Have trouble getting shut-eye? You aren't alone. An estimated 50 million to 70 million U.S. adults suffer from sleep or wakefulness disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In other words, that's a healthy chunk of the population going through the day like zombies. There are, however, a few easy and tech-savvy tricks you can use to make your nightly trips to dreamland a little bit easier. While we can't promise that these will work for everyone, here are a few of our favorites:
1. Use white noise to mask other sounds
Technology now makes it really easy to drown out that leaky faucet or snoring pooch. If you'd rather not doze off with a fan pointing at your face, you could try the free White Noise app for iOS and Android, which uses ambient sounds to help you relax. (Dr. Oz called it a "sleep miracle.") Or, if you don't want to use your phone, there's a website called SimplyNoise.com that replicates the gentle buzz of an old TV receiver. Just leave it on in the background — my eyes are getting heavy just thinking about it.
2. Kill the glow
Recent studies all show the same thing: The bright light emanating from your laptop, tablet, and phone — gadgets that many folks, including myself, use in bed — is doing terrible, horrible things to your circadian rhythm. That's where f.lux comes in. It's a popular program that automatically adjusts your screen's brightness and color settings depending on the time of day. "When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights," writes f.lux's creators. "In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again." The difference is noticeable. Give it a shot.
3. Work out before bedtime
This shouldn't really come as a surprise, but new research from the National Sleep Foundation found that people who exercised regularly — whether in the morning or right before bed — said they "snoozed better than those who didn't work out, even if they got the same amount of shut-eye each night," says CBS News. We like the Nike Training Club app (available for iOS only), which uses videos to help you circuit train — a regimen that includes leg kicks, Russian twists, and mountain climbers.
4. Manage your circadian rhythm
The sleepyti.me bedtime calculator is useful for folks short on time. Basically, it helps ensure that you don't wake up in the middle of one of your sleep phases, which can leave you feeling tired and groggy. Here's how it works: You select the time you need to wake up. (Let's say 7 am.) The calculator then gives you a set of potential sleep times (in this case, 10 pm, 11:30 pm, 1:00 am, or 2:30 am) to shoot for. When you wake up at 7, you should feel good as new — even if you slept at 2:30.
We also like the Sleep Cycle app for iOS and Relax Timer app for Android. The premise behind the two is the same: You tuck your phone under your pillow right before bed, and your device's super-sensitive accelerometers and gyroscopes record all the tossing and turning you do over the course of a night. Since you move differently during each of your sleep phases, the apps' soothing alarms wake you up when you're in the lightest phase (within a thirty-minute window of when you need to get up). Some skeptics dismiss the technology as pseudoscience. Other users swear by 'em. At the very least, both apps do a pretty good job of coaxing grumpy ol' you out of bed — which is half the battle, anyway.
5. Upgrade your alarm clock
For many people, this is the worst sound in the world:
Consider upgrading your phone's native alarm clock to something less cloying. The Rise app for iOS, which has one of the most beautiful interfaces we've ever seen, is currently all the rage with the tech crowd. It uses morning-friendly alarms (with file names like "gentle chimes" and "traveling winds") to ease you out of your cozy slumber.