If you crawl into bed at the end of the day and struggle to fall asleep, you’re not alone. According to recent research from the National Sleep Foundation, women are significantly more likely to have trouble falling (and staying) asleep than men. Luckily, there are a number of free and low-cost sleep apps that can help.
Why women struggle with sleep
“Women experience a variety of hormonal imbalances throughout their lives that can impact their circadian rhythm – or our body’s internal clock,” says Dr. Peter Polos, a sleep medicine specialist at Hackensack JFK Medical Center.
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For example, it’s common for women with premenstrual syndrome to have trouble falling and staying asleep. Women may also experience changes in their sleep patterns during pregnancy and then again during the postpartum period because of inconsistent sleep schedules, a reduction in progesterone (a hormone that’s associated with inducing sleep) and general demands on new mothers, Polos says.
It’s not a secret that a lack of sleep can have serious consequences on your physical and mental health. “Sleep deprivation can directly impact your body’s response to how it battles illnesses, emotions, mood swings and daily interactions, causing stress levels to rise when your body is not fully rested and recharged,” Polos says, noting it’s even more of an issue in those battling anxiety or depression.
Women are more prone than men to develop certain sleep disorders, including restless leg syndrome and insomnia, says Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and certified clinical sleep educator who specializes in sleep health and wellness. And women who don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis are at greater risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.
Move sleep to the top of your ‘to-do’ list
“Well-rested people can handle the inevitable stressors of life better than exhausted people – and feel more optimistic, motivated, and resilient than their sleep deprived counterparts,” says Cralle. When it comes to stress, well-rested people are better decision makers, problem solvers and critical thinkers.”
People (especially women) need to view sleep as a daily biological need, not a luxury. “Women should not trade sleeping hours for waking hours in an attempt to get more done,” says Cralle. While it may sound counterintuitive, we actually get more done and do it better when we are well-rested. Cralle explains: Sufficient sleep is a means to better time management.
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Ready to give more rest a try? Cralle suggests making it your top scheduling priority for 30 days. Here are some of the top apps to check out in your quest for a better night’s sleep:
This app can help users fight insomnia through sequences of sounds, called dreamscapes, tailored to different portions of the sleep cycle. Layered over the dreamscapes are voice narrations based on clinical sleep interventions, such as mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxations, notes Christina Heiser, Senior Content Manager for Saatva, the Smarter Luxury Sleep company. There’s a free version of this app, and a pro version priced at $7.99 a month.
Described as an intelligent alarm clock, this app works by helping to track your sleep pattern and establishes a proper sleep-wake cycle. It also can assist with better mental health through meditation apps. “It uses your phone’s microphone to analyze your sleep and wakes you up at the point in your sleep cycle when you will feel the most rested and refreshed,” says Heiser. “After a few days, the app provides statistics on your sleep in charts and graphs that look at quality of sleep, number of hours in bed, wake-up time and whether or not you snored.” It also offers sounds including heavy rain, countryside ambiance, and white noise. Sleep Cycle costs $9.99 per month or $39.99 per year.
This well-known app has a number of features and includes “Sleep Stories” and a ton of soundscapes and nature melodies such as crashing ocean waves and falling rain in addition to relaxing meditations. “They have a ‘Seven Days of Sleep’ series that helps address the root causes of why many people have trouble sleeping and offers strategies to help change unhelpful thinking patterns associated with sleep,” says Heiser. The guided meditations come in various lengths of time from five minutes to longer than half an hour, so users can choose the one that works best for them. A Calm subscription costs $69.99 a year.
This highly-rated sleep app is free to download and can deliver a variety of sounds, including everything from boats gently swaying on water to the clap of thunder. The application includes an alarm to gently wake you up to the music of violins, chimes, and even the strumming of an acoustic guitar.
This app encourages users to create their own playlist of calming sleep sounds to help people wind down for the night. It also has a fadeout timer so ambient sounds become softer and eventually stop playing once you fall asleep. It’s available for iOS and Android and features a free and paid version that starts at $10 per month.
Sleepstation is an app that includes a sleep service, and a price tag of $149. The app allows you to work with a sleep team who can determine the root causes of your sleep issues and provide practical solutions to overcome someone’s sleep challenges.
BetterSleep allows you to create a personalized sleep experience through a selection of specific sounds and ambiance. “Choose between natural sounds, mix them according to your chosen volume, and intertwine meditative activities to completely customize your experience. The app costs $9.99 a month after a 7-day free trial. You can spend $59.99 a year to access the features of BetterSleep.
This is a scientifically-validated wearable that promises to deliver an additional 30 minutes of sleep at night through touch therapy. This wearable (for the wrist, ankle or clipped to a belt or bra) is controlled by the Apollo app, where users can set a specific sleep routine using various Apollo modes.
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