Sleep is a funny thing. Staying up past your bedtime as a kid was a treat. Sleep didn’t seem so elusive back then. But now with longer workdays, a serious caffeine habit, and an endless stream of binge-worthy shows, it’s a miracle if you get six hours of shut-eye per night.
But you can rest easy (or at least more easily) if you’ve got the right app. We know, we know—it’s ironic to suggest the solution for better sleep can be found on your smartphone. After all, phones emit blue light that messes with your circadian rhythm and keeps you up. Plus, you’re only a few taps away from the addictive scroll of every social app, which is one of the easiest ways to lose track of time.
Luckily, you can avoid the blue light issue—and stop tricking your brain into thinking it’s still light out—by enabling Night Shift (iOS) or downloading Twilight (Android). Then go ahead and check out these eight apps:
Tune out all of the background noise—from your clunky pipes to your loud next-door neighbor—with this app. Don’t let the name deceive you. You can opt for traditional white noise or choose from a full catalog of ambient sounds, including “extreme rain pouring” and “cat purring.”
This app lets you be your own sleep DJ. Choose from more than 70 pre-recorded ambient sounds or mix them up on your own. You’ll never get bored, considering there are more than 300,000 possible combinations. The app also includes a sleep timer and alarm clock.
Do you wake up feeling groggy even after getting a solid eight hours of sleep? That’s probably because your alarm jolted you awake in the middle of deep sleep. This app is designed to wake you up at the lightest point in your sleep cycle—hence the name. That means the app may wake you up 15 or 20 minutes before your typical alarm, but you’ll feel refreshed. Sleep Cycle comes with a bunch of other cool bells and whistles, including sleep analysis and snore detection.
Studies have found that meditation and exercise can help with sleep issues, and that’s exactly what Centered does. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. Black DS, O'Reilly GA, Olmstead R. JAMA internal medicine, 2015, Jun.;175(4):2168-6114. The app encourages users to meditate and increase their level of activity, measured in the number of steps they take every day. You can choose from seven mindfulness practices, including self-guided meditation, a mindful walk, and body-awareness meditation.
For years meditation has been sold to us as some mystical type of practice. But Headspace is here to prove anyone can do it. The app starts off with a 10-day intro to meditation and then lets users choose their own adventure. The guided meditations help slow down the racing thoughts in your head—a necessary skill when you try to fall asleep but can’t stop thinking about all the things on your to-do list.
If you think you’re too busy to meditate, we’ve got news for you: All you need is three minutes. Aura specializes in guided micro-meditations. Start by telling the app how you’re feeling (anxious? stressed? great?), and get a meditation tailored to your needs. The app also features a gratitude journal, which studies have shown can help people fall asleep faster.
Fall asleep using the same ambient noises NASA sends to astronauts to help them get shut-eye in space. The scientifically composed audio is designed to relax your breathing, lower your heart rate, and prepare your brain for sleep. It’s basically like the app version of getting rocked to sleep as a baby.
How many times did you fall asleep in the middle of a lecture when your teacher was droning on and on? This app does the same thing, thanks to Andrew Johnson’s gentle, melodic voice. You can’t help but feel relaxed while listening to his guided meditations—we barely make it to the 10-minute mark before drifting off to sleep.