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Sweet Dreams: 7 Best Sleep Sounds and Apps to Beat Insomnia

If you describe your sleep as “barely getting any,” you may have insomnia, and you're not alone. A Milieu Insights study showed that Filipinos experience the most sleepless nights in Southeast Asia.

 

Fortunately, many apps can improve sleep quality with calming sleep sounds and other handy features. Just stream them when you’re ready for bedtime.

 

To know which app is best for your sleep health, let's first take a quick look at what it means to have insomnia.

How to Know if You Have Insomnia

Woman who has trouble sleeping covers eyes while in bed, with clock saying 3:00 in foreground.

The Philippine Society of Sleep Medicine says women are more prone to insomnia than men.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) defines insomnia as difficulty falling, staying asleep, or both. It requires a clinical diagnosis from a psychologist or a physician specializing in sleep medicine. Apart from your medical history, the doctor will review your sleeping habits and their effects on your daily life.

 

For example, the doctor may suspect chronic insomnia if your sleeplessness persists for more than three months and occurs at least three times weekly. This type of insomnia causes fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes during the day.

 

Sleep problems can be caused by various factors, from binge-watching to work stress to medical conditions. Since there are many possible reasons, seeing a doctor is always a good idea when you can’t get a good night’s rest.

Noise as Sleep Aids

Asian male with insomnia falls asleep at dawn, with light shining on one side of the bed.

Sleep sounds can be used in combination with other relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing.

As part of your treatment, the doctor may ask you to try listening to different types of noises. Research has shown that the "colors of noise," like white, pink, and brown, can drown out background noises and relax your brain enough to induce deep sleep.

 

Finding the right sleep sound will require trial and error. But, incorporating these colors of noise into your sleep routine may provide promising results.

White Noise

What’s the sound? White noise contains all frequencies at equal intensity. It produces a steady, static sound that can help you relax.

 

White noise examples: Fans, vacuums, air conditioners, TV, or radio static

 

Sleep app to try: No need for an app if you have an iPhone—yup, white noise is built into the device under background sounds.

  • Head to Settings and tap Accessibility.
  • Scroll down to the “Hearing” section and select “Audio & Visual.”
  • Go to “Background Sounds” and toggle it on. You'll immediately hear static.
  • To change, go to “Sound” and select one of three white noise options: Balanced Noise, Bright Noise, and Dark Noise. It also has Ocean, Rain, or Stream background sounds.

To avoid going back to Settings each time you want to hear white noise, add a shortcut to your iPhone’s Control Center.

  • Return to “Settings” and tap “Control Center.”
  • Under “More Controls,” select the “plus” sign next to “Accessibility Shortcuts.”
  • Swipe down for the “Control Center.” You should see the “Accessibility” icon. Tap it to activate white noise.

Pink Noise

What’s the sound? The pink noise filters out higher frequencies, creating a deeper, more soothing sound with a lower pitch.

 

White noise examples: Steady rain, wind rustling through trees, the constant burble of a river

 

Sleep app to try: Formerly known as Relax Melodies, BetterSleep offers many pink noise options, such as sounds of nature and water. The app consistently ranks among Apple Store's top 10 health and fitness apps. It also claims that 91% of its listeners slept better after using it for just one week. Also available on Google Play.

Brown Noise

What’s the sound? Brown noise produces a rumbling sound with a bass-like tone and a lower frequency than pink noise.

 

White noise examples: Gushing waterfall, heavy shower with good pressure, crashing waves

 

Sleep app to try: myNoise is a passion project of a sound engineer who also happens to have a Ph.D. in applied sciences. The app comes with brown noise presets, handy for anyone who wants to eliminate the guesswork of which soundscape to choose. You can also calibrate the sounds, adjusting the frequency and speed to your preference. Available on the App Store and Google Play.

Sleep Playlists

Want to try if sleep sounds work for you? Spotify has playlists with nature sounds, soundwaves, and different types of noise.

 

Check out the Noise and Nature, Sleep Inducing Soundwaves, and Binaural Beats playlists.

Expert-Recommended Apps for Insomnia

Young Asian female looks at her mobile phone while in bed.

Some people find a fan's or air conditioner's hum calming, while others prefer nature sounds to put them to sleep.

If sleep sounds only help a little, you might benefit from CBT-based apps. CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is an insomnia treatment typically overseen by medical professionals.

 

CBT helps you figure out and change behaviors that might be causing your slumber issues. It includes techniques like controlling your environment for sleep, limiting your time in bed, and learning how to relax.

 

CBT apps help you incorporate these sleep strategies into your bedtime routine. Here are some highly recommended apps on the App Store and Google Play.

Calm

The Calm app consulted clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist Steve Orma, Ph.D., to develop "Sleep Stories" to help your brain slow down. Think of it as bedtime stories for grownups that shift your focus from stressful thoughts to listening to the story—but not so much that you can’t drift off to sleep.

 

Download from the App Store and Google Play.

CBT-i Coach

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Standford School of Medicine collaborated to create this mobile app, intended for use with the guidance of a healthcare provider. CBT-i Coach focuses on your thoughts and feelings about sleep and provides tools to help you relax while getting ready for sleep.

 

Available on the App Store and Google Play.

Insomnia Coach

If you’re not currently in CBT with a health provider, the people behind CBT-i Coach offer Insomnia Coach, designed to be used daily for five weeks. After that period, use the app’s diary and other tools to monitor and improve your sleep quality.

 

Get from the App Store and Google Play.

Pzizz

The Pzizz app uses "dreamscapes," a combination of soothing sounds, voiceovers, and music that changes each night to prevent your brain from getting fatigued. You can customize the dreamscape, like adjusting the voiceover volume vs. music or choosing a male or female voice. A big plus: Pzizz works without an internet connection.

 

Download from the App Store and Google Play.

Stellar Sleep

Top sleep experts at Harvard Medical School helped develop Stellar Sleep, a personalized program that uses proven methods from psychology and CBT. A clinical study of 500 users found that the app may be more effective at reducing insomnia symptoms than sleeping pills.

 

Available on the App Store and Google Play.

Make Sleep Health a Priority

Insomnia needs personalized care because its causes and symptoms vary from person to person. If you suspect you have chronic insomnia, consult a doctor online on KonsultaMD. The telehealth service has licensed mental health counselors who can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for possible CBT

 

For uninterrupted sleep app use, a Globe Postpaid subscription helps you establish your new sleep routine and improve sleep quality.

 

While many sleep apps offer comforting sleep sounds and scientifically validated CBT tools, they can't replace a sleep doctor when dealing with insomnia. Your doctor, along with other tools like apps, can help you finally get deep, rejuvenating sleep.

Vibe check! How does this make you feel?

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