Finding time to get enough sleep has been a struggle ever since we invented artificial light. No longer tied to our day-night cycle, we’ve pushed harder and harder into the night, spending more and more time away from our beds. While burning the midnight oil may be necessary once in a while, it’s of imperative importance to our health that we do find the time to get our heads down for a good amount of sleep as often as possible.
But sometimes it’s not that easy. Modern life is stressful, and shutting down can be easier said than done. If you’re having trouble sorting out your sleep patterns, there are things you can do to help ease you into sleep. If camomile tea, brisk evening walks, and reading in bed aren’t helping you out, then we’ve found some of the best sleep apps for your iOS or Android device that can help you relax, switch off, and keep track of your personal sleep routine. So whether you’re looking for soothing sounds of nature, a smart alarm that wakes you up at the right time, or just a simple clock in-clock out system to track your sleep, here are the apps that you need.
If you’re looking for a free app that helps you to track your sleep, wake up at the right time, and gain an insight into how you sleep, then SleepBot should be your first port of call. Using a simple system of clocking in when you go to sleep, and clocking out when you wake up, SleepBot can keep a remarkably good log of your sleep times. It even has a clock in offset if you’re the type of person who takes a little time to go to sleep. SleepBot can also use your phone’s sensors to track your movement during your sleep, and can be set to record sleep talking. But that’s not just for comedy value (“Zombie rugby could be a lot better, but they keep passing their arms!”), as SleepBot uses that data to record when you’re in a deep sleep, and since waking from a period of lighter sleep improves your wakefulness, it sets an alarm to wake you during those lighter periods. Stat-heads are likely to find a lot to love here, as SleepBot is full of interesting statistics and graphs, and even has a guides section where you can learn about how to improve your sleep lifestyle.
Sleep Cycle is a pared down experience for those who want to get all the benefits of waking up during a lighter period of their sleep cycle, but aren’t that fussed about keeping track of the specific times they do so. Much like SleepBot, Sleep Cycle uses your phone’s sensors to keep track of your movement, noises, and position while you sleep, so that it can slowly wake you at the optimal time, ensuring you wake feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
From popular fitness app developer Runtastic, Sleep Better aims to make the process of tracking your sleep into less of a chore, and more of a daily diary. Sleep Better supports logging your sleep times, has a smart alarm that aims to wake you at the right time, and uses sensors to monitor your sleeping state. Sleep Better also allows you to go even deeper into various details of your sleep by including a dream diary, caffeine and alcohol tracker, and even the phases of the moon. This might seem a bit much, but it’s all to allow you to see what really helps you to sleep, and what’s keeping you awake. This app can ask a lot of you, but if you’re willing to go deep into the intensive logging spree, you’re sure to learn a lot about how you sleep.
Remember when you were a kid, and the sound of the rain in the car would gently lull you to sleep? If that’s a memory you share and you’re having trouble sleeping, then Rain Rain Sleep Sounds might help you relax. Rain Rain Sleep Sounds has a catalog of over 25 natural noises to help you get to sleep, including rain on a tent, distant thunderstorms, and crashing ocean waves. Fancy hearing a thunderstorm over the ocean from your tent? You can mix each track together to get the perfect sound that’ll help you. There’s no need to worry about it being on all night either — a custom timer will slowly fade the sounds out, giving you a peaceful night’s rest after you nod off.
On Android and want even more sound options? Sleepo comes with 32 carefully selected sounds, sorted into four different categories: Rain, city, nature, and meditation sounds. Like other apps, you can mix these different sounds together to create your own personal spin, or simply use each one with the built-in timer to fade away when you fall asleep. If you’re something of a sound purist, Sleepo also contains tracks for white, pink, and brown noise. Thanks to the wide range of noises available, you’re sure to find a selection that helps you to drift off.
Developed using information from NASA’s own research on helping astronauts sleep, Sleep Genius claims to offer the world’s first truly scientific app for aiding sleep. It does this through a specific relaxation program that slows your heart rate, stabilizes your brain, and helps you to release tension and stress from the day, easing you into a sleepy state. It also functions as a smart alarm, with a gradually rising alarm that aims to wake you slowly and naturally after your rest. Interestingly, it also comes with a power nap function that lets you take short, restful naps to boost your performance through the day. It’s the first paid app on this list, but it’s certainly worth a look if you haven’t found success with other apps.
What sort of sleep app list would this be without mention of Sleep as Android? One of Android’s most successful sleep apps, Urbandroid really took advantage of Android’s open platform, and Sleep as Android is one of the most interconnected sleep apps that you can get on an Android device. Capable of talking with Pebble, Android Wear, and Galaxy Gear smartwatches, Sleep as Android is also integrated with fitness apps like Google Fit and S Health, so you can be sure you’re getting enough sleep to match your activity levels. It comes with sleep, movement, and snoring tracking, can play sounds to help you sleep, and can even control Philips HUE smart bulbs. It’s one of the finest examples of a connected Android app, and well worth your time to set up.
Samsung’s own health app comes pre-installed on Samsung’s devices, but is also available for other Android phones. S Health is primarily a fitness tracker, but it does have some sleep tracking capabilities. While we’d normally avoid fitness trackers that otherwise have sleep trackers built-in, S Health does have a few features that make it stand out from the crowd of sleep tracking apps. S Health will attempt to automatically record your sleep times, based on your activity with your phone. So if you put down your phone just before bed, and pick it up again shortly after waking, S Health can help to keep track of your sleep records with little interaction from yourself. In addition, the app will record your sleep and wake times, and rate them accordingly, so you can always be chasing a higher rating for better sleep.
Pillow is a sleep tracker for iOS devices that works with your Apple Watch to supply more detailed information than a normal sleep tracker. Thanks to integration with the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor, Pillow helps to keep an even closer eye on you while you sleep, keeping note of your resting heart rate and the movements you make during the night. Thanks to Pillow’s integration with iOS devices, you can also use the same account across all your iOS devices. Pillow also comes with a power nap mode, smart alarms, and iCloud support for free, and it supports a whole raft of premium features like personalized sleep reports, and integration with Apple’s health app for a one-time payment of $5.
Sometimes you just need to calm down a little bit before bed, and that’s where apps like Calm: Meditation come in. While not purely focused on aiding sleep, Calm does contain several guided meditation courses and sleep stories that help to promote stress relief before bed, and aim to put the user in a deeper and more relaxed sleep. For those who don’t like hearing voices, Calm also has soothing sounds of nature to help you drift off. The other courses help with stress relief, and could aid your sleep by helping you to live a calmer and more relaxed life. Some courses do require a subscription fee for access.
Looking for more help sleeping, or hungry for more sleep gadgets? Check out our round-up of the best physical sleep trackers, and the best gadgets to help you sleep. And if you’re looking for something to listen to those lovely nature sounds on, check out our list of the best wireless noise-canceling headphones. If you just want to see more must-install apps, check out our lists of the best Android apps, and the best iOS apps available right now!