Nurses know all too well the importance of getting enough sleep on a regular basis, but they also know how difficult getting the right amount of sleep can be. More than 25 percent of all Americans report having trouble sleeping, and in a high-stress job like nursing that often requires long and irregular hours, getting to sleep can sometimes seem impossible.
The importance of sleep is reinforced even more by a new study from the American Journal of Critical Care finding that sleep fatigue affects the decision making of nurses. In a survey of over 600 critical care nurses, 29 percent reported experiencing “decision regret,” defined as “a negative cognitive emotion that occurs when the actual outcome differs from the desired or expected outcome.” Those who reported regret also reported “more fatigue, more daytime sleepiness, less intershift recovery, and worse sleep quality” than those without decision regret.
While there are numerous causes of sleep problems (as well many tips for getting better sleep), we wanted to take a 21st century look into better sleep. Here are five apps that may help you get better, more restful sleep.
Available for iOS ($0.99)
Sleep Cycle is a popular iOS app that advertises itself as an “intelligent alarm clock.” Using the motion sensors in your iPhone (which you place on your bed at night), the app estimates your sleep cycle and wakes you up in the lightest stage of sleep. You set the latest time you can wake up and the app will go off in your lightest stage of sleep in the 30-minute period before that time.
Because you are waking up in the lightest stage of sleep, the makers of the app say you’ll be more rested and relaxed when you get out of bed and head off to your shift. Additionally, the app keeps track of your sleep patterns every night and allows you to make notes of your activities each day to find what you are doing when you get the best (and worst) sleep.
Sleep As Android ($2.99) is a similar option for those using the Android platform.
Available for iOS and Android ($5.99)
Pzizz helps you get to sleep with a “soundtrack” made of a mix of music, quotes, sound effects and more. You set how long you want these to sound (10-60 minutes) and you’ll get a unique soundtrack every night to help you get to sleep after your stressful shifts.
Additionally, you can use the Power Nap feature to help you get a quick nap during the day. This feature can be used for naps lasting as little as 10 minutes (perfect for a quick break room snooze!).
Available for iOS and Android (Free)
If you find a soothing voice helps you get to sleep better than a varied soundtrack (or are looking for a free alternative to Pzizz), you may want to look into Relax Completely. The app provides a “hypnosis session for deep relaxation” by British hypnotherapist Darren Marks.
Relax and Sleep
Available for Android ($1.99)
Want some ambient noise to fall asleep to, but want to be able to control it yourself? You may want to check out Relax and Sleep.
In addition to more traditional ambient sounds like birds and rain, you can also choose from other background noises to play to block out the noise (or silence) of the world around you. These include an air conditioner, cat purring and a vacuum cleaner. Interestingly, you can choose more than one of these noises and control each in your overall mix.
iOS users may want to check into Relax Melodies (Free) as an alternative.
Available for iOS and Android (Free app but requires additional hardware)
OK, this one takes it to a different level and is for those who want to track more than just sleep habits. Fitbit tracks all your daily activity through a special Flex tracker wristband. All of this activity – including your sleep patterns – is then tracked in real time in a mobile app for your iPhone or Android phone.
The daily activities tracker keeps a log of a slew of information, including your number of steps, number of stairs climbed and how many minutes you were active throughout the day (knowing nurses, that answer is, “a TON!”). The app also includes a silent vibrating alarm so you can wake without waking your partner.
Though the app is free, the Flex tracker also must be purchased and tends to be between $100 and $120.
Nurses, do you use an app to help you sleep better? Share your top picks in the comments below.