Device Or App: Which Is The Best Choice To Help You Sleep?

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you’re likely suffering in a lot of areas. Poor sleep has been associated with everything from lack of motivation to heart disease to erectile dysfunction. Sleeping better can improve your physical and mental health. But for many of us the question is how are we going to get better sleep?

It’s no surprise that the answer many of us come up with in this high-tech age is a technological one. There have been many technological solutions made available to us for improving our sleep quality. These break down into two major categories: devices and apps. But which one is best?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Devices

Devices are dedicated sleep technologies. They are specialized to meet your sleep needs, and, as such, they can offer many benefits that you simply can’t get from a smartphone app (see below for some examples). They also remove the temptation to take your smartphone into the bedroom, which is itself a major source of lost sleep.

On the other hand, sleep devices can be a significant investment, and don’t always offer significant functional gains over apps. Devices are also clutter. If it turns out that a device isn’t working for you, you’ve got a piece of junk you need to get rid of. And if it does turn out to work for you, it might be hard to replace if it breaks down.

Notable Sleep Devices

Withings Aura: This sleep device consists of two parts. First is a sleep sensor that fits under your mattress to monitor many aspects of your sleep, including body movements, breathing, and heart rate. Second is a weird lighting device that sits beside your bed and uses scientifically-proven light cycles to stimulate melatonin production at night and wake you up in the morning. The light also monitors other sources of light in the room and sounds in the bedroom to give you an assessment of your sleep environment. And, of course, it includes an app that allows you to see the results.

Sleep Number x12: This variation on the increasingly-popular sleep number bed will include many smart features that can be helpful. Like the Aura, it tracks your sleep, although ti doesn’t seem to track much about your sleep environment. With the new sleep apps that come with the bed, though, you can feed in data about your routines, which the app will compare with your sleep to give you advice about how to get better sleep. It’s also voice activated, with handy features like a snorer setting that will adjust your partner’s position if their snoring is bothering you .

Advantages and disadvantages of Apps

Apps can also be very helpful in improving your sleep. They are inexpensive (or free!) and often have very sophisticated programming that allows you to monitor many things about your sleep to help you get better sleep.

However, these apps are limited by the characteristics of your phone. To make some of them work properly, you have to do ridiculous things like wear your phone in a holster while you sleep. Not only does this have the prospect of being uncomfortable, but it means you’re much more likely to have a depleted battery in the morning. Although cell phones have more or less been exonerated from brain cancer concerns, these studies haven’t looked at tissue damage acquired from having the phone in contact with your skin in one place for 8 hours at a time.

Notable Apps

Sleep Cycle: Sleep Cycle is an enhanced alarm clock that detects your sleep cycle and monitors how much time you spend in deep versus shallow sleep, and it makes sure that it wakes you up at a point of light sleep during a 90-minute window you determine. It saves all your sleep data, and can present it in detailed graphs and statistics so you know how well your sleep is, and make correlations between your sleep and your daily activities.

SleepBot: SleepBot is similar to sleep cycle in many ways, with the same type of motion-based sleep tracking, data tracking, and graphing. However, SleepBot also has automated recording, so it will measure when you snore, how loud, and for how long. It isn’t an alarm clock, but it works with your other alarms, so you can get awakened in the morning in the same way you’re used to.

Which Is Best?

There’s a major cost-benefit tradeoff that seems like a hard hill to overcome for the devices, especially at first. With the apps costing $1.99 or less, it seems a no-brainer that you would want to try them first before deciding whether you need the features a device gives.

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Dr. Matthew B. Candelaria (PhD, U of Kansas 2006) is a freelance writer who has been writing about sleep apnea and sleep-related health topics for six years. The demands of his writing mean he often doesn’t sleep much, so he works hard to make sure the sleep he gets is quality.

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