Sleep tight: the best apps for a good night’s kip

    3 March 2020

    As you slump over your espresso, with paperclips propping up your eyelids, it may not seem as if you have much in common with George Clooney. But while we’re more likely to see him working red carpets than rubbing red weary eyes, Clooney has said he cries four times a day with tiredness.

    Struggling to sleep is perhaps the greatest equaliser, as everyone from Mariah Carey to David Baddiel has talked about their issues with nodding off. Baddiel has even produced a podcast looking at the causes of insomnia, and while it isn’t billed as a sleep app, some listeners find themselves drifting off. Speaking on Radio 2 to Zoe Ball (who admitted she didn’t make it to the end of the episode) Baddiel said: “It’s rare that you’ve done a thing that you’ve put out there and people go, “yeah I fell asleep in the middle of it,” and you think GOOD!”

    Baddiel’s dulcet tones aren’t the only ones sending listeners to sleep. Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, David Walliams and Matthew McConaughey all read bedtime stories on Calm, an app which also offers “soundscapes” such as Rain on Leaves and Forest Ambience, as well as meditations to send you (back) to sleep.

    Pzizz which is wonderfully easy to use, is championed by J.K. Rowling. While a previous sleep app left her feeling as if an intruder was breathing heavily in her bedroom, Rowling has described Pzizz as the best she’s tried “by a mile.”. NHS approved, and featuring on numerous best sleep app listicles, Pzizz uses psychoacoustics (the psychological effects of sound) to help you sleep.

    With Pzizz, you pretty much open the app then lie back and drift off. However, if you do want to fine tune it, you can choose between a male and female voice, and vary the contrast between the volume of the voice and the “dreamscape” (options include Fireplace and Snowfall) as well as choosing the narration, and how long you want it to play for.

    Headspace offers a “Nighttime SOS” which guides you back to sleep in the event of waking up due to work stress, pain, a racing mind or a nightmare. Wind down meditations and stories before bed can be followed by “Sleep radio” (tune into eight hours of ocean sounds) or “Soundscapes” such as a 3D recording of rain on a cabin roof.

    There are lots of good sleep apps – but how can we get the most out of them? Psychologist Hope Bastine specialises in sleep – here are her tips:

    Digital Detox

    If being on our phones keeps us awake, how can they help us sleep? The answer is to do a digital detox to get out of bad habits before learning new ones. It’s the light and looking at the screen that’s unhelpful, so for 28 days keep your phone out of the bedroom, and make sure it’s not the first thing you look at in the morning, or last thing before bed. Then reintroduce your phone into the bedroom, using the sleep apps to get you into a peaceful state so you can rebuild your relationship with sleep.

    Common Ground

    If you share a bedroom with a partner, and one or both of you struggles to sleep, have a conversation about your needs. Most sleep apps are fairly generic, so you may find one you can play out loud, that works for both of you. Otherwise, look at using in-ear wireless earbuds, or headphones designed for sleep such as Kokoon which can be used with any sleep app, but which also comes with its own.

    Go Offline

    When your phone is in the bedroom with you, make sure it disturbs you as little as possible in terms of light, noise, and notifications coming through. Some sleep apps can be used entirely offline, and others allow you to download sessions so you can listen to them offline. Reduce the brightness on your phone, and use the sleep apps with your phone on airplane mode, so you’re not distracted by emails or social media notifications popping up.

    Take time to unwind before sleep

    If you’re tired, it takes 20-30 minutes to fall asleep, but because most of us are quite stimulated, we need an hour to wind down. If you’re particularly wired from doing a high performance job, you’ll probably need support winding down, and if you’re a severe insomniac, it can help to have pink noise or rainfall playing through the night. The worst thing you can do is get stressed about not sleeping, so if you’re awake, accept it. Read a book with a low light on and even if you only get another hour’s sleep before the alarm goes off, it’s still restful.

    Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here