Editor's note: this post originally ran in July of 2018 and has been updated.
Sleeping is a lot harder than it used to be. Our lives are filled with countless distractions and long days of multi-tasking that leave us exhausted, yet somehow wide awake when our heads finally hit the pillow. After trying juggle everything between our work, home, and social lives, getting a solid 8-hours of uninterrupted sleep can pretty much feel impossible. Luckily, the multiple devices that distract us daily also provide a number of great tools to help ease ourselves into the land of Zzz’s.
Here's 7 pieces of technology designed to increase your much-needed shuteye, and have you waking up feeling fresh as a damn daisy.
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The relentless cycle of insomnia and sleep-depravation is frustrating, anxiety-provoking, and may the most detrimental thing to our overall health and cognitive functioning.
Research shows that repeatedly missing sleep or keeping an inconsistent sleep schedule raises your risk for chronic health problems and affects how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
Since sleep is the primary way our brain and bodies repair themselves at a cellular level, not getting decent shut eye weakens the immune system and alters activity in parts of the brain that can lead to depression, anxiety, and risk-taking behavior. “Your brain is actually very active during sleep doing important things — it’s not just resting,” says Dr. Carl Bazil, Profesor of Neurology at Columbia University. “And if you don’t get sleep you don’t function on a number of levels the way you should.” In a nutshell, everything from learning to your mood to your risk of getting sick and becoming obese can get thrown off kilter.
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Mindfulness and meditation have been proven to help people who struggle with insomnia. Luckily, we’re living in a time where meditation and technology are (ironically) connected, and there are apps that focus on meditation through various techniques like music, soothing nature sounds, breathing techniques, and even bedtime stories. All are aimed to help you shut off your busy brain and hit the state of relaxation you need to go to bed.
The Headspace Meditation app sets you up with different sessions depending on your goals. Each session only takes a few minutes and will soothe your mind right before bed. The app offers peaceful sounds of nature, and even turns your phone into a portrait of a scenic landscape. The first one I tried was 12 minutes long, and it did an amazing job at calming down my mind and body—Something about the mix of nature sounds and music really put me in a relaxed zen state. If you're the kind of person whose mind races before you hit the sack, this app is for you.
Pzizz app gives you the option of both sleep and nap, which is different from the others I've found. It uses a guided meditation set against a backdrop of different sounds you can choose, in either a male or female voice. “In order to put someone to sleep, you need to capture their attention enough that they stop thinking, but not capture it so much that they stay awake because they’re captivated by the audio. The magic happens in the space in between,” says the founder. The app will keep playing itself until the time you pre-set to wake up.
Sleep Well Hypnosis
Sleep Well Hypnosis app uses soothing sounds along with the voice of a hypnotist to help listeners unwind and drift into a deep, restful sleep. According to the creators, the app can lower anxious thoughts and has been proven to improve sleep in just one to three weeks.
Sleep Genius app was designed using the same neurosensory algorithms that NASA uses to help astronauts get rest in space. The app provides different sounds that help guide your brain through the complete five stages of the sleep cycle. The collection of sounds help your brain prepare for sleep, sleep more soundly, and then wake you at your body’s optimal time. Out of this world.. literally.
“If you’re a lifelong sufferer of a sleep disorder who has tried numerous solutions, there is no reason not to give sleep apps a try,” says Sanjeev Kothare, PhD, Director of Sleep Education at NYU. “Combined with basic healthy behaviors like good diet and exercise, it may improve your quality of sleep."
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Sleep Cycle app tracks and analyzes your sleep patterns.Your phone's built-in microphone picks up your movements as you sleep using sound and vibration analysis.The app analyzes the data to determine if you are in light sleep, deep sleep, or a dream state known as random eye movement (REM) sleep. Choose your wake up time, and the app will gently stir you from your slumber during your lightest phase of sleep to ensure that you wake up feeling rested, refreshed, and ready for the day ahead.
Sleep Time app uses an algorithm that analyzes your sleep patterns and provides detailed, comprehensive insights to help you get higher-quality sleep. The app monitors your movements over the course of the night and generates customized data of your sleep cycles in easy-to-read graphs and charts. Similarly to Sleep Cycle, Sleep Time's smart alarm wakes you in the lightest phase of sleep so you're not groggy.
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This new sleep pad by Nokia goes under your sheets and performs a full sleep analysis. It records everything from your sleep cycles, to heart rate, and even snoring. That data is then sent to the app, giving you the chance to see what’s really keeping you from hopping out of bed all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It can also sync with other smart devices in your house. For instance, it can turn the lights off for you when it senses you’re in bed. Clap Clap.
Philips Somneo Sleep and Wake-Up Light
The Phillips Someno Sleep and Wake-Up Light is meant to mimic nature's sunrise. Before your pre-set wake time, it will gradually increase from soft morning red through orange, until your room is filled with bright yellow light. The process of changing and increasing light is designed to stimulate your body to wake up naturally, as light gently prepares your body for waking up while you are still asleep. By the time light has filled the room, your pre-selected natural sound, playlist, or radio station comes on, leaving you ready to start the day.
As somebody who needs the room as dark as the African desert on a moonless night, I honestly can’t believe it took so long for someone to give the sleep mask a tech upgrade...(Kicking myself that I didn't invent DreamLight.) While this version of the popular sleep hack isn't as cozy as my go-to cashmere mask, but it has other features that more than make up for it. The mask has internal lights that guide you through sleep-inducing breathing exercise and regulates melatonin to help you wake up naturally. It’s the perfect in-flight device for a frequent flyer, or the spouse of a night owl.
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Sleeping with a humidifier (I love this one) could soothe and ease a variety of health issues that cause discomfort and sleep issues. Some, like itchy skin and chapped lips, are merely irritating, but dry air can also worsen respiratory conditions like asthma and increase our risk of sinus infections, the common cold, and the flu. Even if you don't suffer from respiratory problems, your complexion will thank you for using a humidifier, particularly in the colder months when low humidity depletes your dewy summer glow.
"Running a humidifier in your home can add moisture to the air and help prevent dry skin," says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, board-certified dermatologist. "If your heating system doesn’t have a built-in humidifier, using a portable one in your bedroom will help add moisture to the air. Always set the unit below 60 percent humidity, as levels above this will allow moisture to condense on surfaces, which could lead to bacteria growth. Remember to change the water in your humidifier every day, and clean it out once a week. Bacteria can grow in standing water, and breathing it in could cause respiratory problems."Schlessinger says.
Sleep Number i10 Mattress
The Sleep Number i10 mattress is a splurge, but well-worth it if you just can't seem to find the (non-pharmaceutical) thing to cure your sleep woes. This smart bed can detect your orientation and movement during the night, and automatically adjusts the firmness of the mattress based on where your body needs support at that moment. The bed can even sense if you're snoring (based on the vibrations) and will tilt your head upward to try and prevent it. The multiple responses it automatically makes throughout the night based on your sleep patterns help you sleep soundly and uninterrupted. The bed can also hook up to your phone or tablet through its integrated app. The app tells you your SleepIQ score, aka the Sleep Number ranking of your overall sleep score. "The idea is that if you have a lower-than-average score, you can start pinpointing what it is that's keeping you awake at night and then hopefully remedy it." And as if that's not enough, if you sync up the mattress with your other smart home devices (like the Nest Thermostat), the bed can even change the temperature of the room based on its reading of your body temperature.