by JAMIE SHIN
Have you ever stayed up feeling restless for no particular reason? Or have you ever woken up feeling like you didn’t get any rest? According to the American Sleep Association, nearly 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorder.  Sleep deprivation can negatively affect not only productivity but also personal safety. For example, you have probably fallen asleep in class or felt drowsy while driving after a sleepless night. Although phones and other technologies are commonly known to disrupt sleep, various sleep apps have been introduced to help users sleep better. How should we make use of them?
What is it?
Sleep is essential to not only our survival but also our well-being. Getting good quality sleep can be difficult when it comes to our hectic class schedules and busy lifestyles. Getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night is especially tough. But thanks to mobile phone apps, we may finally be able to enhance the quality of our sleep. These apps record the user’s sleep pattern, as well as movement and sound during sleep in unobtrusive ways.  By analyzing the sleep history of the user, these apps inform the user of his/her own sleep habits, and as a result, empower the user to actively seek healthy lifestyle choices that would benefit his/her sleep. 
You can monitor your sleep pattern.These sleep apps use easy-to-understand formats to present users with their sleep patterns. All the sleep apps include simple graphs to help users see the fluctuation in the quality of their sleep throughout the night. Some sleep apps also focus on monitoring specific sleep patterns throughout the night. SnoreLab, for example, records the snoring of its user.  After analyzing the pattern, the app then informs the user of specific snore risk factors, which he/she can eliminate. Although their clinical benefits have been inferred, apps like SnoreLab help users modify and hopefully alter risky sleep habits.  Other sleep apps like Sleep Cycle and SleepBot use their users’ sleep history to configure the most optimal waking times for their users.  Specifically, they wake them up when the users are just about to transition into light sleep, helping users have a more smooth transition from sleeping to waking state.
You can personalize your sleep pattern.Other apps such as Sleep Better with Runtastics tracks the user’s sleep and fitness by monitoring caffeine and alcohol intake, as well as physical activity and eating pattern.  For example, the app records whether you skipped dinner and had a cup of coffee before bedtime and takes that piece of information into consideration when analyzing your sleep pattern for the night. The app also allows its users to record their dreams to see how often they have nightmares versus good dreams. Knowing what lifestyle choices influence the kind of dreams we have and ultimately the mood we wake up in is another step closer to healthier sleep. Apps like Sleep Better with Runtastics also show the specific day time activities that could have affect sleep, allowing users to make smart lifestyle choices that better their sleep quality. For example, users that have trouble falling asleep may notice that exercising at night helps them fall asleep compared to exercising in the morning. The sleep history collection within sleep apps is a simple way for users to see their sleep pattern and decide which lifestyle choices they most benefit from. With sleep apps that record sleep patterns such as bed time, time of sleep initiation, and movement during sleep, users can maximize their sleep quality. The aforementioned apps keep track of the factors that affect sleep quality such as caffeine ingestion and mood upon waking up.
There are many ways we can benefit from sleep apps, from breaking bad bedtime habits to starting off the day in a better mood. Although further research is being conducted on the effectiveness of sleep apps, it’s hard to ignore that sleep apps help their users be more aware of their sleep patterns. Sleep apps are a simple way to improve our sleep quality and even our lifestyle.
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