NOISLI / SLUMBER
This story was updated in October 2022 to reflect the latest subscription pricing for our top picks, vetted by the Good Housekeeping Institute.
If you’re feeling extra restless lately, you’re not alone: More than five million Americans have issues getting to sleep each night, according to a study from Iowa State University. Taking time to unwind with a relaxing bedtime routine is important for optimizing sleep quality, but quieting your mind at the end of the day is often easier said than done — and what works for one person may not work for another.
“Meditating and reading can be great tools for many, but some people may prefer utilizing a sleep app that assists with the process,” says wellness expert and Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab deputy director Stefani Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.O., C.D.N., NASM-CPT. Whether you enjoy guided meditation facilitated by experts or would rather say goodnight while listening to soothing sounds or stories, the best sleep apps will help calm your mind and ease any anxiety right before you put your phone down for the evening.
The experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute have been hands-on testing sleep essentials for decades, from the best pillows to top-performing alarm clocks. To determine the best sleep apps to help you fall (and stay!) asleep, we sourced feedback from real consumers, spoke with medical professionals and had our own Media & Tech Lab experts share the most effective sleep-focused apps they’ve tested for iPhones and Androids. Whether you want to drift off to the sweet sounds of nature, white noise or a bedtime story, download one of these apps that really work to help you get the slumber you so desperately need.
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Best Overall Sleep App: Sleep Cycle
If you want to learn more about how well you sleep, the Sleep Cycle app is for you. In addition to offering guided meditations and sleep coaching programs, it tracks your sleep patterns and provides tips to help you optimize your snooze time. Plus, it features an alarm clock function that gently wakes you up when you’re in your lightest sleep phase, so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed.
Just keep in mind that no sleep tracker is 100% accurate, so if you’re really struggling with your sleep, you may need to see a dedicated sleep specialist. “Accuracy can be an issue here because [with an app], you don’t have a sensor physically on the body — but it can still provide you with clues about your sleep,” says Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Best Sleep Tracking App: Oura
Slip on the Oura ring and drift off to dreamland. “This is one of the most accurate health trackers on the market, and it uses hardware so you benefit from having that sensor [on the body],” says Dr. Breus. Tiny sensors in the ring detect body signals via the highly sensitive arteries in your fingers, so you’ll be able to track everything from your sleep activity to your heart rate and body temperature during the night.
If you wear it all day long (which is encouraged), you’ll learn what’s going on inside of you during daylight hours, too. But how does all of this data tracking help you sleep? Knowing your body and its trends can help you target the areas you need to work on, like getting more exercise or spending more time engaging in mindfulness practices, which will eventually help you snooze better.
Best Sleep App for Insomnia: Somryst
Somryst is like having access to a sleep trainer on-demand. “It’s one of several sleep apps developed using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I),” says Dr. Breus. “This app has great data behind it, providing you with actual insomnia therapy that’s FDA-approved and shown to be effective.”
Somryst is a prescription-only app, so you’ll want to check with your doctor first — or, you can get started by filling out Somryst’s sleep questionnaire and consulting with a sleep specialist via a telehealth appointment. Over the course of the self-paced program, you’ll gain insight into your own personal sleep troubles and learn science-backed strategies for better sleep that are designed to stick because you’re actually training your brain.
Best Sleep App for Meditation: Headspace
Headspace is known as a popular guided meditation app, but it’s also great for sleep. We particularly enjoy its “sleepcasts,” which are 45- to 55-minute-long audio experiences (kind of like adult bedtime stories) that help you visualize calming experiences, like a slow moving train or a walk through a garden. Headspace offers new stories every night, so you’ll never get bored.
If you upgrade to the paid version of this app, you’ll gain access to more than 40 themed meditation courses (like ones designed specifically for sleep and stress), plus lots more sleepcast and music options to help you wind down at the end of the day.
Best Sleep App for White Noise: Noisli
This super simple app lets you choose from a bunch of different sleep sounds (like thunder, wind, white noise and even the buzz of a coffee shop) so that you can create your ideal sleep soundtrack. You can even combine sounds you love and save them in the app for future use. Pro tip: If you’re using Noisli overnight, keep your phone plugged in — otherwise, you may wake up to a drained battery.
Best Sleep App With Meditation Device: Core
We love how easy it is to use Hyperice’s Core app and accompanying meditation training device. To get started, all you have to do is pick up the small handheld sphere while the app on your phone guides you through a soothing meditation session, whether it’s for sleep, anxiety or stress. Especially if you’re someone who has a hard time meditating, our experts found that this is a great tool to help center your attention and breathing before drifting off, by focusing on Core’s gentle vibrations.
