Saturday, July 17, 2010

Counterpoint: Smartphones Can Help You Sleep

Inexpensive apps designed to help you sleep provide a compelling reason to bring your iPhone or Droid to the bedroom.

Previously, The Sleep Education Blog gave a rundown of the reasons why smartphones may keep you awake at night. It turns out there are some pros to go with those cons.
Both the App Store and the Android Marketplace are filled with all kinds of sleep-related downloadable programs. Some are handy, some not so much. Reviews on the Macworld website seem to reflect the varying quality of sleep apps.

For general audiences, white noise generators will be most useful. The free WhiteNoise app by TMSOFT seems to be the most accessible and popular. The noises the program generates range from relaxing to annoying. Try sleeping with the Oscillating Fan, Extreme Rain Pouring or Beach Waves Crashing and avoid the Chimes Chiming and Crickets Chirping sounds.

Another category of noise generators may not be as useful as advertised. The programs play ambient music embedded with nearly-inaudible sounds that signal your brain to sleep. The app is similar to a popular line of CDs available for purchase online. Unfortunately, there aren’t any peer-reviewed scientific studies to back up those claims. The app may be useful if you find the music relaxing. This blogger found the Vangelis-like new age muzak irritating.

Some apps allegedly track your sleep architecture if you place your phone under your pillow. The most popular app, the Sleep Cycle Alarm, even promises to wake you softly when you’re in the latest phase of sleep. There are no indications that this works.

You might instead want to try one of the programs where you can manually log your sleep. These are especially practical for people with insomnia or other sleep disorders. With a couple quick taps every morning you’ll have a full sleep diary prepared for your next visit to an AASM accredited sleep center.

Apps from WebMD, the Mayo Clinic and numerous medical journals are useful for finding health information on the go. Most of this content can be accessed on the web, so if the app is not free pull up Safari or Google Chrome.

The Sleep Education Blog recommends if the app is free, give it a test drive. Just don’t start surfing the web or texting from bed.


Mark92691 said...

Are there any recommended options for home monitoring of sleep, on an on-going basis? People are turning to these 99-cent apps because the only alternative we're aware of is a one-night-only expensive visit to a sleep center. Of course, the sleep center will be able to monitor more thoroughly, but there may be some value to keeping a long-term record of a patient's sleep, and that is simply not possible if the sleep center is the only alternative.

AASM said...

With the 99-cent app you get what you pay for. The program is more of a toy than a diagnostic device.

The iPhone really only has the capability to track noise and body movement. At best it may give you a rough, if not entirely inaccurate, estimate of your sleep architecture based on when you go to sleep and wake up.

It can't diagnose sleep disorders because it can't monitor airflow, oxygen saturation, rapid eye movement, leg movement, heart rate, etc.

There are AASM recognized devices for monitoring for obstructive sleep apnea at home but they require the supervision of a doctor.

Post a Comment