On the surface, it might sound quite fancy that some apps promise to sell you a good night's sleep and charge you money for it. But certain free apps have been doing the same thing, and from user experiences, quite successfully so. These are the apps that fall under the category of sleep-trackers. They track the pattern of your sleep, provide you with agencies to improve your sleep quality, guide you into a smooth awakening experience in the morning and even teach you a thing or two about how to improve your sleep.
We tested some of the popular sleep-tracking apps and handpicked the best one in the market for you. These apps aren't a replacement for a medical sleep study, but they'll help you to identify trends in your sleep patterns and decide whether you should consult an expert.
Unlike a smart band or watch in which sleep-tracking is convenient as the device is worn on your wrist, sleep-tracking apps on smartphones can only be used by placing the phone near you. If the app uses an accelerometer to track your sleep, the phone needs to be placed beneath your pillow. Since the apps we tested had the microphone option too, we used that method during our trials. When microphones are used to track sleep, the phone needs to be placed next to your bed, with the microphone closer to your body so that your sleeping patterns can be accurately tracked by analysing your audio picked up by the microphone.
A word of caution: Most apps ask you to put your phone on charge while sleeping, so as to prevent missed alarms due to phone discharge. You can consider switching to Airplane mode if you're concerned about the health risks of having the phone next to your face for the whole night.
Your sleep is detected using either a microphone or accelerometer, as per your choice. For the microphone, which is the option recommended by the app, the phone needs to be placed on your bedside table. The app analyses your movement and tracks your snoring when you sleep. If you have opted for the accelerometer option, the phone will have to be placed near your head on the mattress or beneath your pillow. We do not recommend this, considering the potential health risks.
You can choose whether or not to use the ‘Snore detection' option and you also have control over the period of time you want the snore detection feature to be enabled. Visual guides called ‘Placement reminders' remind you to correctly position the phone to use the app correctly.
Instead of setting up a particular time for waking up, Sleep Cycle encourages you to set a period of time for waking up through the feature called 'Wake up phase'. This feature gives you a window of time starting from 10 minutes to a maximum of 45 minutes to prepare to wake up. The Snooze option can also be customised to your liking. The app recommends the 'Intelligent' option, which "gives you dynamically paced moments until your wake up time," while with the ‘Regular' option, you can adjust the interval of time you need between each snooze. You can also choose whether to set the 'Vibration' option with the alarm.
'Sleep school' is a free training programme offered by Sleep Cycle for anyone who wants to learn more about sleep. The ‘Journal' feature, which are sleep graphs and analysis are available in the free version, while detailed statistics regarding your sleep data is available in the premium version.
Sleep Cycle also has sleep sounds to help you get a good night's sleep. The free sounds available on Sleep Cycle are Warm breeze, Forest glade, Morning mist and Sunrise. For more options or to add your own music, you'll have to upgrade to the premium version.
After a 7-day free trial, the premium version of Sleep Cycle will cost you Rs. 1,800 per year. Options like ‘Online backup,' ‘Sleep notes,' ‘Wake up mood,' and ‘Weather' are only available in the premium version. Sleep Cycle can also be synced with Google Fit.
SleepScore is our second pick. After taking an initial consent to collect your sleep-related data, SleepScore asks for a few more basic details like your name, date of birth and gender. You can choose which area of your sleep you would like to see an improvement in, from the five different options provided, including, 'fall asleep easily,' 'stay asleep longer,' 'snoring and grinding,' etc. If you are not sure about what to particularly focus on, you can simply press the 'I'll track to find out' option.
As the name suggests, SleepScore rates your sleep from 1-100 and tells you what is the average ideal sleep score required for your age. The sleep-tracker of SleepScore shows how long you were in each stage of sleep. It also briefs you what each of the sections means. Light Sleep is when it is the easiest to be disturbed, Deep Sleep is when your body heals, and REM sleep is when your brain processes your memories from the day. Each stage of your sleep is scored individually.
SleepScore uses a patented sonar technology that uses sound waves to track your sleep. As of now, the sonar technology is not supported on all versions of iOS and Android. It works only with iPhone 6 and higher and the Android devices that support sonar technology are Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S8, S8+, S9, S9+, Note 8, Note 9 and Google Pixel 2 XL. Sonar technology is said to enhance the quality with which your sleep is tracked. The advanced sonar technology is used at sound frequencies that are known to be above the level of adult human hearing, but it may be audible to your pets. The makers of the app claim that their 'extensive testing has shown that this is not an ongoing concern for pets.'
SleepScore also lets you set the Smart Alarm with a snooze window of your choice. SleepScore stood out from the other apps in the app store due to its intuitive design. For features like detailed data and analytics and recommendations on how to sleep better, you will need to subscribe to the premium version of the app.The premium version comes at $ 5.99 (roughly Rs. 400) per month or $49.99 (roughly Rs. 3,600) per year.
We tested a few more sleep-tracking apps and even though these didn't make the cut based on the accuracy of sleep-tracking and analysis they provided, we think they are worth checking out, given the relative simplicity in the features and the user interface of both the apps.
Sleep Monitor tracks your sleep using a microphone. On the homepage itself you are provided with various options to choose from the possible sleep distractions that you might have had like coffee, alcohol, smoking and so on.
Although the sleep analysis of Sleep Monitor is detailed, we found that the sleep-tracking isn't as accurate. During our trial, we logged in two sleep distractions, namely coffee and alcohol before we started to track. We found that Sleep Monitor showed a designated amount of time as ‘Awake' since we had logged in the distractions and then started showing the data for sleep, starting from light sleep, although we really hadn't started sleeping. This happened despite having the microphone feature turned on.
Also, once you have started tracking your sleep, you can't navigate through the app unless you quit from your ongoing session of sleep. We found this quite restrictive, as we weren't able to reset the alarm time for waking up unless we quit the sleep session completely.
If you are someone who is likely to indulge in some of the above mentioned sleep distracting factors, you can consider using Sleep Monitor. The app is also a good choice for someone who is looking for a simplistic user interface.
Get if for - Android
Sleep Time is the app for those who just want to know what will be the right time to wake up depending on the time they sleep. It doesn't track your sleep or give you any sort of analysis about your sleeping patterns. It divides your sleep into six cycles with an alarm attached to each. You can choose the number of cycles of sleep you want. If you choose the whole 6 cycles of sleep, the alarm of the app will go off approximately after 9 hours. But you have the option to choose any number of cycles depending on how much sleep you want.
There is also a Theme feature from which you can choose the preferred colour palette for your app. Other than that, there isn't much that Sleep Time has to offer. If you are looking for an app that just tracks your sleeping cycle and not your sleeping pattern, this could be the right app for you. Its simplicity and lack of clutter might be exactly what some users are looking for.
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