Using your smartphone to get a better night's sleep

Using your smartphone to get a better night's sleep

Sleep is important, and not getting enough can really have a negative impact on the body, both mentally and physically. There's nothing worse than having to face the day after a restless night, and those who continuously struggle with sleep will know how frustrating that can be.

Smartphones are often seen as a bedtime distraction, but have you ever thought about using your mobile to help you improve the quality of your sleep? Believe it or not, there are a number of built-in features to tinker with and apps to download, helping you wake up happy and combat insomnia.

Change your smartphone's settings

Simply changing a couple of features built into your smartphone can make a world of difference to the quality of sleep you get at night.

Screens that are too bright can really hurt your eyes, so make sure you dim the screen as your surroundings get darker. Your phone can do this automatically, just enable Auto-Brightness - you'll find it under Settings on most phones.

If you have an iPhone and plan on using it a few hours before you go to bed, you should also use Night Shift. This feature has been designed to eliminate the negative effect blue light has on the body, changing the standard, cooler hues of your screen to warmer ones.

Blue light is known to trick the body's circadian rhythm, preventing it from producing melatonin, a chemical that makes us feel sleepy. You can mimic Night Shift on an Android phone too; the latest Samsung phones have their own feature and apps such as Twilight and Night Shift: Blue Light Filter do the same job.

Track your habits

Keep track of your sleeping habits, and wake up gently with the help of a sleep app like Sleep Cycle. When we sleep, our bodies go through various sleep states - some of which are much easier to wake up from than others - and to make sure we avoid feeling groggy in the morning, Sleep Cycle calculates the best moment to set off an alarm.

Designed to help you feel like you've woken up naturally, rather than being rudely interrupted by a noisy alarm, users of Sleep Cycle need to place their phones in one of two places. Putting your device on your bedside table, right next to you, triggers the microphone to monitor your sleep, while placing your smartphone to the side of your pillow enables the accelerometer to track movement.

For something less advanced, iPhone users with iOS10 installed can head over to the Alarm and select Bedtime. You'll find an alarm clock that will tell you exactly how many hours of sleep you can expect, receive reminders that bedtime is approaching and be able to select gentler, soothing alarm sounds compared to the iPhone's standard noises.

The Bedtime alarm tracks movement too, but only when you pick up your phone during the night. This is a handy deterrent for people who can't stop themselves from checking their device, and your data will sync with the Health app under Sleep Analysis.

Soothe yourself to sleep

If you're struggling to fall asleep and find external sounds distracting, like car horns or dogs barking, consider introducing other noises into your bedroom. Sounds like white noise or ocean waves are non-threatening and may help you drift off to sleep peacefully.

Pzizz was a long-time favourite of Steve Jobs, while J.K. Rowling also counts herself as a regular user with the app. With over 500,000 users, it applies psychoacoustics to create its hybrid music system, where sounds optimised for high-quality sleep can be selected. You can add voices, customise the length of each track and so much more - the app even learns what you like the more you use it, tailoring its suggestions to your preferences.

For something simpler, try Sleep Pillow Sounds, which has loads of naturally recorded sounds to try, and you can mix them together to create your perfect lullaby too.

There's a reason why we love bedtime stories as a child, as for some, listening to a calming voice read a book or poem can help trigger sleep. Just because we're adults, it doesn't mean we can't benefit from this, of course, so think about checking out Audible, which offers thousands of titles narrated by choice readers such as Stephen Fry. Similarly Calm, an app contains a range of pre-loaded bedtime stories for adults, as well as a whole host of relaxing nature sounds like thunderstorms and crackling fires.

Whether you're using you handset to talk, stream movies, or sooth yourself to sleep, your phone has more uses than you may realise.

Looking for the ideal smartphone to fit with your daily routine? Your perfect handset is waiting for you at [