May 17, 2016

No matter how early we turn in for the night, sometimes we all still wake up feeling sleepy or sluggish. For far too many of us, sleep seems to be a luxury many of us can't afford. And when we don't get enough of it, we deprive our brains of the necessary downtime we need for proper brain function, which means many of us have more difficulty concentrating. Not to mention, getting the recommended six to eight hours of sleep per night boosts energy, reduces stress, and prepares your body and mind for the next day.

So what's keeping us awake exactly? Well, studies have shown our electronic devices are the main culprits. Our bodies are designed to sleep in the dark. And any unnatural light sources or stimulating activities keep us alert, making it nearly impossible to drift off in a deep sleep. Whether your favorite bedtime activity involves reading, playing Candy Crush Saga, or scrolling through your news feed, the brightly lit screens on smartphones and tablets trick our brains into thinking we're looking at sunlight, and our bodies respond accordingly. And those pesky mobile notifications don't help matters either.

The great news, though, is that you don't have to give up your gadgets to get a night of decent rest. If you're still feeling the effects of springing forward, we've sought out seven apps and mobile features to help you get the ZZZ's your body desperately deserves.

1. Apple's "Night Shift" (Free, iOS) Apple's Night Shift update will forever change how you read at night. Designed to reduce eye strain and make your device's screen look warmer, choose this setting under Display & Brightness on your iPhone or iPad when the sun goes down.

2. Android N's Night Mode (Free, Android) This setting on Android devices will automatically detect when it's getting close to bedtime. To ease strain on the eyes, it reduces brightness and adjusts the color temperature of your display for those nights when you simply can't unplug.

3. F.Lux (Free, iOS) Whether it's 3 p.m. or 11 p.m., f.lux adapts to your device's screen to accommodate the time of day and the darkness of the room you're in at the time.

4. White Noise (Free, iOS) Can't go to sleep without a little background noise? Let this app provide the relaxation you need, with more than 75 live-recorded white noise sounds from around the world. A personal favorite, my bedroom is transformed into a Finnish waterfall every night, and yours can be, too!

5. Sleepbot (Free, Android/iOS) We track our exercise and food, so why not our sleep? Sleepbot tracks your sleep activity, using specific tracking merits. You decide when you want to wake up, and the app does the rest.

6. Pzizz (Free, Android/iOS) Boasting more than 10 billion sound combinations, Pzizz lets you create your own sleep playlist for a 10-minute power nap or a full night's rest up to 10 hours.

7. Relax & Sleep Well (Free, Android/iOS) Have your very own guru at your fingertips with this guided meditation and self-hypnosis app. Included are bonus tracks to improve self-esteem and weight-loss. Just as the name promises, you'll be much more relaxed.

Sleep tight, and maybe one of these apps will help you resist the urge to hit the snooze button so you can hop out of bed much faster tomorrow.

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