You may well use your phone to help you get out of bed in the morning, but have you tried using it to get to sleep? A plethora of apps are ready and waiting to bathe your bedroom in all kinds of music and sounds, and many of them come with a built-in sleep timer that means you don’t have to leave them playing all night. These are our favourites.
Thanks to Spotify curated music playlists based on activities are extremely common across most music apps. So head to Spotify, or whatever music streaming app you subscribed to, and type in “sleep” as a search term to get a host of specially curated playlists as well as an entire genre of music to drift off to. From classical piano melodies to the soothing sounds of nature, you’ve got plenty of options to pick from. You’ll find the Sleep timer function behind Spotify’s now playing screen (tap the three dots, top right, to get to it) – playback can stop after a specific time, or continue until the end of the current track.
Calm covers a lot of bases, including mindfulness and meditation, but it also features a series of relaxing “sleep stories” that are specially designed to ease you gently into the land of nod: think about your parents reading to you when you were a kid and you get the general idea. You get some of these stories for free, but most require the paid monthly subscription (which you can test for a few days for free). The stories are around 25 minutes long and there’s no need to set a timer – you’re supposed to be asleep before the end.
Tide is a white noise and natural sound jukebox that helps with sleep, focus, and meditation, so you might still find it useful in other ways even if it doesn’t quite do the trick for you at bedtime. As far as sleep goes, you’ve got sounds like the ocean, falling rain, and even the scratching of a pencil to pick from – some of these require an in-app purchase to unlock, but there’s a decent free selection too. Tide will even try and work out when you’re asleep and stop playback accordingly if you place it on your mattress.
The most interesting part of the Brain.fm experience is that it claims that its music (which is produced by algorithms) is scientifically proven to send you to sleep (or to get you relaxed or focused, depending on the tracks you pick). We’re not so sure about that, but we’ve found that it works rather well, and you can choose sounds to help you wind down, or to go into a deep sleep, or to go to sleep and then wake up again. You get 10 sessions for free when you install the app to see if it suits you, and once you’re past that point Brain.fm costs $7 a month (around £5.40).
Few sleep apps we’ve come across are as well designed or as comprehensive as Relax Melodies: You can mix and match your choice of sleep sounds and vocals (from flutes to thunderstorms), add in meditations or stories if you want, and even access some tips on breathing exercises and stretches to get your body in the mood for a bit of slumber. Some of this stuff requires the monthly premium subscription, but there’s certainly enough free material for you to be able to work out if that’s going to be worth your while.
Like Brain.fm, Pzizz says its algorithm-driven sleep sounds (and focus sounds) are backed by some serious science, though as good as it is at triggering drowsiness, we didn’t find it quite as effective as some of the other apps on this list (your mileage may vary). The app produces a custom mix of music, voiceovers, and other sounds every time you want to fall asleep, but after a free trial you’ll have to pay $10 a month (£7.70) to keep using Pzizz. If you don’t want to stick with the Pro version app, make sure you cancel the subscription before it kicks in. There's a limited amount of content that can be accessed for free.
Sleep Sounds is all about sleep, as its name suggests, and we like that tight focus on doing one job as well as the simplicity inside the app itself. You can pick from general sounds (like a fire or a running creek) to fall asleep to, or create your own mixes covering everything from rain on an umbrella to instrumental guitar music. The only downside is that it’s only available for Android, so if you’re using an iPhone you’ll have to pick something else. For £1 a month you can go premium, which basically removes the ads from the interface.
Sleep Sounds (freemium) for Android