Best sleep apps

Whether its difficulty falling asleep or staying peacefully slumbering, one thing we can all agree on: a sleepless night is not fun.

A good night’s sleep can often prove elusive for many of us. Dealing with sleepless nights when we have small children is one thing, but when we finally have time back and can reclaim some peace, suddenly (or persistently) battling insomnia is frustrating.

Multiple sleepless nights in a row can affect our brain function, concentration, anger management, stress, and energy levels.

Headspace app logo
Editors Choice

Headspace


RRP: £49.99
Who’s this for?
Perfect for anyone wanting to improve their overall mental health. Suitable for the whole family to use.
BetterSleep App logo
Recommended

BetterSleep


RRP: £59.99
Who’s this for?
Anyone wanting to track their sleep insights. Can also be used by the whole family for music, stories and meditation
Calm app logo
Recommended

Calm


RRP: £17.49
Who’s this for?
People looking to get into meditation or for ways to de-stress
Sleepwatch app logo

SleepWatch


RRP: £35.99
Who’s this for?
Good for fans of data insights rather than people needing help getting to sleep
Sleep Tracker Logo

Sleep Tracker – Sleep Recorder


RRP: £17.99
Who’s this for?
People focused solely on sleep.
Counting Sheep ASMR Relax logo

Counting Sheep ASMR


RRP: £0.89
Who’s this for?
Ideal to try and quieten down children and focus their minds

There are endless tips and advice out there, and a variety of sleep gadgets all intended to help you sleep better. If your insomnia is worrying you, we would recommend seeking help from the NHS website 

However, if you are dealing with occasional difficulties dropping off to sleep or waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep, then a sleep app can give you the insight and advice needed to see what can be done to help improve your nightly slumber.

What our testers look for

Obviously the most important aspect of any sleep app is whether it aids you getting to sleep or back to sleep.  

It’s not much good having a potential solution to our sleep problems if we can’t quickly and easily figure out how to work the app.

You might find it difficult to ‘switch off’ at bedtime. We’re looking for apps that help quieten the mind, whether through music, meditation, or journaling. 

All the apps we tested are free to download, but some offer bonus content for a cost, and we’ve let you know where.  

We’re looking at sleep apps, but if the app can also help us manage stress, or focus, or learn meditation techniques, then it can inspire calm throughout our daily lives.  

Headspace Overview

Headspace

Headspace app logo
Editors Choice
Luxury

An excellent app with a range of sleep, anxiety and stress management tools to choose from.

Ease of use

Sleep support

Other topics

Price


Who’s this for?

Perfect for anyone wanting to improve their overall mental health. Suitable for the whole family to use.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Easy to set up
  • A wealth of different topics
  • Journal options
  • Can be used by the whole family

Expect to pay

RRP: £49.99 Look out for half price deals on this app around Black Friday

Headspace is a meditation app that aids sleep. It offers a range of music, stories, and mediations to help you sleep as well as talks to help you with a range of issues in the middle of the night, such as work stress, if you’ve had a nightmare, or if your mind won’t slow down.  

There are also many voices to choose from. Most of them are British, and the American ones encountered weren’t too jarring to listen to. The content is incredibly good quality, and I found I really did switch off to listen to what was being said.  

There’s no sleep tracker to check how much sleep was achieved, but I didn’t find the app lacking for that. There is a good journal option for tracking and managing stress, which helped me pay attention to how I was feeling and the impact that had on my sleep.  

It’s an easy app to navigate, with added pop out boxes telling you where to find stuff when you first set it up.

Screenshot of Headspace homescreenCredit: Exceptional

Headspace inspires calm. Whilst it’s not a dedicated sleep app, I found that the effect it had on my day-to-day life contributed to less stress and better sleep.

There are courses for everything from getting through a breakup, mindful eating, or dealing different kind of stresses such as work, parenting or grief.  

Headspace is entirely worth the money if you need help with stress or anxiety management, or even if you just want to become more attune to your mental health – and you can often find half-price offer codes around Black Friday each year too.  

The whole family can use it; there are sections specifically for women, kids, students, and even a dedicated Star Wars themed meditation programme. Yes, I listened, and yes, I absolutely loved it.  

The range on offer within this app is vast and because of that it earns our top spot. I couldn’t list it all here, but it’s worth checking it out to see if it has something suitable for you.


BetterSleep Overview

BetterSleep

BetterSleep App logo
Recommended
Luxury

An excellent sleep tracker with music, guided meditations, a sleep hypnosis course, and more.

Ease of use

Sleep support

Other options

Price


Who’s this for?

