10 gadgets and apps for a better sleep

Wake-up Light Plus(Photo courtesy of Philips)

Hibernation science has come a long way since Han Solo was frozen in carbonite. From alarm clocks that come alive to apps that track your sleep cycle, there are plenty of options out there to help you get a good night’s rest. And it’s a good thing, too.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, Chief Medical Officer for Sleep Health Centers in Brighton, MA, we’re often the worst judges when it comes to our own sleep habits, so any device that points out or attempts to correct inadequacies can be “quite helpful.”

Here are some apps, gadgets, and gizmos that are the best to have by your bedside.

Wake-up Light Plus
Here comes the sun—sort of. While most bedside clocks focus on sound to rouse you, the Philips Wake-up light attempts to simulate the conditions of dawn through a UV-free halogen bulb that gradually gets brighter 30 minutes before your alarm is set to go off.

The sleek-looking lamp also has a “dusk simulation” feature that you can activate right before you fall asleep, which can be a boon for those who do a lot of traveling and have problems with jet lag. “The most potent factor in shifting the circadian cycle is light,” says Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, Chief Medical Officer for Sleep Health Centers in Brighton, MA. “So simulators can help you sync your internal clock.” Bonus: the light comes with a USB port for uploading your favorite songs to wake up to, just in case the artificial dawn isn’t enough motivation.

$86; Philips.com


Renew SleepClock(Photo courtesy of Gear4)Renew SleepClock
Forget blaring alarms that ruin your morning. This handy device from Gear4 works with your iPhone or iPad to monitor your sleep pattern and gently wake you up when your cycle is at its lightest.

There are no headbands or other attachments—just a motion detector that tracks how much you toss and turn. But the data is limited (you should always seek out a specialist if your sleep health is suffering for an extended amount of time). Faults aside, the interface on the Renew app is clean and easy-to-use, while the hardware would look attractive on any nightstand. Sweet dreams, indeed.

$200; RenewSleepClock.com



Pzizz(Photo courtesy of Pzizz)Pzizz
You’re getting sleepy… very sleepy. While most ambient noise apps attempt to make do with Enya-like sound loops, Pzizz attempts a more hypnotic experience, with soothing, modulated voices that ease you into your night’s rest through Zen-like encouragement.

Those with serious insomnia or sleep disorders should still seek professional help, but the app’s robust algorithm that cues up different sounds with each use (along with remixes) can certainly work wonders for those who have experienced trouble getting quality shut-eye. Now, if only they’d find a name that’s easier to pronounce.

$6; iTunes



Sleep Sound Therapy System(Photo courtesy of Sound Oasis)Sleep Sound Therapy System
Creating a comfortable atmosphere is essential to a good night’s rest. “The room should be quiet and dark, with controlled temperature,” says Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, Chief Medical Officer for Sleep Health Centers in Brighton, MA. “If it’s too noisy, a sound machine can help mask things.”

Sound Oasis' S-650 Sleep Therapy System does so with more than 24 digitally recorded sound tracks (our favorite is the “island stream”). The device boasts claims about matching frequencies with your brain waves, but really the Sleep Therapy System is simply a solid sound machine that helps you relax. Features like auto shutoff and a built-in alarm that will wake you up as subtly as it put you to sleep are the only science you'll really need.

$80; Sound-oasis.com



Sleep Sound Therapy System(Photo courtesy of Sleep Talk)Sleep Talk Recorder
According to studies, about 5% of adults talk in their sleep (one of several behaviors known as NREM or non-rapid eye movement). This usually occurs between different phases of the sleep cycle and can be sometimes be caused by insomnia, anxiety, or stress.

One way to find out if you’re babbling in bed (or just snoring really loudly) is to download this app, which records your nighttime sounds and filters out any extraneous noise. The results might be enlightening—or hilarious (one app function allows you to share the recordings with friends, or the app community at large).

$1; iTunes



Zeo Sleep Manager Pro(Photo courtesy Zeo)Zeo Sleep Manager Pro
If you’re regularly getting 7-8 hours of sacktime, but still feel groggy, Zeo can help. The device wirelessly syncs with your iPhone or Android device and records your sleep patterns during the night through a headband that measures brain waves.

In the morning, the Zeo app will analyze the data, provide a detailed breakdown of how much deep sleep you experienced, then give you a number called a ZQ score that rates your quality of rest. Keep in mind that Zeo does not monitor breathing, blood pressure, pulse, or other bodily functions that would provide a more well-rounded picture of your sleep health. But, as Dr. Meir Kryger (author of The iGuide to Sleep) says, “Tech [like this] is useful to get people thinking seriously about how much quality sleep they actually get.”

$99; MyZeo.com


FitBit Ultra(Photo courtesy of FitBit)FitBit Ultra
The minds at FitBit sure know how to pack a lot into a small package. Their latest gadget—the FitBit Ultra—is essentially the size of a clothespin and comes with a wristband to monitor your sleep patterns at night. But the beauty of this well-designed little device is that it stays with you through your waking life as well, displaying an accurate count of steps taken, stairs climbed, and calories burned through a sophisticated motion sensor that syncs up to free mobile apps.

You can even get it to work with Loseit, Mapmyfitness, and Runkeeper, leaving no fitness tracker unturned. Think of it as a digital trainer that fits into your pocket, motivating you to stay healthy night and day.

$100; FitBit.com


Lightning Bug(Photo courtesy of Lightning Bug)Lightning Bug
Call it DJ White Noize! This app for Android users allows you to choose from over 200 different sound samples and loops to mix into an ambient slumber soundtrack.

You can also customize a variety of backgrounds to go with your tracks, whether inspired by rainstorms, ocean waves, or meditation bells (be sure to check for new content-in plug-ins to keep things fresh). The sound quality is so good, you may want to just chill and listen to the app during waking hours as well.

Free; Google Play


(Clocky)(Photo courtesy of Nandahome.com)Clocky

You snooze, you lose, right? Clocky aims to fix that. What looks like the evil love child of Wall-E and R2D2 is actually a sophisticated alarm clock that physically jumps off your bedside table when you hit the snooze button.

It then continues to roll around until you can catch it and silence its robotic bleeps (which are extremely loud, by the way). Clocky was built to withstand drops from heights of up to three feet, and the tread on those 3.5-inch wheels allow it to make getaways even on thick rugs. The gimmick should be novel for sleepers bored by the standard clock radio alarms, but fair warning—if you don’t sleep alone, Clocky may ensure you do before long.

$40; Nandahome.com


Sleep Cycle(Photo courtesy of Sleep Cycle)Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
For those who don’t want to spend time in a sleep lab or shell out big bucks for bulky sleep monitoring devices, this app may be just the right kind of investment.

Sleep Cycle uses your iPhone’s accelerometer to keep tabs on your nighttime movements when placed under your sheet or pillow, then wakes you during your lightest sleep phase. It also provides an easy-to-read graph analyzing the data collected (the caveat being that simply tracking movement does not give a full picture of sleep health). The tracker may be a little sensitive to every twitch and spasm, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how well-rested you are after a few uses.

$1; iTunes

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