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Smartphone apps for a better night's sleep

Smartphone apps offer a number of relaxation techniques that can help you improve your sleep habits.
December 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Voice actor Scott Reyns used to take sleep aids to help drift off between recording sessions.

"As an actor I'm basically on call, sometimes the hours get a little crazy," said Reyns.

Now, he turns to sleep apps to help him get a good night's rest.

"Apps help me with my sleep in a couple of different ways. You know, the one that I use mainly, it has a feature that is a kind of a gradual alarm," said Reyns. "It also has a way to estimate my sleep quality based on, you know ok how much I'm in deep sleep."

Apps like Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson or Meditation Oasis are designed to help with relaxation techniques, provide white noise, or even measure how well you rest, with an alarm set to wake you during the optimal part your sleep cycle. How do they do that?

"The sleep aid apps can actually track your movements by using your smartphone's built in accelerometer and what the accelerometer does is detect motion," said Sharon Vaknin of CNET. "So it's become so easy and cheap to track your sleep that more and more people are jumping on board with the trend."

And it appears more and more people could use the help. The CDC calls insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, with as many as 70 million Americans suffering from sleep problems.

"We live in a toxic environment for sleep, and people really don't prioritize sleep," said Dr. Nathaniel Watson with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Watson, a sleep medicine expert, says poor sleep is associated with heart disease, obesity and even a shorter lifespan. But while apps can be useful tools to help you doze off or analyze your sleep cycle, Watson says "they're not able to diagnose sleep illness; they're certainly not able to treat it."

Dr. Watson recommends going to bed in a dark room with no electronics or "blue light" shining from a laptop or smartphone. But, he does see the potential a little high tech help.

"It gets people thinking about their sleep and how to improve it- that, that's good," said Watson. "The downside is that you bring this technology into the bedroom environment. It might introduce temptation to get on a social networking site, or to text your friends or you might receive phone calls at night."

Reyns says he can't afford to miss client calls, so he has no plans to completely power down before he slumbers. But, says his sleep app helps him focus on quality rest.

"The main thing for me is just making sure I get enough sleep, and sleep when I have to so that I'm ready to get behind the mic when I have to," said Reyns.


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