Some of it is expensive – but read on for news of free apps courtesy of SleepPro.
Nothing throws your day more than a lack of sleep the night before – whether caused by snoring, sleep apnoea, or another sleep disorder. It can ruin your concentration, make you impatient, and cause memory lapses and worse. Over the long term, sleep deprivation can lead to depression, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
It can also be deadly. According to Health Authorities worldwide, people who only sleep 6 to 7 hours per night are twice as likely to be involved in a car accident as those who sleep 8 hours or more. Sleep less than 5 hours per night and you are four or five times more likely to be in a car accident. 30% of adults say they sleep an average of 6 hours, and millions more will have a sleep disorder at some point.
However, can technology can actually help sleep – and if so, at what price?
1. Sleep-recording gadgets. There’s been an explosion of gadgets that are designed to monitor your sleep and help you improve it. The market for these gadgets is predicted to be heading for large sums by 2017. ($125m/£85m)
Sense, for example, is a little orb that sits in your room monitoring noise, light, temperature, humidity and air particles, and can wake you up at the ideal part of your sleep cycle. A tiny clip attached to your pillow tracks your movements. In the morning, it can tell you through an Apple app how much sleep you really got, and if something in your environment is disturbing your rest. It’s currently available for pre-order on Kickstarter for $99/68 and will cost $88 /£60 when it ships in November.
Some similar monitors already available include Beddit ($149/£101), which also tracks your heart rate and breathing, and SleepRate ($100/£68), which has an app full of useful information plus a wearable heart rate sensor. Aura ($300/£205) is another upcoming gadget that not only monitors your sleep, but it cycles through light and sound programs to try and improve your sleep.
2. Sleep-recording apps. You may already have a sleep-improving gadget sitting next to you at night. I’m talking, of course, about your smartphone.
A sleep-recording app coupled with your smartphone’s sensors can give you a good idea of your sleep patterns. You usually just have to put your phone on the bed near your pillow and let it do the rest. However, never put your phone under your pillow or cover it with a blanket. The phone could overheat and catch on fire.
Some popular sleep-tracking apps are Sleep Better (Android, Apple; Free), SleepBot (Android, Apple, Free), Sleep Recorder (Windows: Free) and Sleep Cycle Alarm (Android, Apple; $1/£0.65). They all track your movements during sleep.
Do you snore – or do you talk in your sleep? Does your wife, husband or partner swear that they don’t snore? Sleep Recorder is an interesting Windows Phone app that records audio while you sleep and could help you answer those questions.
As well as recording your sleep cycles, Sleep Recorder also maps out where you’ve spent the night and uploads recordings to the cloud where they can be shared with others. Sleep Recorder is a unique app for your Windows Phone that can not only solve sleep related curiosities but also help identify sleep issues.
There is a free version of Sleep Recorder that is ad-supported in the Windows Phone Store. However if you want to buy a version that is advertisement free, Sleep Recorder Pro is also on the website at a special price of of $0.99 (£0.65).
Sleep Better includes a journal to keep track of sleep-affecting factors like diet, exercise and even your dreams. So it’s good for tracking down lifestyle choices that may be hurting your sleep.
SleepBot tracks your sleep like the others but also includes sound recording so you can detect problems like sleep apnea or find out what night-time sounds cause you to move around.
Sleep Cycle Alarm is the one to get if you generally sleep OK but seem to always wake up at a bad time. It uses your movements to predict the perfect time for you to wake up, and includes plenty of restful alarms.
Of course, using technology near bedtime is still a problem. The blue light from most screens tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime even when it isn’t. That’s why many sleep experts recommend shutting down your gadgets at least two hours before bedtime.