We spend a third of our lives sleeping… or at least that’s what should happen in an ideal world. In reality, we sleep less than we should, because we undervalue the act of sleeping. We believe it’s enough to get under the covers and close our eyes. But there’s much more to sleeping than that. It’s important to sleep with a clear mind, with the brain prepared for the task of resting and a clear idea about the best time to wake up the next day.
Lucky for you, there are niche apps for each one of the processes above for getting to sleep (relaxation, mental preparation, and so on). Try these apps and some tips on how to use them, and wake up refreshed and rested.
First up: relax
The sleeping process starts long before you go to bed. Above all, it’s important to feel calm and quiet. Otherwise, when you close your eyes, your mind will recall all the problems awaiting you tomorrow, all the mistakes you made today…
To avoid bad vibes that make it difficult to rest, I recommend that an hour or two before bed, you dedicate 5 or 10 minutes to guided meditationthat relaxation apps suggest.
Calm – Meditate, Sleep, Relax (also for iOS and Android) offers guided meditations of all kinds (not only for sleeping; also for managing stress and calming anxiety) of varying lengths (3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes).
This app, and others that you can easily find in your mobile store will help you meditate, but won’t become an overbearing virtual hand that emerges from your cell phone screen to take you by the neck and force you to stop doing whatever you were doing to relax already. The decision to invest 5, 10, or even one minute in your mental health depends on you.
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Stay away from light
Do you usually use your cell phone right before going to bed? Smartphones, TV, tablets and other devices emit what is known as blue light. When your eyes see this type of light, they send the following message to your brain: “Let’s not sleep yet, it’s still daytime!” The brain takes note and eliminates the production of melatonin, a hormone that prepares the body to go to sleep and regulates sleep. The result: If you mess around with your cell phone, you’ll later go to bed feeling restless.
I’m not going to forbid you from peeking at your cell phone close to bedtime. But I do recommend that you activate Night Mode on your smartphone. Night Mode is a special filter that neutralizes the blue light starting at a certain hour, so it doesn’t affect the production of melatonin.
If you use an iPhone 5s or later, you can tinker with Night Mode from the Settings on your cell phone.
In the case of an Android, its equivalent feature, called “Nocturnal light,” can also be found in the “Settings” section.
Don’t have access to Night Mode or don’t like the results? No problem: Myriad apps can add similar filters. On Android, one of my favorites is Twilight. It’s named after a special filter that activates after sunset.
For iOS, F.lux is a similar app that’s 100% free but requires you to jailbreak your smartphone to install it.
Myths and facts about niche apps for sleep cycles
The moment of rest has arrived. The goal is not simply to sleep but to achieve profound and restful sleep. It would be easy to recommend niche apps for sleep cycles and that’s it, but before I start naming applications, I feel obligated to clarify a few myths about these types of apps.
A sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. If sleep is interrupted before that respective hour and a half has passed, you’ll wake up tired and fatigued as if you had slept very little.
Let’s assume that I want to go to sleep every day at midnight. Five sleep cycles are recommended, so it’s best for me to wake up at 7:30. If I wake up at 7, I’ll cut off the 5th cycle and feel tired; and if I wake up at 8, I’ll cut off the 6th additional cycle even before I’m even halfway through.
In theory, it’s easy to suggest sleeping every day from 12 to 7:30 for restful sleep. In practice, it’s much more complicated. What always happens when we say “All right, I’m going to sleep right now”? Our mind gets stressed and we end up falling asleep at 3 in the morning! We can’t 100% control when we sleep, and this means our plans of taking control of our own sleep cycles might be futile.
Niche apps for this resting period use systems that analyze your movements or listen to your sounds at night, to detect the exact moment you fall asleep. At that moment, a smart alarm is activated so you wake up at the best possible time.
Doctor W. Christopher Winter, a specialist in medicine and neurology, warns that these applications aren’t 100% reliable. According to Winter, in order to know exactly when we fall asleep, other body functions need to be analyzed, such as breathing, ocular movement, and brain activity. Because these apps depend on only two variables (body movement + sounds), they lend themselves to misunderstandings.
These type of applications thus act as a guide. For example, they can tell more or less how many hours you sleep a day. I thought I slept a little over seven hours but after using an app, I found out that I sleep only six hours, thank you very much. Just knowing this fact let me make better decisions about my habits.
Additionally, they can help you detect activities that help or hurt your sleep. For example, if you don’t believe alcohol or coffee harms sleep, compare the analysis of days you drank these substances with days you drank nothing or less than usual.
Experiment with your body! You have my permission, and I’m sure Doctor Winter would give his approval as well.
Now let’s turn our attention to sleep cycle apps. On Android, my favorite is Sleep as Android (you have a two-week trial period before you have to pay).
On iOS, a great app is Sleep Cycle alarm clock (you can also install this on Android).
These two apps also have a cool feature that lets you calculate the best time to go to sleep or what time you should wake up if you go to sleep at a particular time. This feature works great if you plan to figure out all the variables that affect your sleep.
These apps will help us get restful sleep. But what about so-called deep sleep? Is there an app that helps you maintain that? The application Pzizz – Deep Sleep & Power Snap” (available both for iOS and Android) is at your service.
While you sleep, this application helps you sleep peacefully and optimally by emitting a combination of music, voices and sound effects. This serene symphony will increase your chances of getting deep sleep.
Go to sleep!
My final recommendation is that you take it step by step. For example, first, you could get used to dedicating ten minutes a night to meditation or be mindful by reading on your cell phone with a special filter. Later, look into those habits to avoid or find out how many hours you really sleep. With patience and dedication, soon you’ll enjoy all the benefits of restful sleep.
Have a good night!
This article was originally published on March 9th 2017.