Sleep apps are popular with many users who want to improve their sleep quality. Falling asleep faster, sleeping well through the night and waking up refreshed – naturally, that sounds fantastic! But how do sleep apps work? And does the technology really improve sleep habits? We have tested some apps for you!
- Sleep apps – smart helpers for a good night’s sleep?
- What is sleep tracking and how does it work?
- What is the use of sleep apps?
- Our conclusion on sleep apps
Sleep apps – Smart helpers for a good night’s sleep?
Apps support us in many areas of everyday life, like sports or eating habits. It’s no wonder that there are also various apps to help us sleep better. The range of functions differs considerably in some cases. Some pre-installed apps offer basic functions. For example, with the clock app on the iPhone, a bedtime can be set. The function is intended to help you get enough sleep every night and establish a fixed sleep rhythm. The clock on Android is also equipped with an alarm function. Other apps – especially paid versions – usually offer significantly more functions and often work with sleep tracking.
What is sleep tracking and how does it work?
During sleep tracking the smartphone tracks the sleep behavior of the user. Depending on the sleep app, different data is recorded. The data is intended to provide information about sleep quality and to generate suggestions for improvement.
To enable sleep tracking, the smartphone must usually be placed next to the pillow. The smartphone then uses an acceleration sensor to analyze the movements of the mattress. This way, the length and quality of your sleep can be determined.
Some sleep apps go one step further. In addition to recording the movements of the mattress, they record the noises in the bedroom as well. This is supposed to help you find out whether you snore at night or talk in your sleep. The noise analysis also helps to determine whether ambient noise leads to restless sleep.
Pillow Auto Sleep Tracker
Pillow is available for iOS and is used to analyze your own sleep behavior. Sleep statistics show the sleep quality of the last night, but there is no analysis over time in the free basic version. That is a pity! The sleep app records the surrounding sounds when it is active. But you can only listen to the recording in the premium version. Your own activities are also included in the sleep statistics. For the entries you can choose predefined activities or create your own entries.
Another function is the Smart Wake Up. You specify a wake-up phase of 15 to 60 minutes and when the alarm should go off at the latest. With this information, the app calculates the optimal time to wake you up. The basic version of Pillow offers less wake-up sounds to choose from than the premium version.
The use of the sleep app is explained in a short video. To use this app, it is best to connect your smartphone to the charger cable. The premium version for 5.49 € has a much larger range of functions and offers for example Powernap Modes, a heart rate analysis or a connection to Apple Health.
The sleep app Sleep Better by Runtastic is available for Android and iOS. Sleep Better is designed to help you improve your sleeping habits and wake up more comfortably. The app records the duration and efficiency of your sleep. To help you analyze your sleep patterns, the app also includes a diary feature. This way you can record factors that might impair a restful night’s sleep, such as “alcohol consumption”, “stressful day” or “not my bed”. In the long term, this makes it possible to tell whether the sleep quality is related to certain habits. Unfortunately, you can only choose from predefined options, without being able to make any user-defined entries. There is room for improvement here! The moon phases can be included in the analysis of sleep behavior, too. The statistics are available for different time periods. You decide whether you want to look at a week, a month, a year or the total duration of app usage. This way, developments can be easily tracked.
Sleep Better also provides a Smart Alarm. Instead of a precise wake-up time, you specify a wake-up phase which can be set between 0 and 45 minutes. The sleep app is designed to wake you up in a light sleep phase and thus make waking up more pleasant. Volume and alarm tone can be adjusted individually.
Another good feature is the dream diary. You can create notes about your dreams and assign smileys to each dream.
Simple descriptions make the sleep app easy to use. If you already use other apps from the provider, like Runtastic, the setup is even easier. Also, the functionality of sleep tracking is explained. Negative aspects are that the app displays advertising banners and wears out the battery. Therefore, the smartphone should preferably be connected to the charging cable while you use it. The full version for 2.99 € offers additional long-term overviews and an even larger selection of alarm sounds.
The sleep app Sleep Cycle analyzes sleep behavior and offers a smart wake-up function. Just like Pillow, Sleep Cycle records ambient noise, too. In the basic version statistics on sleep quality can be viewed for the last night. The long-term evaluation is only available in the paid version.
The Smart Wake Up function is designed to wake you up in a light sleep phase so that you are not frightened out of sleep. You specify a time window for waking up, which can be up to 90 minutes long. The sleep app will then do the rest and calculate the wake-up time. Various alarm sounds and a snooze function are available.
The sleep app has a clear design, but also consumes a lot of electricity when in use. After five nights the calibration of the app is finished, and you will get visual analyses of your sleep. Many functions, such as a heart rate monitor or sleep notes, are only part of the full version, which is available for 29.99 € per year.
What is the use of sleep apps?
If you want to find out more about your own sleep behavior, you can do so with a sleep app. The smart wake-up functions of the apps can also help you start the day right.
However, you should keep in mind that a sleep app does not replace a professional analysis in a sleep lab. For example, if you share a bed with your partner, the analysis of mattress movements is not necessarily reliable. Furthermore, the quality of sleep also depends on factors that cannot be assessed by sleep apps, such as the temperature in the room or whether you have the right mattress for your needs. The analyses and recommendations should therefore be reviewed somewhat critically.
Not to forget: data protection. Sleep apps store your personal data and some apps “listen in” when they are active. Not every user finds this pleasant. Therefore, you should think carefully about exchanging your personal data for an insight into your sleep behavior.
Our conclusion on sleep apps
We think it is positive that sleep apps increase the understanding of our sleep behavior and remind us of the importance of good sleep. However, the analyses are not always very accurate or transparent. Furthermore, data protection is a critical factor.
If you want to improve your sleep quality, you should start by creating the best conditions for good sleep. Besides a high-quality sleep system, this includes a healthy lifestyle. If you like the smart alarm function, a light alarm clock might be a good alternative to a sleep app, because it gently wakes you within a set wake-up phase as well.