Slumbers never cease with these nap apps

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2012, 12:00am


In fast-paced Hong Kong, there's one thing that most of us want more of: sleep.

'Many people doze off on their way to work; I know they don't have enough sleep,' says Dr Chung Kai-fai, of the Hong Kong Society of Sleep Medicine, adding that 'enough' ranges from six to 10 hours a night, depending on the person.

Sufferers of apnoea, insomnia, night terrors, and those who struggle to fall - and stay - asleep may find therapy a costly option. But today there's a range of apps and gadgets - some more efficient than others - designed to enhance the quality of our rest.

The Jawbone UP wristband has a number of features, based on the user's daily activity. Besides tracking your daily movements and alerting you when you've been inactive for too long, it also tracks movement during sleep and interprets it. Little to no movement indicates a deeper sleep. The wristband alarm can vibrate gently during a light sleep pattern, making it easier for you to wake up feeling more refreshed (and it won't wake the rest of the family). The wristband feeds information back to an app for easy analysis.

The Zeo sleep manager is a headband that monitors movement and measures REM (rapid eye movement) and deep sleep. Information is fed back to an app, or a bedside alarm clock via bluetooth, allowing the user to relate sleep patterns back to activities such as drinking coffee during the day. Zeo also offers the gentle vibrating alarm, which can be implemented during a light sleep for a more refreshed wake-up.

But Chung questions its effectiveness. 'Depth of sleep is defined by your brain activity, so a simple headband cannot analyse it well. It's likely to be uncomfortable and make your sleep worse.'

A more practical option may be the Sleeptracker Pro, which offers the same service and doubles as a watch.

If the issue is getting to sleep in the first place, try an app such as White Noise, which has ambient sound effects, such as waves on a shore. Or try the Sleep Machine app, suited to those who like to hear soothing music as they drift off. Instead of listening to someone else's music, users can blend their own songs (from iTunes, for instance) with any of 91 ambient sounds or nine ambient tracks included in the app. And when it comes to waking up, the built-in alarm clock offers several options.

Hypnosis Sleep Well contains recordings of a hypnotist and aims to reprogramme your unconscious mind to create healthier sleep habits such as falling asleep quickly or waking more easily. Hypnotist Halla Himintungl ( says many hypnotists use recorded tracks almost like a mantra, but she prefers to tailor her treatments to the individual.

If massage appeals more, the Dreamate Biofeedback Device is a wristband that gently applies acupressure to retrain your body clock, regaining about 55 minutes of good quality sleep per night. It might be worth a try, but Chung notes 'the most commonly used body acupoints for insomnia include Shenmen [HT7], which is located at the wrist. But I doubt the device can accurately apply pressure, and it's only to one point.'

Then there's the question of what we really do during our sleep. Chung says it's common for people to talk during their dreaming sleep, though many aren't even aware of it. Provided your house isn't haunted, the Sleep Talk app might prove fun. Triggered by sound, it records loud sounds during sleep, so users don't have to trawl through eight hours of quiet to see what trade secrets they have let slip.

And for those who struggle to get out of bed, the Princess PI-722 flying alarm clock will give a buzzing start to the day. Once the alarm goes off, a propeller is launched into the air, and the alarm won't turn off until the propeller is replaced.

Of course, if gadgets, smartphones and apps weren't such an integral part of modern life - including procrastination before bedtime - then sleep-chasing gadgets and apps might not be so necessary.