosting services like relaxing bedtime stories and white noise tracks reminiscent of a night spent camping under the stars, or, say, close to a nearby stream. My personal favorite part of the app, though? The people who narrate said bedtime stories—namely, Matthew McConaughey, Laura Dern and, ahem, Harry Styles. The latter of which, a story aptly titled ‘Dream with Me,’ I cannot recommend highly enough.
“Hello, I’m Harry Styles,” he begins, speaking softly over a gentle trill of piano. “And tonight, I’m going to help you drift off to sleep… with some soothing words… and calming music. A sleep story — just for you.”
The app offers plenty of other amazing sleep-inducing and meditative recordings, yes, but do we even need another selling point here? Let’s just say that this bedtime story just for me, in combination with 5mg of melatonin, led to dreams of Harry eating watermelon sugar on the beach in Malibu. What more could you really want from a bedtime story?
You can unlock the app for a free seven-day trial, but after that it a premium subscription will cost you $15 per month (or $70 for one year).
This combination sleep-slash-meditation app is designed to help get you to sleep — fast. Slumber allows you to choose from a variety of nature sounds, white noise, bedtime stories, guided meditations or even other “soundscapes” (such as “Fire on The Beach,” “The Warm Jacuzzi,” and even, inexplicably, “The Airplane Cabin”).
“I’m a fan of using white noise at bedtime just to drown out noises that might interrupt sleep,” Harris says. “Consistent is best, and white noise is as consistent as one can get.”
After a seven-day free trial, full usage of the app costs $40 per year.
3. Sleep Cycle
As its name suggests, Sleep Cycle is an entirely sleep-focused app — but rather than helping to lull you into the twilight zone, it uses motion detection to track your sleep cycles. After placing your smartphone face down on your nightstand or mattress, the app picks up the sounds of your tossing and turning via its microphone. Eventually, it establishes graphs and statistics of your own personal sleep patterns. Bonus: It doubles as a smart alarm clock, sounding at the lightest point in your ‘wake up phase’ (you can set a time window between ten and ninety minutes long).
Another plus: The freemium version of the app offers all of the aforementioned features. You can upgrade to a premium subscription (for $30 per year) for even more high-tech intel about your sleep, such as heart rate tracking and snore detection.
4. Relax Melodies
This easy-to-use app forgoes all of the tracking and narration for simple, but very effective, white noise. Relax Melodies (which is only $25 for a one-year subscription) allows you to pick from more than 100 different background sounds and even create your own custom mix, depending on your mood.
If you’re new to sleep apps in general, Harris suggests using them as part of your pre-bedtime routine. “Use relaxation noises or meditations in dim light and maybe read a book or magazine, or do puzzles or anything quiet, calm and relaxing,” she says. “The key is doing these things outside of the bed to wind down and getting into bed when you’re actually sleepy to learn to associate the bed with sleep, not anxiety or frustration.”
This iOS sleep tracking app works via the built-in accelerometer on your iPhone or Apple watch to track your movements throughout the night. Pillow then compiles all of your sleep data into a handy and easy-to-understand graph that maps out your sleep health over time (and also syncs up with iPhone’s Health app, so you can keep track of it all in one place). The free version of the app offers all the basics you’ll need, but the premium version — which tracks and records the actual sounds you make while you sleep (helpful for those prone to apnea) — is only a $5 commitment per month.
Although I’m still unsure how to pronounce it correctly, this sleep app stands out in a big way. Pzizz uses the science of psychoacoustic — which is all about the physiological impacts of sound — to lull you to sleep at, quote, the push of a button. Via a scientific algorithm, the app compiles a mix of different sound effects (which they call dreamscapes) that are designed for each specific stage of the sleep cycle. You can try it for free for seven days, after which the app costs $10 per month (or $70 annually).