The Best Sleep Gadgets and Apps

Insomnia is a waking nightmare that can rob you of your health and sense of well-being. Everyone knows we need to prioritize sleep to stay healthy and clear toxins from the brain, but getting to sleep when you’re anxious can prove impossible, and obsessing over it is counterproductive. Sadly, there is no quick fix or cure for insomnia, but the best sleep gadgets and apps can help some.

The pursuit of the sleep-deprived dollar has spawned countless devices that promise improved shut-eye. Some make dubious claims or overstate their soporific powers, and we are all different, so what works for one person may not work for the next. As a long-term insomniac, with kids who have inherited my difficulty dropping off, my household has tested a lot of sleep gadgets over the years. These are the ones that have worked for us.

You can also potentially spend more time in the land of nod by silencing your gadgets at bedtime, tuning into sleep sounds, and investing in one of the best mattresses around.

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  • Photograph: Hatch

    Rise and Shine

    Hatch Restore

    Waking up to a jarring alarm propels you out of bed with a cortisol jolt, but it is a stressful way to start the day. The best sunrise alarm clocks wake you more gently, emulating the sun by emitting light that gradually brightens your room. The Hatch Restore also offers a wind-down routine with a sunset, soothing music, and sleep sounds. For me, sticking to a routine has proved the most effective way to combat my insomnia. Our customized Hatch Restore routine gives us half an hour of reading light, followed by a 20-minute sunset with soothing music and then rain sounds through the night. We also set a sunrise alarm with tweeting birds. It helps us get to sleep and is a pleasant way to wake.

    The depth of customization options is excellent, and there’s a wide choice of sounds, sleep stories, and meditations. However, only the basic library of white noise and soothing sounds is free; the rest of the content comes via a subscription costing $99 per year after a one-month trial. That’s a bit too expensive, considering you can get a year of the Calm app for $70, and it boasts better content and support for various devices. That said, if you can stomach the cost, the Hatch Restore bundles several handy features into a single bedside device.

    ★ Another alternative: The second-generation Google Nest Hub ($100) (7/10, WIRED Recommends) can perform many of the same tricks as the Hatch, with the option to play sleep sounds, music, or podcasts, a sunrise alarm, and built-in sleep tracking. But it also serves as a great digital photo frame, smart home control panel, and display for video.

  • Photograph: Bose

    Masking Noise

    Bose Sleepbuds 2

    Noisy neighbors, traffic sounds, or even a snoring partner can all keep you up at night. If you need something to mask that sound and help you drop off, the Bose Sleepbuds 2 might work for you. These tiny earbuds passively block noise and play soothing sounds like a rainforest or ocean swell, white noise, or melodic instrumental music. As a side sleeper, I find earbuds uncomfortable, but when I’m away from home I always take the Sleepbuds, and they work well in any noisy environment. I prefer them to basic earbuds because I also suffer from tinnitus, and complete silence exacerbates it. I appreciate that they don’t completely block sound (they mask it), enough to help you drop off, but you will still hear a knock at the door. There’s also an alarm function and a slick charging case.

    If you find earbuds uncomfortable, these are not for you. Apart from the high price, the Bose app has a limited library of sounds and music. And even though they support Bluetooth LE, you can’t stream anything else to the Sleepbuds. You must also plan ahead, as it takes a while to load content onto them.

  • Photograph: Sleepme

    Stay Cool

    Sleepme Dock Pro

    Temperature impacts our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as overall sleep quality. When it’s too warm or cold, we struggle to sleep, and a rising temperature can wake us. Your room should be somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 21 degrees Celsius). But your body temperature will fluctuate depending on your health, bedclothes, linen, and even what you last ate (late-night nachos always seem like a good idea, but …). The Dock Pro from Sleepme combines a Chilisleep pad for your bed with a water pumping unit that can maintain a fixed temperature (between 55 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit). You can customize the temperature and schedule changes through the night to encourage deep sleep and REM phases.

    The Dock Pro is very effective at heating or cooling your bed to the temperature you want, and it’s lovely climbing into a warm or cool bed, depending on the time of year, but you pay a lot for the privilege. Unfortunately, the pad isn’t very comfortable, and the pumping unit makes a continuous sound (I measured 46 decibels on my Apple Watch). It was mostly masked by the rain sounds we listen to at night, but it could disturb some people. I’m a hot sleeper, and the Dock Pro helps me banish night sweats, but I’m still testing, and I won’t be able to fully assess the benefit until the weather warms up. Sleepme also plans to add subscription sleep tracking to the app this summer.

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