The Daily App: Sleep 101 -- Get a Better Night's Rest
As you get older, your brain gets lower-quality sleep, contributing to a decline in your memory. But apps can prove a secret weapon in the fight against this, promising deeper, more restorative rest. Scientists at University of California at Berkeley showed that decreased quality of sleep is one of the reasons why aging brains have a harder time remembering information. The prefrontal cortex part of the brain, located behind your forehead, shrinks as you age. This part of your brain helps to create high-quality deep sleep, a necessary process in consolidating new information into longer-term, permanent memory.
One way to fight memory decline as you get older, as a result, is to improve sleep, particularly the phase of sleep where brain waves slow. A number of apps promise not only to help you get to sleep but achieve these deeper levels of rest once you get there.
What's the App?
Most sleep-related apps are relaxation programs, alarm clocks or meditation tools, but "Sleep 101," available as a free app for iOS devices, is as basic and educational as its name implies: it analyzes your personal sleeping patterns, helps you wake up at an ideal time to boost your energy and primes you with methods and insights on helping you get a better night's sleep.
The app kicks off with a tutorial that walks you through all of its features. You start off by setting an alarm time in the "Track" section of the app, and use the "smart Alarm" feature, which wakes you at a light-sleep point before your set-alarm time, helping you awake feeling more refreshed and energetic. But its real power lies in how it can track your sleep over time, giving insights into how well you're sleeping and where you need to improve. You simply click on the "Track" tab and hit the "Start Tracking" button, setting your plugged-in iPhone near your pillow.
It uses the iPhone's accelerometer to gauge your movements during sleep -- no movement usually means a deep sleep phase, while lots of motion indicates more restless or lighter sleep. It can "score" your sleep, analyzing how much time you actually spent asleep, how long it took for you to actually get to sleep and your sleep's overall "efficiency." Over time, data accumulates, accessible through the "History" tab, giving you a clearer sense of where your sleep needs improvement.
There's also a knowledge base of articles and advice on sleep as well, and it's easy to find topics tailored to your particular sleep peccadilloes. The whole interface is sleek and clean, so it's easy to use and navigate. There are no frills to the app, but also no distracting free ads. It's a snap to use and a valuable source of insight into an elusive, often mysterious aspect to our daily lives. It claims to be 86.2 percent as accurate as a wrist-based sleep monitor -- only it's free, and a lot less obtrusive.
You'll Want It If...
Sleep 101 doesn't promise instant or immediate results, instead recognizing that changing your sleep patterns in the long-term requires serious effort and self-knowledge. The app should also appeal to those who like the idea of being their own guinea pig in an ongoing sleep experiment, or curious or scientific types who want insight into this aspect of their lives.
It's also a fine free alternative to the incredibly popular Sleep Cycle, the "intelligent alarm clock" that analyzes your sleep over time and wakes you up when you're in a light sleep phase, helping you start the morning a lot more relaxed and a lot less groggy.
If you're on Android, and you want to get into the sleep-tracking fun, download "Sleep Time Alarm Clock" -- it offeres many of the same functions.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
Sleep 101's method takes a long-term view of sleep matters, but those seeking faster relief are looking for something more immediate and doable. If you're just looking for an app to help ease you into a good night's sleep, you may want to look into a deep relaxation or meditation app to calm agitated minds, such as Naturescape, or try a white noise and soundscape app like Sleep Machine to help get to sleep more easily.
Chronic and serious insomnia, however, is a serious medical issue, and you'll likely need to consult with a doctor or other medical professional to tackle an issue that can quickly erode your quality of life.
Agree or disagree? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Share your experience and leave a comment below. ♦
Categories: Healthcare & Fitness | The Daily App