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How the iPhone Can Help You Sleep Better

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Jason R. Rich takes a look at iPhone apps and products that can be used with the smartphone to help you fall asleep faster, track your sleep, and help you develop healthier sleep patterns. If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep-related issues, a drug-free remedy may be just a few screen taps away.
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There are many reasons why people have trouble sleeping, either once in a while, or on a frequent basis. Yet only a small percentage of people with sleep-related issues try to determine the cause, and then seek out applicable treatment. Instead, many people turn to prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and/or natural remedies (like Melatonin).

Meanwhile, a handful of world-renowned sleep experts have utilized several decade’s worth of research data, and have created innovative iPhone apps, and in some cases cutting-edge products designed to work with the iPhone, that can help to diagnose and treat various types of sleep disorders. It should be stated, however, that prior to using any of these apps or products, that you consult with your doctor, and then when applicable, share the information that your iPhone acquires with your doctor, in order to help them better diagnose and treat your problem.

What you’ll discover is that sleep experts and app developers have discovered four different ways for people to utilize the iPhone when it comes to overcoming sleep disorders. These include:

  1. Using the iPhone as a white noise or customizable sound generator, that can be used at bedtime to help you relax and clear your mind, which could help you fall asleep faster.
  2. Using the iPhone as a guided meditation tool. A handful of interactive apps teach users how to meditate, and then offer guided meditations that focus on relaxation and helping participants sleep better.
  3. Using the iPhone as a sleep tracker (or in conjunction with a fitness/activity tracker). This basically serves as a way to collect sleep habit-related data, and create a digital diary. It can be used to track and document when you get into bed, how quickly you fall asleep, how much sleep you actually get each night, and what time you wake up.
  4. Using the Sleepio program or the optional S+ Sleep Better product (which you’ll learn about shortly), in conjunction with the iPhone, it’s possible to analyze your sleeping conditions, learn skills to help you fall asleep faster, and track your sleep patterns, in order to help you diagnose and then treat sleep-related issues.

White Noise and Sound Generation Apps

A white noise and/or sound generation app allows your smartphone to play a customized sound, such as white noise, or sounds from nature, and if you choose, combine it with calming music in order to help you clear your mind, relax, and potentially fall asleep faster.

From the App Store, if you enter the phrase, “sleep sounds” into the Search field, you’ll discover a handful of apps, like: Sleep Pillow Sounds; Rain, Rain Sleep Sounds; Relax Melodies: Sleep Zen Sounds & White Noise; Relaxing Sounds; Rain Sound HQ; Infinite Storm; White Noise Ambiance Light; Sleep Machine; and White Noise. The majority of these are free apps with in-app purchase options available.

Most of these apps have a library of customizable sounds built in. Begin by choosing a sound, such as: Amazon Jungle, Beach Waves Crashing, Camp Fire, Blowing Wind, Rain Storm, Crickets Chirping, Heartbeat, or Thunder Storm. In some cases, a white noise generation tool is offered that allows the phone to play a constant static sound that research shows can help calm or relax the mind.

Some of these apps allow you to easily mix and match sounds to create a customized ambient sound that you personally find relaxing or soothing. Next, set the volume and a timer, to further customize your listening experience.

Learn and Experience Guided Meditation Using Your iPhone

Meditation is a skill that can be learned and practiced over time. To help you learn this skill, and then guide you through using it, a wide range of apps are available from the App Store. Some are more instruction-based, while others offer pre-produced guided meditations that focus on specific topics, like relaxation, or achieving deeper and more restful sleep.

Apps like: Stop, Breathe & Think; Headspace: Meditation Techniques for Mindfulness; Take a Break! Guided Meditations for Stress Relief; Silva Meditate: Guided Meditation and Relaxation; The Mindfulness App; Meditation Experience; Relax and Rest Guided Meditations; and Calm: Meditate, Sleep, Relax, each offer tools to help you achieve a calmer mind and a more relaxed state, which can ultimately lead to better sleep. Some of these apps are free with in-app purchases, while others can be purchased for a small fee.

Take Advantage of a Sleep Tracker to Help You Monitor Your Sleeping Habits

The majority of the fitness/activity trackers on the market, from companies like Jawbone and Fitbit, now include sleep tracking functionality, but to work, they need to be worn to bed. These devices, along with the proprietary iPhone apps available for them, track when you go to bed, when you fall asleep, and how much sleep you get each night.

Since these fitness/activity trackers also track your activity level throughout the day, and in some cases your diet, heart rate, and weight, all of this data can be analyzed to offer a clearer picture related to the cause of your sleep issues and potentially point you toward a solution.

There are also many stand-alone apps that allow you to manually enter and track sleep-related patterns and habits. Some of these apps have built in sound generators and/or smart alarm clocks that can help you develop a healthier sleep cycle.

