Feeling Sleepy? Take an App!

A fascinating flurry of sleeping apps has hit the market this year. You might think that sleep is the one time you certainly don’t need to use your phone, but these app providers are daring to try to prove that perception wrong… and they’re doing a pretty good job.

There are some pretty impressive sleep suite packages out there now. The best all-rounder I’ve seen on the market is Sleep Genius, which claims to be the world’s number one sleeping app. Based on sleep research designed to help NASA astronauts to get a good night, it contains some powerful features.

First of all it has a sophisticated program for measuring your optimal sleep cycles and encouraging you to go to sleep within a target 15 minute period to achieve best rest. In-built acoustic musical programs are offered to aid relaxation and drifting off to sleep. A personalized sleep report event gives a guide to the night you’ve just had, indicating quantity, quality and efficiency of your sleep.

For those looking for something that bit more academically rigorous, there’s a new app which was designed by Professor of Sleep Medicine, Colin Espie, from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. His app Sleepio was launched by an initiative called Big Health, and is designed to help the millions of people who suffer from poor sleep by providing cognitive behavioral therapy programs to assist them in altering their sleep schedule, thought processes and lifestyle choices.

Sleepio claims to be a new form of “digital medicine” backed by clinical evidence, and in placebo-controlled clinical trials has assisted users roughly as well as face-to-face therapy in falling asleep faster, waking up less frequently during the night, and enhancing daytime concentration. The app does come with a range of costs for full usage, but features a totally free seven day trial and ongoing free use of some features.

Then there are the sleeping apps which are focused on the wonderful but little-known capacity of the human mind to lucid dream. That is, to realize that we are dreaming and thus alter or choose the course of a dream. Such experiences may be used for fun or for a wealth of profound purposes; from exploring our own unconscious minds, to learning skills we wish to improve in real life, interacting with deceased relatives, or simply fulfilling our fantasies.

Awoken is one of the better known lucid dreaming apps and comes with a range of excellent features. A dream journal is provided as well as a mechanism to encourage reality checks. These is the act of performing “checks” of reality during waking life, in order to get in the habit of doing so whilst dreaming as well. A check might be something as simple as reading some words in a book or turning the lights off and on, simple things which tend to seem distorted in our dreams. Awoken also has low level audio and light dream cues designed to trigger during the night at times when we are most likely to be REM dream sleep.

The Singularity Experience is one of the most ambitious lucid dreaming apps, and with a complex interface it takes some commitment. Its principal function is to assist users in achieving a WILD, or wilfully induced lucid dream. These are also known as dream re-entries, and they occur when we wake from a dream, turn over and return to sleep but manage to re-enter the same dream or just remain lucid. The app contains light and audio cues, a sophisticated sleep cycle measurement system and a stunning astro-biological clock encouraging us to sleep in circadian rhythms!

A social app with a funny twist deserves an honorable mention here. Wakie is for those of us who’d rather be woken up by a person than an alarm clock. It is designed to be totally anonymous, and links users across the globe to one another’s phones for a time limit of 60 seconds.

Numbers are hidden, and users phone each other to provide a wake-up call on request. You can simply list your desire for a wake-up at a certain time, and someone random will call you from somewhere on this good Earth for a 60 second chat to wake you up! Alternatively you can play the awakener, and scan a list of those needing wake-up calls right now. A brilliant idea rapidly gaining attention and used across 80 countries, Wakie is certainly humanizing the waking process in a really special and very global way.


Espie, C., Kyle, S., Williams, C., Ong, J., Douglas, N., Hames, P., & Brown, J. (2012). A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Insomnia Disorder Delivered via an Automated Media-Rich Web Application SLEEP DOI: 10.5665/sleep.1872

Image via Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.

Lorena Nessi, PhD, MA

Lorena Nessi PhD is an award winning journalist, researcher, and cultural sociologist. Her Bachelor's was in International Relations, Master’s degree in Globalization, Identity and Technology, and PhD in Communication, Sociology and Digital Cultures. She received the Avina scholarship for investigative journalism while working for the BBC. Her fields of interest include digital cultures, sociology, social media, technology and capitalism.
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