Without resorting to pills or boring podcasts
Lying awake at night and hitting the snooze button in the morning has been increasingly more common in this modern era. From Netflix to Candy Crush, there is an abundance of distractions just waiting to steal your time and attention away from sleep.
Thankfully, there are tons of free iOS apps and services that can alleviate insomnia, so you don’t have to resort to taking medication or watching YouTube tutorials. The main apps and utilities I focus on are Pillow, Sleep Pillow, Alarmy, Mathe, and the iOS utility, Night Mode.
For the past week, I tried 5 different iOS apps and utilities on 5 different nights and judged my sleep on a scale from 1 to 10. Here’s what happened. This is obviously not a lot of time to properly judge each app, but hopefully, it’ll give you a good idea of what to expect.
5. Mathe Alarm
I have come to find that a very important part of being well-rested is waking up correctly. Most alarms blast you in a way that makes you dread waking up or play beloved songs to the point of contention, but waking up can be exponentially less annoying with Mathe Alarm Clock.
When I used Mathe, I was forced to solve a math problem before my alarm would turn off. Although it was kind of annoying at first, it proved to be an effective technique for waking up and when I finally turned the alarm off, my mind felt awake in a fun way.
I was ready to solve any puzzle thrown my way. This is definitely something to look into if you like puzzle games and have trouble waking up in the morning.
Pros: Wakes you up in the morning with a more active mind, adjustable difficulty of math problems, and easy to use interface
Cons: Setting the difficulty on Very Easy allows user to snooze through alarms, no brain games for falling asleep, and a small variation of alarm sounds.
In my opinion, Pillow for iOS was definitely one of the most interesting apps on the list. This app’s software utilizes the microphone to analyze sleep. One of the interesting features this app has to offer is Apple Watch and Apple Health compatibility.
Compatibility with the Apple Watch means all the user has to do is load the app on their smartphone, wear the watch to sleep and Pillow will automatically detect and analyze sleep patterns.
Another one of the coolest features was a smart alarm clock that tracks sleep cycles and automatically wakes you up during your lightest sleep cycle. Although I was woken up before my alarm, I felt more rested than if I had slept for twenty more minutes.
A huge problem I have with Pillow is the fact that the app records audio events while you sleep. Snoring, sleep apnea, and sleep talking will all be recorded and added to the database for you to review or delete.
Personally, I don’t want any voice recordings of myself to be in any database, especially if I’m snoring or talking in my sleep! If it weren’t for that aspect, this app would definitely be in my top 3.
Pros: Sleep cycle tracking, different nap modes, white noise sounds, and Apple Watch/Apple Health compatibility.
Cons: Records voice during entire night of sleep.
3. Night Shift
For the 3rd place spot, I found the Night Shift mode was significantly more helpful than other apps that I was using.
The Night Shift utility allows the user to set a bedtime on their smartphone and after that designated time, the phone screen will tone down the blue light emitted from the display to create a warmer lighting effect.
Blue light throws off cues in the brain that tell your body to sleep, so a bright phone screen at 11:30 at night basically tells your brain, “The sun is still up and it’s not time to sleep yet!”. This utility counteracts that principle and the warmer hues help ensure you fall asleep quicker.
My favorite part about Night Shift is its ease of use. To activate it, you simply need to navigate to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift, where you can set the sleep schedule and color temperature. Out of all of the apps on the list, this one takes the least amount of time to set up, so give it a shot!
Pros: Warmer hues on phone make it easier to fall asleep.
Cons: User is on his or her phone before bed, which is always a sleep distraction.
2. Sleep Pillow [No longer available]
When it comes to sound sleep, you want something that is consistent and easy to use. Sleep Pillow is a white noise app that doesn’t have a handful of features like the other apps but gets the job done perfectly.
I have found that the audio quality on the Sleep Pillow ambient sounds far exceeded the competition. Some of my favorite features on Sleep Pillow include the slow fade-in alarm clock, the huge variety of white noise (crickets, oscillating fan, waves), and the ability to set favorite sleep playlists.
Most of the apps on the list offer a variation of white noise but I found when I used this app, I fell asleep much faster and slept soundly throughout the entire night. This app guaranteed some of the best Z’s of my life after only one night of use, so I’d say it’s definitely worth looking into.
Pros: Highest quality white noise machine and tons of options for the free version of the app, Slow fade in, and Set Favorites.
Cons: Only offers white noise sounds, needs more feature variation instead of sound variation.
Alarmy is definitely my personal favorite. I had a hard time choosing the first-place winner but Alarmy takes the cake. Even though this app was rated the world’s most annoying alarm app by CNET, Gizmodo, and The Huffington Post, it’s still the best.
Whether it’s shaking your phone, solving a math problem, or guessing the order of a memory puzzle, Alarmy encompasses and perfects a lot of features from the other apps on this list.
The most notable feature of this app is location registration. All you need to do is set a location where your alarm will be deactivated, and it will only shut off once you take a picture of that location. I used the most common one, the bathroom sink.
As annoying as it was, after getting all the way to my bathroom sink, I didn’t need to hit the snooze button. I was definitely up. Alarmy also has sleep sounds (featured in Sleep Pillow) that create a relaxing white noise to fall asleep to. Alarmy is my favorite app out of the batch because it combines the best parts of each app into one, easy to use interface.
Pros: Features all of the main sleep aids from the other apps in one complete package.
Cons: The location detection is still glitchy, bugs will cause alarm to keep ringing after picture has been taken.
After a single night with any one of these applications, there will be notable improvements when it comes to the quality of sleep. Finding a service to improve your sleep is a very personal and dynamic experience, and there is no “one size fits all” solution to getting restful sleep.
Each app is geared toward a different type of person, so give them all a try and see which one works best for your lifestyle.
Sleep well. You deserve it.