sleep apps
Maybe your mom is right about spending too much time at night on your phone, but with these apps, sleep comes easier. (Illustration by Alexa Finkelstein, Pratt Institute)
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sleep apps

You can never get enough sleep on a hectic schedule.

It’s so easy to visualize: the bright white screen against the backdrop of a pitch-black bedroom. Sleep seems more elusive than ever, so it’s easy to stay on the phone, checking social media, playing a game or even reading. But your phone doesn’t have to be the enemy of your R.E.M. cycle. Used right, the average smartphone can be a valuable tool to help you sleep with the following sleep apps.

If you’ve ever broken down in tired frustration looking for apps to help you sleep, you’ll notice that an overwhelming majority of them are only available, or only useful, with a subscription. For college students, any free monthly subscription money is going to a streaming service for music or movies and shows. The following suggestions focus on free sleep apps or apps that, with the right maneuvering, can be made such.

The Power of Music

Firstly, music can be a fine weapon against mild or stress-induced insomnia. Studies have shown that relaxing music is beneficial for sleep. A specific study looked at the effect of soothing music on young adult sleep patterns and concluded that it was helpful for sleep problems.

The key words here are relaxing, soothing music. It won’t do to keep playing your daytime playlist. As good as Rico Nasty or Megan Thee Stallion might be, the fast paced, heavy-hitting style of rap music or hip-hop won’t do much for relaxation.

One of the best things about music as a sleep aid is its veritable abundance and cost-effectiveness. Chances are that any given college student is already using some music streaming platform with a premium plan. If that’s not the case, anyone with a smartphone definitely has access to YouTube.

Any app that can be used to listen to music can instantly be made into a sleep app. Remember you can use a timer in your clock app on the “stop playing” mode so that the music doesn’t play all night.

Studies state “sedative” music as their type of choice, but since that’s not a genre, it’s kind of vague for readers who might be looking to find tips on improving sleep. Usually though, slow and soothing classical music is a safe bet and easily searchable on any streaming service or on YouTube.

Another option, most easily found on YouTube, is 432 Hz music. Music at the frequency of 432 Hz sounds like something you’d hear at a spa, and a study concluded that it was effective in reducing anxiety, which can be a leading cause for sleeplessness.

Nature Is Your Friend

Next, like music apps, there are a few sleep apps that are free, and they usually center around sleep sounds. If you particularly find the sounds of nature to be relaxing, you’ve found Rain Rain‘s specialty. Rain Rain allows you listen to nature sounds like thunderstorms, ocean waves, winds, rivers and even animal sounds, such as cat purring and whale songs, to lull you to sleep.

Rain Rain allows you to set in-app timers for the duration of the sounds. It also has an option to send you bedtime reminders at a time chosen by you. Rain Rain does have a set of premium sounds but is still perfectly functional without any subscription or in-app purchases.

Relax Melodies is another sleep app, similar to Rain Rain, that helps you use sounds for better sleep. The higher percentage of content accessible only through the premium version, however, means that it has less free content that Rain Rain.

On this app, you can not only listen to a variety of sounds, but the design is extremely conducive to and encouraging of sound mixing, so you can find the best mix of sounds to help you fall asleep best. Relax Melodies also utilizes short meditation sessions for better sleep, though there are an especially limited amount available for free.

Let’s Count the Hours

In addition to sound-centered sleep apps, apps like Sleep Cycle and Pillow are useful for the person who, once asleep, needs help getting up or wants to track their sleep. Sleep Cycle is most useful with a premium version, which includes sleep aids.

The best part about the free version of Sleep Cycle is that, when setting an alarm for when to wake up, you have the option of being awakened using an interval instead of all at once. For example, if you select an interval between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., the app uses a melody of your choosing to wake you up slowly starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 8 a.m.

Pillow is a sleep tracker app. Most of its more sophisticated features, such as sleep notes, are only available with premium. However, it does allow you to see the quality of your sleep and set alarms based on what kind of sleep you want, with specifications for power naps, recovery naps and full cycle naps.

Therapeutic Voices, A Thing?

Last, but not least, is the humble podcast app. Whatever app you use to listen to podcasts can be used as a sleep app in the blink of an eye. Just like music apps, there are selections of podcasts that can be used for sleep. There are story time podcasts, sleep meditation podcasts and so much more. One specific podcast popular among people who have trouble sleeping is “Sleep With Me.”

“Sleep With Me” is a story time podcast made specifically for adults. Host and creator Drew Ackerman, who goes by Scooter, created the podcast after suffering from insomnia himself since childhood. Ackerman speaks in self-proclaimed “creaky, dulcet tones” and goes on pointless meanders and tangents all throughout the show.

As the website describes, the main event of the show is a story to help you go to sleep. There are stories that span several episodes and become mini-series and stories that recap episodes of popular show. Most importantly, Ackerman says in every episode that, while sleep is the ideal end goal, his true purpose is to be with you “in the deep dark night.”

College can be an extremely stressful time for several reasons. There’s so much unknown about your future, a lot of figuring yourself out while balancing your social life with some of the hardest classes you might ever take, and there’s the fact that it’s completely commonplace for you not to sleep as much as you should and to have trouble doing so. Your phone can do so much more than keep you up to date, and with just a few swipes and adjustments, your phone can be an invaluable tool for your well-being.

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