Our testers liked the Core device’s natural wood design, which not only looks beautiful on a nightstand but contains ECG biosensors that measure and track your progress in the app. We also found that the Bluetooth connectivity between the Core and our mobile devices was seamless, and that the device’s charge lasted for days.
Best Sleep App With Alarm: Pzizz
With Pzizz, you can set a timer for the length of your sleep session so it plays a soothing “dreamscape” (read: combo of music, voiceovers and sound effects) while you snooze; then, you can wake up to the app’s built-in alarm. You’ll need to upgrade to access the more advanced features, like the ability to choose different sounds.
Best Sleep App for Falling Asleep Fast: Slumber
Slumber offers a combination of experiences to help you fall asleep quickly, whether it’s meditation sessions, a six-part bedtime story series or the gentle sound of a warm jacuzzi. You can also choose a background noise (like rain or the ocean) to play for up to 10 hours after the main track ends. New sleep-inducing stories and meditations are added each week, and you can listen to them all if you upgrade to Slumber’s premium version (otherwise, you can access select episodes for free).
Best Sleep App for Bedtime Stories: Calm
We love that the Calm app is super easy to use, and that its Sleep Stories section has bedtime stories (for kids and adults!) read aloud by people with soothing voices, including celebrities like Matthew McConaughey. Only a few stories are included for free, but getting a subscription unlocks a large library of meditations made specifically for sleep, plus categories like stress and ASMR, with new content each week. Calm also offers relaxing music, breathing and stretching exercises.
Best Sleep App for Relaxation: Ten Percent Happier
If you’re looking for an app that can help you with more than just getting better sleep, Ten Percent Happier is worth a shot. Based on ABC anchor Dan Harris’ best-selling book and podcast of the same name, the app offers a wide variety of meditation courses — including ones for sleep — that range from three minutes to 45 minutes to help you relax. There is also the option to message a coach for extra support.
Best Sleep App for Journaling: Reflectly
If you’re looking to establish a nightly routine that helps you ease your mind before bed, you may want to try journaling, which has been proven to have many mental health benefits. As it turns out, you don’t even need a physical journal to do this, thanks to Reflectly. This app functions as an “intelligent” journal that asks you guided questions and prompts you to organize your thoughts. It helps you, well, reflect on the day, on your thoughts and any problems you may have faced. You may find yourself moving past thoughts that would have kept you up all night otherwise.
Best Sleep App for Kids: Moshi
Moshi offers digital bedtime stories for kids designed to help them fall asleep faster. Most of the stories, which feature adorable animated illustrations and the voices of celebrities like Goldie Hawn, last between 15 and 20 minutes to engage kids while they get ready for sleep. You can even download them for instances where WiFi may not be available (e.g., traveling on planes!).
If you’ve ever had trouble shutting down your mind right before bed, a sleep app can be a useful tool to help you relax and fall asleep faster. “Sleep is essential to every bodily process and affects everything from our immunity and metabolism to chronic disease risk and mental health,” says Sassos. “The amount of hours you sleep at night is important, but also the quality of that sleep is significant too.”
Sleep apps range from ones that actually track your sleep to options that provide white noise, offer guided meditations and more. When it comes to sleep apps, you’ll want to pinpoint where your sleep needs intervention. Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you battle with a racing mind the second your head hits the pillow? Figuring out what aspects of your sleep need assistance can help you select the best sleep app for you.
There is one caveat when it comes to sleep apps, though: If you’re opting for a health tracker app that provides insights into your sleep patterns, like how much time you spent in REM cycle, try not to obsess about the data because that can turn into a whole new snooze-time problem.
“If, in the morning, your app says you slept only 65% of the night, you could become anxious and develop psychophysiological insomnia, which means you start to turn to bad habits like alcohol or medication to try to get what your app says is sufficient sleep,” says Raj Dasgupta, M.D., a sleep expert and associate professor of clinical medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
This story was most recently updated and vetted by Rachel Rothman and Olivia Lipski, who specialize in testing and reviewing tech and fitness gear for GH, among other categories. In addition to ensuring all information about our top sleep app picks was up to date, Olivia also interviewed Stefani Sassos, the deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Nutrition Lab, who studied the intersection of sleep and health while completing her master’s in clinical nutrition at New York University and her B.S. in nutritional sciences from the Pennsylvania State University.
This story also features additional reporting by GH health editors Alyssa Jung and Zee Krstic. In 2020, Zee coordinated a full review of the top-rated sleep apps and services on the market for this article. Meanwhile, Alyssa interviewed several sleep experts for their insights; throughout her journalism career, she has worked with some of the world’s leading somnologists and other licensed sleep specialists.
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