Want to improve the quality of your sleep? There’s an app for that

sleep as androidAs mobile technology expands beyond the smartphone, the market has been flooded with mobile apps that promise to monitor your REM and help you get the best sleep of your life. Keep reading for an overview of some apps to improve sleep and the cool tech that drives them.

You Track My Sleep . . . How?

The sensors within personal technology such as FitBits iWatches and some mobile phones have advanced to the point where they can record your sleep patterns such as snoring, periods of uneasy rest, talking in your sleep and motion monitoring. While this all sounds a little scary and big brother-ish, the devices truly can help you understand your sleep patterns. They can even gently nudge you in the direction of more restful slumber by non-intrusive methods such as a gentle vibration from a FitBit or soothing sound changes to help you move from a deep sleep through to wakefulness with a minimum of stress.

Why Do I Care about My Sleep Cycles?

Sleep cycles are important, helping us get ready for a productive day. Some apps such as Sleepbot let you “clock in” and “clock out” to start and stop tracking sleep activity, and even lets you add notes to the log so you can see how your daytime habits support (or detract from!) healthy sleep patterns. Lifehacker.com writer Adam Dachis tested four different apps to improve sleep and reported his results in a detailed blog post here. While apps and technology currently on the market can’t replace a qualified sleep study by medical professionals, they may help you pinpoint specific challenges that you can then share with your provider.

This Sounds Complicated

While there are some standalone devices such as the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach ($190) and the Wakemate ($60), most apps and devices mesh with technology you currently own and are comfortable with—your mobile phone or tablet—and offer either wireless or USB charging and sync. Keeping the learning curve at a minimum allows you to start gaining benefits from the feedback and charts almost immediately. You may find that what is actually influencing your sleep can be distilled down to a few simple factors: environment, light, time and activity. Tagging your sleep the next day by whether you were stressed or having a good day, whether you ate healthy meals and exercised or if you decided to take a day off from all things that are good for you can help you reinforce positive habits all day long.

How Should I Get Started?

The best way to start down the path towards healthy sleep is to start small: download a free or low-cost mobile app to your device of choice and test it. See if you can go for a week with your phone under your pillow, making tiny alterations to your sleep environment such as changing the temperature in your bedroom or using two pillows instead of one. Invest in a good mattress, the best ones can offer a seriously comfortable night's sleep but read reviews before buying. Instead of eating a snack right before bedtime, try having your snack an hour or two hours before bedtime instead. Close the curtains more tightly, or turn off that annoying blinking light from the VCR or cover up the light coming from your clock. You might be surprised the difference small changes can make to the quality of your sleep.

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