use the smartphone to sleep better
use the smartphone to sleep better

Smartphones have the bad reputation of ruining anyone’s sleep, whether it’s the noise of midnight notifications or the brightness of the screen. But with the right apps and changes, it can be a good ally for a more peaceful sleep. Here’s how…

Block the blue light

There is a good reason why many modern smartphones have a feature called “Blue Light Filter“. This type of light, naturally emitted by valve monitors, LCD, and OLED screens and even the backlighting of some e-Readers affects the production of a hormone called melatonin, which induces sleep.

With a lower melatonin level in the body, sleep goes away. And even if you can sleep, you will have a less restful sleep and you will wake up more tired the next morning.

When you turn on the filter, the smartphone system will change the way colors appear on the screen, reducing the intensity of bluish tones. At first, you might be surprised by the more “reddish” images, but you’ll soon get used to it. And this has a beneficial effect: unlike blue light, reddish tones induce sleep.

If your smartphone does not have a blue light filter, don’t worry: there is a free app on Google Play that adds this functionality. It’s called Blue Light Filter and works on any Android smartphone.

With it, you can set the intensity and tone of the filter (more or less reddish) and even schedule a time for automatic activation or deactivation. The only small drawback of this app is that because it changes the appearance of all the contents on the screen, it is not possible to install apps while it is active.

This is an Android security measure to prevent an app with these permissions from “tricking” a user by changing the appearance of a window or button to force a purchase, for example. So while the app is active it shows a tab in the notification bar, with a button lets you pause it for 60 seconds so you can install other apps without problems.

Automatically enable Do Not Disturb mode

Bling! Bling! Nothing disturbs sleeping more than the sound of notifications in the middle of the night. In addition to waking up, even if you decide to ignore them, they can induce a state of anxiety known as “Fear of losing” (FOMO, something like “Fear of losing something”). After all, what if it’s something important? A look costs nothing … and then you go back to sleep.

In order not to be tempted, it is better to program Android’s “do not disturb” mode to automatically execute the action for a certain period of time. This way your phone will not make any noise (except for alarms and important phone calls) while you sleep.

The setting can be found in Set/Sound/Do Not Disturb/Automatic Rules. There are three predefined rules: “During the night of the week”, “Weekend” and “Event”, which are active during the duration of the appointments marked in the schedule, for example, a work meeting.

Tap one of the rules to set which days and hours will be active or what types of notifications might be displayed. Obviously, you can create more rules as you see fit.

Personally, I would prefer to turn on the blue light filter and not automatically disturb an hour before going to sleep. And I guarantee: my nights were quieter.

Sounds to relax

Sometimes it is useless to turn off the lights and lie down. Sleep does not come at all, and your mind begins to receive “a thousand” reviews of the day’s events or to worry about the next day. In these moments, help to relax can be very useful.

A good app for this is  Sounds to Sleep, by Leap Fitness Group, the same authors of the blue light filter I suggested above. The app is quite simple: it has a gallery of predefined sounds, like rain, fire or beach. Choose your favorite and it will play for 20 minutes, which should be enough to fall asleep.

The nice thing is that the sounds are editable. For example, you can combine the sound of sea waves with thunder or rain on the window, adjusting the intensity of each element.

Some of the sounds available in the app are “Premium” and can be unlocked by watching an ad. But the free sounds are more than enough to help you sleep.

And if you don’t want to install any apps, you can go to YouTube. Multiple channels have one-hour videos with relaxing sounds. Search, for example, “Rain Sounds” or “Wave Sounds”. The only annoyance of this method is that you could be woken up by an announcement just as you fall asleep.

Sleep monitoring

You blocked the blue light, turned on the do not disturb, you listened to a relaxing sound, but you still can’t sleep, right? Did you wake up the next morning feeling like an undead, as if you hadn’t rested for a second? Your smartphone can help you understand the cause of the problem.

Several fitness bracelets (like Mi Band) or smartwatch have sleep monitoring features, but there are also apps that use smartphone sensors for this. They may not be accurate as dedicated accessories, but they can still help a lot.

One of them is  Sleep as Android, from Urbandroid. This app, which is a choice of Google Play publishers, is simply full of features.

Measures the duration and regularity of sleep, distinguish between periods of light and heavy sleep, record atypical night-time events (such as snoring and loud sounds) that can compromise sleep and even have a smart alarm waiting for light sleep at one hour defined by you.

There are also captchas to keep you from turning off the alarm while you are still sleeping, and sounds to help you sleep better. If you travel a lot, a way to “prevent Jet Lag” uses brief flashes of light during the night to adapt to the destination time zone.

On top of that, Sleep as Android can connect to external sensors and accessories like Philips Hue lamps. The documentation section of the app on the developer’s website is full of explanations on how each function works and suggestions on how to interpret the results.


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