Many sleep apps aren't effective in improving rest

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Smartphones are filled with all kinds of applications, but those designed to help you sleep might not help. A study, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, found, while many sleep apps help users set goals and manage their sleep, most do not use effective methods to help sleep-deprived users.

The study analyzed 35 apps on their ability to use clinical methods to help users achieve better sleep. While the apps were easy to navigate, helped users set goals and tracked sleep patterns, only a small portion of the apps used beneficial methods to improve sleep.

"We were surprised that some of the apps didn't say anything about the recommended amount of sleep someone should get on a regular basis," said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, who led the new analysis with colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine. "And there weren't a lot of apps that had any information about the benefits of sleep."

The analysis found that only four of the 35 apps presented health risks of getting not enough sleep and described why users may be getting less sleep. Only six apps were able to provide sleep reminders. Less than half of the apps provided information about sleep.

"From a population health perspective, I really see this as how do we use these apps in terms of educating people about the importance of sleep," said Grigsby-Toussaint. "And how do you then use the apps as a tool to help people to get to that point where they do engage in healthy sleeping habits?"