According to NPR, approximately 30 million Americans (about 10 percent) suffered from insomnia in 2008. The CDC then reported that roughly 1-in-3 American adults weren’t getting enough sleep in 2016. Cited causes include unhealthy lifestyles and too much time spent in front of screens.
That’s right: if you have trouble falling asleep at night, it might be due to anything from poor office habits to technology addiction to tech-related depression. But solutions exist, and I’m living proof that they can work.
I used to have chronic insomnia, unable to fall asleep until 4am every morning. After a few lifestyle tweaks and years of sticking to it, I can now go to bed at 10pm and fall asleep within five minutes of laying my head on the pillow. Here’s what I did — maybe these tips and apps can help you too!
Filter or Reduce Blue Light
Of all the things I’ve tried, this one had the biggest impact. All devices with screens (e.g., monitors, laptops, tablets, smartphones) give off a certain amount of “blue light” — the same kind of light in sunlight. Our eyes interpret the presence of blue light as “day time” and inhibit melatonin production, a hormone that’s integral for healthy sleep-wake cycles.
In other words, the theory is that late-night exposure keeps our brains in “awake mode” and makes it harder to fall asleep.
Fortunately, there are apps out there that can filter out blue light from screen displays and theoretically reduce the impact. The jury is still out on the exact science of it, but lots of people report success with it, so it’s at least worth a shot. I find that it works extremely well for me.
Twilight is the best app for filtering blue light on Android devices. I’ve used it for years on multiple devices and have never run into any issues, glitches, or bugs. All you do is input your location, and Twilight automatically adjusts how much blue light is filtered depending on the time of day.
Download — Twilight (Free)
If you don’t like Twilight, or can’t use it for whatever reason, then Blue Light Filter is a decent alternative. It accomplishes the same results, but it requires you to manually enable its “Night Mode” for the filtering to kick in. It’s also supported by ads, removable with a $1.99-per-year subscription.
Download — Blue Light Filter (Free with in-app purchases)
Track Sleep Cycles
The second-most effective trick for me has been tracking my sleep cycles. Sleep cycles are crucial because our bodies like routine. If you sleep at the same time every night, for the same duration every night, then your body will grow accustomed to that pattern and grow sleepy as “sleep time” approaches.
Furthermore, adhering to a regular sleep pattern can also improve your quality of sleep. What most people don’t realize is that how long you sleep isn’t necessarily as important as how well you sleep. If you rarely dip into deep sleep, your body won’t feel that sense of a good night’s rest.
This is why sleep-tracking apps have exploded in popularity. These apps, though not perfect, track the duration and quality of your sleep every night. Some even have special alarm features that integrate with your individual sleep cycle and avoid jolting you awake during deep sleep.
You can’t do much better than Sleep as Android. It tracks well, keeps lots of statistics, integrates with some wearable gear, has wake-up verification tasks to prevent oversleeping, snoring detection, sleeptalk recording, and more. Some of its features are behind a paywall, but the free version is still worthwhile.
Download — Sleep as Android (Free / $3.99)
Good Morning is similar to Sleep as Android but slightly less bloated. It focuses on what’s most important: sleep tracking, statistics, analysis, and making sure you wake up gently at the optimal time.
Download — Good Morning (Free)
Listen to Ambient Noise
Few things are more frustrating than noisy distractions when trying to fall asleep. The ticking of clocks, the rumble of cars outside your window, even the conversations of neighbors through paper-thin walls. True silence is often unattainable.
But instead of burying your head in a pillow, you might fare better with a noise generator. Some people fall asleep easier when the TV is on. Others prefer the static of a dead radio. And others are most calmed by the pitter-patter of rain or the soft crackle of a fireplace.
Ambient noise apps are convenient for this. Not only do such apps help you relax and destress, but the presence of ambient noise can drown out more distracting noises and make them less noticeable.
Pzizz isn’t just ambient noise. It’s sleep-optimized ambient noise. Using a mix of music, sound effects, and voiceovers, Pzizz promises to quiet your mind and put you to sleep. Earphones are recommended for best effect. Works well for night sleep and mid-day power naps.
Download — Pzizz (Free)
I personally love A Soft Murmur for its flexibility. Equipped with individual sound loops, you can mix-and-match as many as you want and customize each individual sound’s volume. In addition to sleeping, you can also use it for studying or lounging. Four base sounds are included, and six extra sounds are available for purchase.
Download — A Soft Murmur (Free with in-app purchases)
Listen to Music
While music can be a great way to prepare you for sleep, not all music qualifies — some songs and genres are simply too upbeat, too erratic, or too lively.
Instead, try listening to these scientifically-backed relaxation songs. They’ve been designed for serenity and calmness. They’re a bit unconventional, though, so you may need some time to get used to them. That being said, you may find a similar level of success with genres like classical or ambient.
I highly recommend Spotify for music. Its music library is massive, its audio quality is excellent, and it has tons of unique features. You’ll probably want a Premium account because the free version ads are frequent and distracting. And if you ask me, Spotify Premium is definitely worth it.
Download — Spotify (Free with optional subscription)
If you prefer to download music, then my music player app of choice is AIMP. It’s free, open source, lightweight, has a clean interface, and has advanced features like a 10-band equalizer and wide support for audio formats. But other great music player apps exist, including Black Player, Rocket Player, Shuttle Player, and more.
Download — AIMP (Free)
Listen to Podcasts
Podcasts are hit-or-miss as far as falling asleep, but some people swear by them — usually the same folks who fall asleep to TV in the background. It also helps that many podcast hosts have deep, soothing voices.
But there are also podcasts out there that are meant to help you fall asleep. The best-known example is the Sleep With Me Podcast. Other helpful ones include The Daily Meditation Podcast and Meditation Minis Podcast. Just avoid anything that’s too funny, scary, or interesting.
Of course, you’ll need a way to listen to these. While there are many podcast apps available, there are two I specifically recommend.
I think AntennaPod is, without a doubt, the best free podcast app right now. In addition to being free, open-source, and without ads, it’s fast and doesn’t freeze on weaker devices. The interface is a bit rough, but it only takes a day or two to get used to.
Download — AntennaPod (Free)
PocketCasts is slightly better than AntennaPod but comes with a price tag. With advanced features like intro-skipping, silence trimming, sleep timer, cloud sync, and Android Wear integration, it’s definitely worth the cost. But if you don’t want to buy a podcast app, no matter how good, then go with AntennaPod.
Download — PocketCasts ($3.99)
What Helped You to Fall Asleep Faster?
Note that these apps aren’t magic pills. I can’t guarantee success with any of them. But if you incorporate these apps into your lifestyle and allow them to repair bad habits and overcome distractions, you’ll find that sleep comes easier with time.
And eventually, you may even start falling asleep upon crawling into bed.
How bad is your insomnia? What apps have you tried and which ones have helped? Got any others to recommend? Let us know in a comment below!
Image Credits: gpointstudio/Shutterstock