Best Sleep and Wake Apps and Gadgets 2020
There’s no substitute for a good night’s sleep. But a good night’s sleep isn’t as simple as getting to bed on time. When it comes to sleep, quality is just as important, or perhaps even more important, than quantity. When sleep quality is subpar, everything suffers, from mood, memory and focus to physical stamina and overall health.
If you have trouble sleeping or you often wake up feeling sluggish, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 35% of Americans rate their sleep quality as poor or only fair.
Top Sleep Technology
The good news is that when a problem is common, a lot of people try to solve it. In 2020, there is no shortage of apps and gadgets designed to monitor and improve sleep quality. To understand how sleep technologies work, we need to know what sleep quality is and how it’s measured.
The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) was created decades ago, and it continues to be the gold standard for subjective sleep quality assessment. The PSQI is a 24-question index that covers topics like sleep latency (how long it takes you to fall asleep), how often sleep is interrupted throughout the night and the level of persistent grogginess you feel upon waking or throughout the day.
A sleep gadget or app may aim to improve one or all of these determinants of sleep quality. Which type of sleep technology will work for you depends on you—your preferences, habits and the type of sleep struggles you’re dealing with. If one type doesn’t work, try something else. With a wide range of technologies available, there’s something for everyone.
Here’s a look at some of the different types of sleep technologies available in 2020.
Smart clocks have different functions. Some produce soothing sounds to help you fall asleep faster, while others limit evening screen time by timing out the WiFi connection. Advanced smart clocks work with smart home apps, like Google Home and IFTTT, to create a sleep-friendly environment in the hours leading up to bedtime, by dimming the lights and adjusting the bedroom thermostat.
If you’re not sure which features would help improve sleep quality in your unique situation, assess your sleep quality using the PSQI. If you struggle with falling or staying asleep, there’s one smart clock that does it all.
The Lenovo Smart Clock with Google Assistant plays relaxing music to help you fall asleep, adjusts the lights and temperature to improve sleep quality and can help you start your day on the right foot by filling you in on the morning news, sports scores, weather and traffic.
If waking up is an issue, try Amazon’s Echo Show 5, which has an ambient, gradual wake feature.
Learn more about how to create an evening routine that will help you sleep better and wake up feeling rested.
Sunlight alarms, like the Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light, simulate the sunrise to provide a more natural wake-up. They wake you gradually by increasing brightness, unlike typical alarms that jolt you awake with a sudden burst of sound. Sunlight alarms are best suited for people who struggle with waking up, people who suffer from seasonal sleep disorders and people who don’t like the typical wake-up jolt.
The Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is a top choice in this category. Beyond the gradual wake-up, the SmartSleep uses technology, called AmbiTrack, to gather information about your sleeping environment—noise, temperature and humidity—and suggests modifications that could help you sleep better.
White Noise Generators
People have been using white noise generators to help them fall asleep since the 60s, and researchers have been studying the benefits for just as long. White noise generators produce constant low-level noise to mask sound interruptions throughout the night.
These devices are ideal for people who live (and sleep) in noisy environments, like apartment buildings and urban areas. The LectroFan Classic is a top-rated white noise generator. People who own the LectroFan class appreciate its sound quality and small size.
Sleep trackers are devices that analyze sleep patterns and provide insight into sleep habits and quality. Some sleep trackers are multipurpose and track things like physical activity, while others are just for improving sleep.
Wearables, like Fitbit trackers, use heart rate monitors and motion sensors to track sleep habits. The Philips SmartSleep Deep Sleep Headband is a clinically proven wearable that monitors sleep stages to improve the quality of deep sleep. The device is uniquely intended for people who sleep less than seven hours per night.
If you prefer non-wearable technology, the Withings Sleep Tracking Mat is a device that slides under your mattress to track heart rate, snoring and movement. The Withings Sleep Tracking Mat pairs with IFTTT to adjust lighting and room temperature as you fall asleep and upon waking.
Sleep Cycle Apps
Sleep cycle apps track sleeping and waking times. Sleep Cycle, a free top-rated app, has two monitoring modes—microphone and accelerometer. In microphone mode, users position their phone on a nightstand with the microphone facing the bed. The microphone listens for signs of movement or sleep interruption.
In accelerometer mode, the phone is placed under the top corner of the mattress, where it can sense movement. It uses the data it collects to produce graphs that illustrate sleep habits and to rank sleep quality on a scale from 1-100%.
Sleep apps are ideal for people who don’t want to invest in sleep-monitoring equipment.
Meditation can help you achieve harmony between your body and your mind, so if your body is begging for sleep, but racing thoughts are keeping you up at night, a nightly meditation session may be just what you need. Headspace is a top-rated meditation app with free and paid options. With its sleep-specific meditation programs, Headspace helps its users fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Learn more about the benefits of meditation as part of your morning routine.
Better Sleep, Better Mornings
A good night’s sleep is the foundation for a good day, and no amount of rest or self-care can make up for poor sleep quality. If you’re practicing good sleep hygiene by limiting daytime naps, avoiding stimulants (like caffeine) before bed and maintaining a sleep-friendly environment, but you’re still feeling off, sleep technologies can help.