Anyone wanting to track their sleep insights. Can also be used by the whole family for music, stories and meditation

Our likes and dislikes

  • Excellent sleep tracker
  • Plenty of different options
  • Enhances daily life
  • Expensive

Expect to pay

RRP: £59.99 There’s also the option to pay monthly if you think you’ll only need it short-term

The concept of this app is great; there are myriad options to choose from with a selection of sounds and music. The music options were great to help me go to sleep; I particularly liked the lullabies even though they’re aimed at babies.  

BetterSleep also offers stories. The story choice might really suit you, but I found the voices difficult to listen to as I prefer music or sounds instead, and they felt slightly jarring. For me, they did not aid sleep. 

There’s a sleep journal option, and if you place your phone near you when you’re asleep it’ll track any noises that might disturb your sleep. It does take five nights before it returns any insightful data though.  

It’s easy to navigate despite there being so much choice within the app. I picked it up quickly and had no issues. You can set sleep goals, a bedtime and alarm to keep you on track.  

Screenshot of BetterSleep homescreenCredit: Exceptional

The app does inspire calm, with guided meditations including a sleep hypnosis course for beginners and even an SOS in the middle of the night option, though that is narrated by a very slow-talking voice, which I personally didn’t find peaceful.  

BetterSleep is an investment; the basic version doesn’t offer much free content but if you really want help with your sleep, or want to understand your sleep cycle better, it’s worth paying for premium.  

The sleep tracker is great, as are the music and sound options, but what I really liked about this app is that it can be used throughout the day for multiple purposes.  

There’s an SOS De-Stress mediation, various calm music playlists, which are great for concentration when working, and lots of options for children, which can be useful for other family members or little visitors. 


Calm Overview

Calm

Calm app logo
Recommended
Competitive

We liked Calm for improving our mindfulness and helping us to de-stress but didn’t find it too helpful for sleep tracking

Ease of use

Sleep Support

Other options

Price


Who’s this for?

People looking to get into meditation or for ways to de-stress

Our likes and dislikes

  • Great range of music and meditations
  • Good for improving mental wellbeing
  • First year subscription discount
  • Not much free content

Expect to pay

RRP: £17.49 Rising to £28.99 after your first year.

Calm is a mindfulness app offering a range of meditations, stories, and music to quieten your mind. It has a dedicated sleep section as well as a daily check-in option where you can make notes about how restful your night was.  

It’s easy to navigate, though the daily check-in possibility was hidden away (it’s under profile, then check-ins, then sleep). The range of music and sound options are easy to scroll through, but it’s more focused on mindfulness than sleep.

There’s no sleep tracking, it’s up to the user to make notes about their night. Which, in essence, is fine until you’re rushing in the morning, and you forget to do it. By the time I got to the notes, I’d forgotten the details.  

Calm ScreenshotCredit: Exceptional

Calm does exactly as the name suggests; it makes you calm. The meditations are pleasing to listen to and for most of them you can choose between a male and female narrator. The range of music on offer is vast; useful for listening to during the day to engage concentration for a variety of tasks.  

Calm offers a discount on your first year’s subscription so it’s very reasonably priced. Just as well, because there is little in the way of free content; just a few meditations and music options to choose from.  

This is not primarily a sleep app, it’s more focused on mindfulness and awareness of the brain and body connection. It does help promote better sleep through relaxation, but not as well as other apps I tried.  


SleepWatch Overview

SleepWatch

Sleepwatch app logo
Competitive

SleepWatch offers a wide range of insights and data to help you improve your slumber but only if you own an Apple phone or watch

Ease of use

Sleep support

Other options

Price


Who’s this for?

Good for fans of data insights rather than people needing help getting to sleep

Our likes and dislikes

  • Excellent data insight
  • Easy to understand
  • Must wear a smartwatch to access all features
  • Only available on Apple

Expect to pay

RRP: £35.99 A mid-range price for a useful app if you like data

SleepWatch is one of the more popular sleep apps on the Apple market, and it offers a range of white noise to help you sleep. You can listen to rain, a beach breeze, or even a didgeridoo if you think it’ll help you drift off.  

SleepWatch tracks your data either through your smartwatch or through your phone. There’s the possibility to have it record any sleep sounds too, which I found unnerving initially but soon grew to really like.  

It’s a bit strange to listen to yourself snoring, but it does help to recognise a pattern to your sleep. I also noted that on a particularly windy night the phone picked up the noise of bins clattering outside, which coincided with a restless night’s sleep and tiredness the next day.  

Sleepwatch HomescreenCredit: SleepWatch

The app is easy to use and understand; it offers a wide range of insights into heart rate, whether your sleep was restful or light, and your sleep pattern. You can also set a sleep goal to keep your bedtime on track.  

