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The Best Sleep Apps

Fitness apps
(Image credit: Unknown)

One of the most common barriers to falling asleep is a restless mind, which is what this meditation app aims to address. There are several guided meditation sessions and a seven day course all dedicated to helping you sleep better, along with a range of Sleep Stories – short tales narrated by the likes of Stephen Fry – designed to help you fall asleep. You can try the 7 Days Of Sleep meditation course and one Sleep Story for free, but you’ll need a premium subscription for access to the rest of the app. calm.com (opens in new tab)

Download on App Store (opens in new tab) and Google Play (opens in new tab) | Free, premium £9.99 monthly, £35.99 annually

If you own an Apple Watch and are interested in sleep tracking, this is the best app available. Pillow will track your sleep automatically if you wear the watch overnight, and gives a detailed breakdown of your rest, including time spent in REM, light and deep sleep, with your heart rate plotted over the top to see how it changes during different sleep states. Pillow also breaks down your sleep into two rings – one showing sleep duration and the other sleep quality – that fit with the activity ring style on the Apple Watch. Finally, there’s a smart alarm that will wake you up when you are sleeping lightly so you’re not groggy, and personalised recommendations to improve your rest. neybox.com/pillow-sleep-tracker (opens in new tab)

Download on App Store (opens in new tab) | Free, premium £4.99

The blue light that emanates from electronic devices can disrupt your sleep if you use them in the hours before bedtime, so the simplest bit of tech that could help your rest is a filter that bathes your screen in mind-soothing red light in the evening. There are a few apps available to do this on Android, such as Night Shift: Blue Light Filter and Twilight.

Download Night Shift on Google Play (opens in new tab) | Download Twilight on Google Play (opens in new tab) | Both free

Night Shift is a simple blue light filter feature baked into Apple’s operating system that allows you set a period of the day, say 10pm to 7am, when your phone or tablet will switch to warmer colours on the display (find it under Settings > Display & Brightness).

Bedtime is another built-in feature found in the Clock app that aims to ensure you keep a consistent bedtime, which should help you sleep better, and wakes you up gradually with a choice of gentle alarms.

Available on Apple devices running iOS 10 and later | Free

Based on research done to help NASA’s astronauts sleep, this app has a wealth of science to make you sleep faster, longer and deeper. Sleep Genius uses jargon like “neuro-sensory algorithms” and “psychoacoustic music” to explain how it works. In other words: soothing noises. sleepgenius.com (opens in new tab)

Download on App Store (opens in new tab) and Google Play (opens in new tab) | £3.99

A lot of apps claim to wake you up during a light sleep phase so you feel refreshed and relaxed when your alarm goes off, rather than sluggish and unhappy, but this might be the one that delivers on that promise with the most consistency. Sleep Cycle also provides analysis of your sleep, which you can then compare with stats from people around the world and also check against habits, like drinking or working out, so you can see how they affect your rest. sleepcycle.com (opens in new tab) 

Download on App Store (opens in new tab) and Google Play (opens in new tab) | Free, pro 99p-£1.49 

Sometimes the only thing you need to drift off to sleep is the right background noise, especially if you need to drown out the hubbub of city life. This free app gives a range of options to try, including a crackling fireplace or the Niagara Falls. whitenoisemarket.com (opens in new tab)

Download on App Store (opens in new tab) and Google Play (opens in new tab) | Free

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.