Sleep is an essential tool for keeping your body and mind healthy. Not getting enough sleep may contribute to the development of serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In the short term, dealing with lack of sleep can mean you find it difficult to concentrate, are irritable, crave unhealthy foods, or fall asleep while driving.
However, just because you know insufficient sleep is a problem doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get more shut-eye. Stress, anxiety, poor bedtime habits, and environment can all contribute to a lack of sleep. Contrary to what you might think, your sleep-aid solution could be just a click away. Understanding the benefits of sleep may motivate you to use all the tools at your fingertips and finally get enough sleep.
Benefits of Sleep
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you feel more energized, alert, and function better when you get a great night’s sleep.
Here are just a few of the benefits of sleeping well each night:
Sleep and Your Mind
Your brain can only do its best when you get enough sleep. Good sleep helps improve your memory and attention span. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your brain restores the neural pathways you need for learning, remembering, and problem-solving.
These neural pathways are also vital in the daily skills of living. Thus, getting enough sleep doesn’t just affect your memory, learning, and ability to solve a problem, it enhances your performance in daily tasks like school or work.
RELATED: 10 Drinks to Help You Sleep at Night
REM sleep typically only happens when you get between six and eight hours of sleep. If you’re getting six hours or less, your brain isn’t getting what it needs to function.
Sleep and Your Body
Your body benefits from sleep in several ways. Sleep helps heal your heart and blood vessels.
People who are constantly sleep-deprived are at higher risk for developing hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Quality sleep is also vital in helping you maintain a healthy body weight. It turns out that sleep affects your body’s response to insulin and the hormones ghrelin (which is responsible for hunger) and leptin (responsible for fullness).
Insufficient sleep can increase your levels of ghrelin and reduce your level of leptin. If you sleep for less than six hours each night you may feel hungrier and have from more unhealthy cravings than someone who’s slept well. Of course, that’s not all. Sleep also affects your immune system. When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to catch an infection or develop a disease?. So if you want to avoid that cold that’s being passed around the office, go to bed a littler earlier.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Get More Sleep
How Technology Can Help You Sleep
Sleep-tracking applications on your phone or other smart devices can help you keep track of your sleeping cycles and patterns. Understanding these sleep patterns will empower you to prioritize your sleep when you need it most.
Track your sleep with these handy apps:
- Sleep As Android
If you’re an Android user, Sleep As Android — which is an alarm clock and sleep cycle tracker — is a good place to start. Unlike the typical alarm clock, which has the tendency to wake you up in the middle of your deep sleep, Sleep As Android analyses your sleep to determine the best time for you to wake up.
The app is also packed with other features to help you get better sleep. It comes with nature sound lullabies, sleep talk and snoring recording, and sleep advice.
- Jawbone Up
Jawbone Up fitness trackers come paired with an app that allows you to keep track of your activities and food. It tracks your steps, sleep, and also comes with a feature for you to keep track of your food and drinks.
The sleep-tracking feature on the app allows you to see how many times you fall asleep in a day, how long you stayed in your bed, and the frequency of waking up. Jawbone Up is available on both Android and iOS.
- Sleep Cycle
Sleep Cycle is both an Android and iOS app that keeps track of your sleeping pattern through movement and wakes you up during light sleep. Through your movement, the app keeps track of the sleep state you’re in and serves as an alarm clock to help you wake up during light sleep. Unlike a typical alarm clock, that allows you to wake up well-rested.
In order for this app to work well, your phone must be positioned correctly. You can place it on your nightstand or on your bed, but not under your pillow or mattress. Sleep Cycle detects your movement either through microphone or accelerometer.
MotionX-24/7 is an iOS app that records and correlates your heart rate to your sleep quality. It makes use of your phone’s camera to analyze the pulse from your fingertip, similar to what a pulse oximeter does. It also monitors and analyses your sleep cycle so you can keep track of your light, deep, and total sleep time.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, MotionX-24/7 comes with a feature that provides you with relaxing music or white noise that fades out when you’ve fallen asleep.
- Withings Health Mate
Withings stores sleep data in the iOS Health Mate app. The app works with a Withings Pulse armband or Withings Aura Sleep System. Withings is known for baby monitors and wireless scales, but their Health Mate app is a handy tool for tracking your breathing and heart rate cycles at night. Like other sleep apps, Health Mate offers a personalized wakeup mode.
Sleepbot is a three-in-one app. It’s a smart alarm, motion tracker, and sound recorder.
To start recording your sleep, you simply have to "punch in" on your phone or you can opt to create an offset to track your sleep if you’re having a hard time sleeping. When you’re asleep, the app turns off the music and automatically turns your phone into silent mode. In the morning, when the alarm goes off, the app automatically punches out.
But wait! Isn’t it your smart phone keeping you up? Technology may be one of the reasons you’re having a hard time falling asleep.
The great thing about technology is that it can also be used to kick bad sleep habits and start getting the right amount of quality sleep your mind and body need. Using these sleep apps will let you see how much sleep you’re getting, when you are going to bed and waking up, and how you can improve.