However, to get all the benefits from this app, you need to wear a smartwatch -ideally an Apple Watch- to bed. The app is only supported by Apple.

I liked that it asked for information about gender, weight, and height to better understand me. It does drain battery life though, so follow the brand’s recommendation to leave your phone plugged in.  

There’s the choice too to add tags about how your day has gone, if you’ve eaten late, done a workout, taken any medication, and so on.  

The app inspires calm if white noise is helpful for you. For some it can be an annoyance, so I would have liked more options such as music to choose from.  

Pricewise, SleepWatch is middle of the range. You don’t need to pay for the subscription, but the free version is basic with no real insights, meaning you miss out on sleep pattern data.

The free version also only allows you to listen to a couple of soundbites which can be frustrating when you see it’s recorded a lot more.   

This is a detailed sleep tracker but doesn’t offer anything outside of that.  


Sleep Tracker – Sleep Recorder Overview

Sleep Tracker – Sleep Recorder

Sleep Tracker Logo
Budget

This is a great app in theory but it didn’t always record accurately.

Ease of use

Sleep support

Other options

Price


Who’s this for?

People focused solely on sleep.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Plenty of data to analyse
  • Offers stretching routines to help you unwind
  • Didn’t track our sleep accurately
  • No added support to our daily routine

Expect to pay

RRP: £17.99 If the accuracy improved, this would be a great value app.

Sleep Tracker is exactly what it says: a sleep tracker. It offers a range of sleep sounds and sleep aids, such as breathing methods and stretching ideas to encourage slumber, but its primary function is to track how you sleep.  

It’s easy to set up and navigate, and like other tracking apps you just leave your phone next to you whilst you sleep. It picks up sounds and movements to present an overall picture of your sleep health.

I liked that it didn’t use too much battery, though you might like to keep your phone plugged in just in case. 

Sleep Tracker - Sleep Recorder data screenshotCredit: Exceptional

Initially, I thought this was a brilliant app; it tracked the first few nights, and I began to build up a good picture of my sleep habits, showing that I always seem to wake at 3am.

However, when I woke up one morning it claimed I had taken a long time to go to sleep and had only slept two hours and fifty minutes. I know my sleep can be poor, but it’s not that terrible.  

I figured the app had just had a glitch, but then it happened again two nights later, and then again after a run of three successful nights. I want an app that will be dependable and despite many great functions, this just isn’t it.  

There was a wealth of sound options to choose from, so you can pick what suits you best. I liked the lullabies again, but there’s a variety of nature sounds and white noise as well. These would be good at creating calm if I wasn’t wondering whether the app would work or not.  

I really liked the range of stretches available. There’s plenty to choose from,  from morning routines to full body stretches. There’s even a specific neck stretching option. Be warned, though, these are hidden behind the paywall.  


Counting Sheep ASMR Overview

Counting Sheep ASMR

Counting Sheep ASMR Relax logo
Budget

This app doesn’t exactly work as a sleep aid. But it does have sheep.

Ease of use

Sleep support

Other options

Price


Who’s this for?

Ideal to try and quieten down children and focus their minds

Our likes and dislikes

  • A novelty app
  • Young children enjoy it
  • Nothing other than slow moving sheep
  • It doesn’t aid sleep

Expect to pay

RRP: £0.89 There’s really not much point in paying to remove the occasional ad, but if you do want to it’s only a small amount.

Yes, you read that right: there are apps out there specifically for counting sheep. Obviously, I decided to test one, because why not? Counting sheep was always said to be the best way to get to sleep.  

Does this app help you get to sleep? Not really, because you must watch your screen all the time for the sheep. But it did make me sleepy with boredom if that counts. You’d need to be careful not to drop your phone on your face if you try it in bed.  

The sheep move slowly, and they take a while to appear. There’s no instructions so it took me a few goes before I realised you can navigate about the screen using your fingers, and you must go back to the home screen and select ‘baaa-bye’ to exit. 

Counting Sheep ASMR screenshotCredit: Exceptional

It didn’t inspire calm. I wanted to throw my phone out of the window with frustration at the slow sheep, but my four-year-old nephew absolutely loved it.  

It’s a tiny cost if you want to remove the ads, which pop up every now and then, but the free version is also fine.  

It offers absolutely nothing other than slow moving sheep for you to count, and it’s largely pointless, but it does help your brain switch off as you’re just staring at a screen (which, ironically, doesn’t help with sleep).  

Still, at least we’ve checked that we’re not missing out on a genius app to help us sleep.  

Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her

Updated:

Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain. Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

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