Here’s What You Need to Know About Sleep Apps

May 13, 2016

8:00 pm

What’s worse than being woken up during the night by bumps, thumps and crashes?

Try heavy breathing.

Though it sounds pretty peculiar, this is exactly what happened to J.K. Rowling while she was experimenting with sleep apps.


Given that we spend about one-third of our lives asleep, and 65 percent of American adults sleeping near a cell phone, it makes sense to leverage technology to help us make the most of a night’s rest. Sleep apps are programs aimed at helping users optimize their sleep cycles, often through relaxing sounds and carefully timed alarms. Unfortunately, even apps with the best intentions can have unforeseen consequences.

In late April, Rowling tweeted: “Woken at 3 a.m. by new sleep app, convinced that an intruder was breathing heavily in the dark. Have decided not to review to get new sounds.” This innocuous tweet sparked an outpouring of sleep app anecdotes and recommendations from fans. Some shared how the very apps that were supposed to help them sleep ended up giving them a deficit instead. Others offered advice on alternative programs to try out.

Here’s a rundown of several of the most popular apps to help you wake up feeling better than ever, hopefully giving you a better experience than J.K. Rowling:



Developed by Jonathan Nakhla, the free Android app 90night helps you plan bedtime around your natural 90 minute sleep cycles. One of the reasons why you’re waking up tired might be related your sleep cycle – if the cycle is interrupted, you’re more likely to feel fatigued throughout the day. 90night takes some of the guesswork out of bedtime by calculating sleeping and wakeup times for you in 90-minute intervals.

To use the app, input either what time you want to wake up or go to sleep, and how long you want to sleep for. From there, 90night will calculate the most efficient times. The app also has alarm functions and the ability to take into account how long you take to fall asleep. Overall, while 90night may lack the flashy visuals and analytics of other sleep apps, it focuses on providing excellent services for users wanting to get the most from their nightly sleep.

Sleep Genius


Available for IOS and Android, Sleep Genius is one of the most comprehensive sleep apps around. It’s so feature-packed, in fact, that it was recognized in NASA’s annual publication, Spinoff. Like 90night, it calculates when you should sleep based in 90-minute cycles. It also offers relaxing music (to lull you asleep) and alarms (to gradually wake you up).

If you want to take a data-driven approach to sleeping, the app also has tools to measure the quality, quantity and efficiency of your habits.



If you’re looking to get more accurate data for sleep monitoring, any one of the fitness tracker apps are a good place to start. Apps like Fitbit sync with their associated fitness trackers to monitor your health throughout the day. You can track everything from your heart rate to hydration and calories eaten. At nighttime, the app uses your Fitbit to log the length and quality of your sleep, how much of it was restless and offers tips on improvements.

Sleep apps come in diverse packages and vary widely depending on whether they aim to be providing. Don’t let Rowling’s experience with the notorious heavy breathing soundtrack dissuade you – investing in improving your sleep habits will yield drastic results for your daily health.

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Scott Huntington is an entrepreneur, social media expert, and sports fan. Check him out on or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington

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