The Sleep Monitor Countdown
The best apps make your internal clock feel like a luxury watch. The other ones will just piss you off.
Waking up shouldn’t suck. Hell, sometimes it leads to morning sex. Still, most people struggle with the first part of the day. There is no need. With new technologies, you can reset your internal clock and wake up refreshed or at least kind of refreshed. These are the best sleep assistants out there. How you treat your hangovers is your own business.
9. SleepRate: The first step in getting a better night’s sleep is to understand why you’re not getting one in the first place. SleepRate’s system is made up of a heart-rate monitor, a companion app and about a decade worth of research from Stanford University’s Sleep Clinic. While we liked the methodology behind this approach, this was one of our least favorite systems due to the intrusive heart-rate monitor, which is supposed to be worn across your chest. When the solution creates more discomfort than the problem, we’ll opt for the alternatives. [$100; Sleep Rate]
8. Sleep Genius: The Sleep Genius app operates under the theory that, by tracking your biorhythms, you can target the perfect time to go to bed. Then, by consistently targeting that time, you can learn to wake at the same time every morning. A pattern emerges. Sadly, the touted “NASA” technology used in the app doesn’t actually compare to other apps on this list that use external gear to better track your sleep habits. There may be something to be said about the placebo effect simply owning this app will have on your night’s rest but we prefer an approach that’s more technically measured. [$5; Sleep Genius App]
7. Fitbit One: The Fitbit One is a clip-on solution that tracks vital stats throughout the day and night, from calories burned to stairs climbed to sleep cycles. Granted, it’s only effective if you actually wear the clip on your PJs while you sleep but, if tracking your sleep is a priority, wearing the gizmo overnight isn’t too much of a hardship. The One communicates with its companion app to give you real-time tracking of vital stats, including sleep, that you can then analyze to find your best sleep cycle. It’ll also wake you up with a silent, vibrating alarm, but that’s pretty much just gravy on top of FitbitOne’s other functionality. [$100; Fitbit One]
6. Jawbone UP: The UP by Jawbone is an overall health tracker; sleep tracking is just the thing it does best. Meant to be worn 24/7 (it has a 10-day battery life), the UPbluetooths (a verb we invented) with Apple or Android devices and tracks activity, food intake, and sleep habits. Much is made about the connection between a healthy lifestyle and a good night’s sleep. This Jawbone device helps you see those relationships, which is good, but the system leaves it up to you to turn that information into real improvement. [$62; Jawbone UP]
5. Lark: For the heavier sleepers out there, getting to bed may not be your problem but waking up can be a real struggle. Lark aims to tackle this problem with their combination of tracking/vibrating wristband and a companion app. The Lark app records sleep data that you can then use to set “sleep goals” but, most important, the vibrating wristband will isolate your alarm just for you, waking you up without disturbing the lady next to you. It really does work too, so long as you’re not waking up as the big spoon in the morning. [Free; Lark App]
4. Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson: Yes, this app has an incredibly creepy name, but there is more to it than that. Life trainer Andrew Johnson’s eponymous app offers a surprisingly effective mix of affirmation and guided meditation that helps you calm your mind and fall asleep faster. That means a better night’s sleep and an easier time getting up tomorrow. We’re actually firm believers in the soothing sounds of a voice to help get to sleep. The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross is basically a cloth soaked in chloroform, as far as we’re concerned. Thing is, listening to a bushy man paint bushy bushes wouldn’t be that different than using this app. [$3; Deep Sleep App]
3. LIFX Smart Bulbs: Smart light bulbs aren’t your average light bulb. Using LED and wi-fi technology, the LIFX bulbs screw into any normal lamp or light fixture and, via wi-fi, can be controlled from your smartphone. That means changing the color to any of 16 million shades the LIFX is capable of producing or, if you’re trying to go to sleep or wake up, setting a schedule that eases from a bright blue to darkness at night and back into a warm red glow to help you out of bed in the morning. Oh, and these bulbs are rated to last for 27 years if you use them for four hours each day. That’s a lot of morning wake-up calls for the money. [$99 for 1, $910 for 10; LIFX Smart Bulbs]
2. Withings Aura: The Withings Aura System is made up of a mattress sensor, a nightstand lamp/clock and an app to track all the data. It’s a pricey setup, coming in at $299, but is smartly designed to both identify your sleep patterns and use that data to help you get to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. Insomniacs should probably look to pull out bigger guns than the Aura, but if you’re just looking for a more pleasant way to start your days, Withing’s offering, which will wake you at the ideal point in your sleep cycle, is worth every penny. [$300; Withings Aura]
1. Sleepnumber X12: To use all the apps and gadgets on this list, you have to be willing to keep them on you during the night. That’s not an issue with the X12 because it’s built into the mattress itself. Sleepnumber has been building mattresses that firm up or soften based on your desired comfort level, but now they’re putting proper technology into the mattress so you can pull your sleep data straight from your bed and into your tablet or smartphone. The X12 uses some impressive statistics to get the job done, specifically average breathing, average heart rate, and movement frequency, and gives you readouts so you can make improvements if necessary. The X12 might make it easier for you to wake up in the morning, but when your mattress is this smart and this comfy, it might also make it a lot tougher to get out of bed. [$8,000; Sleepnumber X12]
Photos by Tom Merton / Getty Images