Some of the apps that offer sleep tracking capabilities, combined with other sleep-related tools, include: SleepBot; Sleep Time: Sleep Cycle Smart Alarm; Sleep Better: Sleeping Cycle Tracker; MotionX 24/7: Sleeptracker; Pillow: Smart Sleep Cycle Alarm; Sleep Time+; and Sleep Tracker Tylonol PM.

Sleepio Offers a More Comprehensive Program to Address Sleep Disorders

Taking current smartphone technology a bit further in order to better utilize it as a sleep-related tool, the Sleepio app incorporates several decades worth of research in order to provide a comprehensive and affordable Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) program that’s designed to treat insomnia and other common sleep disorders.

To utilize the Sleepio program, you’ll need to access the Sleepio website (www.sleepio.com), plus utilize the proprietary Sleepio iPhone app over a several week period. A 10-day free trial of the complete Sleepio program is offered, after which a paid subscription is required, in order to take advantage of the program, which most people are able to complete within six-to-10 weeks.

Short-term subscription pricing for Sleepio is $9.99 per week. However, if you register for 12 weeks, the price drops to $6.66 per week, while a one-year subscription to the service is priced at $2.88 per week.

During your first week using the Sleepio program, you’ll learn about the program’s foundations and set personal goals. Throughout week two, you will begin to address environmental and lifestyle factors associated with insomnia and common sleep disorders. In week three, the focus is on restoring the bed-sleep connection, while weeks four and five focus on personalized cognitive training.

Throughout week six, strategies are taught that will help you put everything you’ve learned together, and discover how to implement this newly acquired knowledge and skill set in the future. After completing the program, the website and app offer a collection of additional tools and resources, plus access to an active online community which provides ongoing support.

Throughout the Sleepio program, you’ll discover that a dozen distinct tools are utilized. Some of these tools are online-based, while others can be utilized directly from the Sleepio iPhone app.

ResMed’s S+ Device Offers a High-Tech Solution to Sleep-Related Problems

For people who have trouble sleeping, ResMed (www.keepyoursleep.com) offers a consumer-oriented device that gets placed by the side of your bed, and that can automatically track and record all aspects of your sleep, without you having to physically wear any type of sleep monitor. The device then utilizes the Internet and iPhone to offer instruction and personalized analysis.

The S+ Sleep Better device ($99.99) serves as much more than a basic sleep tracker. When used with the proprietary iPhone app, you’ll have access to personalized tools to help you sleep better, as well as a smart alarm function. Plus, you’ll receive expert advice that’s based on several decades’ worth of sleep-related research.

The S+ device automatically records, on an ongoing basis, the light, noise, and temperature in your bedroom. As you’re preparing to sleep, the device also generates specially designed sounds that synchronize with your breathing, and that gradually slow down to help you fall asleep faster.

Plus, the device is able to determine when you actually fall asleep, the quality of sleep you’re achieving, and can then either wake you up at a designated time, choose the optimal time to wake you, or determine when you wake up on your own.

While you’re asleep, S+ accurately monitors the four stages of your sleep cycle (sleep onset, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM, plus when your sleep is interrupted). All of this data is recorded, and over time, allows the S+ app to provide you with accurate analysis and sleep-related advice.

In addition to utilizing your own data to formulate personalized strategies to help you fall asleep faster and achieve better quality sleep throughout the night, the app is able to anonymously compare your sleep results against averages based on your age, gender, and other information, in order to calculate a personal Sleep Score.

A Sleep Score is basically a snapshot of someone’s sleep quality level from the previous night. Tracking a Sleep Score over time helps people discern patterns. Based on someone’s age and gender, ResMed’s research shows that the population norm is an average sleep score of 78.

While the S+ is considered a consumer-oriented device, as opposed to a medical device, it incorporates cutting-edge technology to acquire extremely accurate data, and utilizes the Internet and iPhone in very unique ways in order to analyze that data and provide useful feedback and instruction.

Over time, the S+ iPhone app collects data for inclusion into a personalized sleep report, which can be shared with a doctor or medical professional. According to ResMed’s research, 69 percent of consumers using the product see a significant improvement in their sleep after just one week. After the first week of use, users also experience an average of 31 minutes of extra sleep per night.

Final Thoughts…

While the Sleepio app and online-based program strives to teach you new behaviors and strategies for dealing with a sleep disorder, the S+ Sleep Better device utilizes stand-alone technology, in conjunction with your iPhone, in order to help you discover the cause(s) of your sleeping disorder, and then address them.

Whether you try using a sound generation app, begin to practice meditation, participate in the Sleepio program, or try using the S+ Sleep Better device, keep in mind that these are simply tools that can lead you to a long-term and drug-free solution to your sleep-related problem, but they’re not instant solutions.

If you opt to use the Sleepio program or S+ Sleep Better device, it’s important that you follow the directions, dedicate the time necessary to achieve lasting results, and do not cut your doctor or medical professional out of the loop.

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