Getting better sleep – longer, deeper, more restful – is an important part of managing mental illness and healthy lifestyle. Lack of sleep, and interrupted sleep, is one of the most common problems mentioned by our clients, and helping people get better sleep is one of our first goals for management of moods and especially major depression.
Sleep technology is, of course, growing by leaps and bounds these days, and keeping up with developments in this field is enough to give anyone many sleepless nights. Luckily, we can find reputable research that can help navigate the complicated and booming market in sleep apps and other devices. A recent article in Wirecutter focusses on apps that can be downloaded and used on a cell phone, because, they say, cell phone apps are “accessible and relatively inexpensive”. Wirecutter looked at several apps available on the market, and recommends two for basic sleep monitoring.
Who should use a sleep app?
They are not for everyone. Sleep apps are able to monitor your sleep and waking periods, and give a picture of trends in your sleep patterns over time. They are not as accurate as scientific equipment used in a lab, and they are not a replacement for medical advice if you have problems with sleep apnea or other conditions. The app can monitor your sleep patterns and give advice, but, of course, following the advice and making improvements is up to you. It’s a monitor, not a cure.
MoodSurfing has been trying to keep on top of developments in the field of mental health technology, but it’s a big field. In the area of sleep and insomnia particularly, we are still recommending the online CBTi program called “SHUTi” (pronounced “shut-eye”). Even with this program, the usefulness depends entirely on the user, and there are no guarantees. The cell phone apps are cheaper and easier to use, and correspondingly even more dependent on the user and his/her needs, motivation, and discipline.
Wearable devices, such as the Fitbit are also popular, and have the advantage of not requiring any setup before bed, you just wear it, day and night. While they have not been shown to be as accurate as the phone apps, they are preferred by people who never want to allow the phone in their bedroom. Wirecutter promises a more detailed comparison and update soon.
Getting better sleep is an important part of overall health and wellness, and there are more and more shiny new toys to try. Keep in mind that no matter what the technology, you still have to follow the advice, and stick with it over time. Gradually, if you keep with the program, you should see some improvement in sleep patterns and restfulness. But the sleep app won’t do it for you, it can only help sometimes.