In an overwhelmingly anxious year, your phone might ironically be your best friend when it comes to relaxation. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace have gained momentum in the past few years and Covid-19 has lead to a surge in downloads. These apps have been designed to guide users in meditation, helping them deal with anxiety, relieve stress and fall asleep.
According to Sensor Tower, the 10 largest English language meditation apps saw a combined “2 million more downloads during April 2020 compared with January”. Globally, the most downloaded app was Calm with 3.9 million downloads in April 2020. Though we are mostly advised to put our phones away well before bed, in this case, we might be granted a reprieve. Although it is obviously better not to sleep with your iPhone by your side, meditating without guidance when you’re not very good at it is ill-advised.
SLEEP WITH CELEBRITIES
Calm has a unique feature which is called ‘Sleep Stories’ where celebrities tell relaxing stories to help you sleep. The list of celebs includes Stephen Fry, Kate Winslet, Harry Styles, Kelly Rowland, and Mandy Moore. But why would I need Harry Styles to remind me about the “power of the universe”? Besides the fact that it’s Harry Styles and everybody could do with listening to his dulcet tones just before they fall asleep.
Psychoanalyst Claudia Luiz told Shape magazine that during the night, many people lack sufficient defenses to guard against “unbearable thoughts and feelings”. This leads to a “chronic, low-grade state of fight or flight”. As a result of this, hormones cortisol and adrenaline are excreted and disrupt sleep. Every single year, more than 50 million people in the US are diagnosed with sleep disorders. If apps can help us relax and get a good night’s sleep, why not? Luiz also mentions that everyone will need something slightly different to begin their relaxation journey. If sleep stories aren’t working, try music or a sleep podcast but “don’t beat yourself up”.
ABOUT THE APPS: DO THEY WORK?
Sleep apps use everything from colors and images to hypnotic techniques, guided meditations, and white noise to aid relaxation. The American Sleep Association (ASA) analyzed 35 top sleep apps. All the 35 sleep apps analyzed did allow for users to meet their goals in terms of getting to sleep. They did not however have any substantial impact on severely sleep-deprived individuals. Furthermore, very few of these apps provided “users with information about the risks of sleep deprivation”. These risks include “diabetes, obesity, depression, and high blood pressure”.
Additionally, the ASA says that sleep apps can also help retrain your brain and can be useful in cognitive behavioral therapy. Whilst in-person counseling for insomnia is ideal, it is often expensive to visit a therapist. Apps that use ‘sleep hygiene’ and “cognitive behavior therapy to improve sleep behaviors” are best.
In a randomized control trial which was published in the journal Current Sleep Medicine Reports, a group of people with mild insomnia used a phone app to provide cognitive behavioral therapy for seven weeks. The results indicated that the group which made use of the app had a marked decrease in insomnia. This was still in place three months later during a follow-up evaluation.
SO WHICH OF THESE MEDITATION APPS SHOULD I USE?
Below is a quick overview of the global top three sleep apps. It is vital, before committing to a specific app, that you explore each one thoroughly. You should make sure that you’re choosing the correct one for you. Most of these apps come with a free trial. This means you can make sure that they suit you before committing.
Calm describes itself as being on a mission to “make the world happier and healthier”. Globally, Calm is the number one app for “sleep, meditation, and relaxation”. It has “over 50 million downloads and over 700,000 5-star reviews”. Calm also has several other features which include videos on mindful movement and an extensive range of music. Calm also features sleep stories read by celebrities which include the likes of Kate Winslet and Harry Styles.
The app is admittedly rather pricey at **$69.99 for an annual subscription.
Download here: https://www.calm.com
Headspace was started by Andy Puddicombe who became a Buddhist monk in his early twenties. After building his meditation know-how for 10 years and completing his monastic commitment, Andy returned to the UK. He had a single goal in mind “teaching meditation and mindfulness to as many people as possible”. After first launching as an events company in 2010, Headspace morphed into an online meditation platform. According to the website, the Headspace mission is “to improve the health and happiness of the world”. Headspace specializes in teaching the basics of meditation. It also equips users with tools that they can make use of in real-world situations.
There is a free basics course. However, a subscription will set you back **$69.99 per year, exactly the same as Calm. There is also special pricing available for students and family plans.
Download here: https://www.headspace.com
Meditopia describes its mission as being to “help people all over the world discover happiness within themselves and develop the mental resilience to apply to their daily lives”. The app was first developed in 2017. The developers noticed that people’s minds were not in the present moment. Meditopia is described as a sort of utopia where everyone works to stay in the present moment. The meditation app was designed with “mindfulness instructors, yoga teachers, and emotional healers”. Its aim is to analyze the root causes of emotions like stress, anxiety, anger, compassion, and gratitude.
There is a free premium trial that lasts for a week. Once the trial ends, the cost is either $9.99 per month or **$59.99 for the annual plan.
Download here: https://meditopia.com/en/
*Personally, Headspace and Calm have worked the best for me. That said, I also often make use of sleep playlists on Spotify and Audible books.
**All pricing is accurate as of publication date
American Sleep Association. How to Retrain and Reclaim Your Sleep Using a Sleep App. [Online] Available at: https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-treatments/sleep-apps/how-to-retrain-and-reclaim-your-sleep-using-a-sleep-app/.
Calm. 2020. Calm App. [Online] Available at: https://www.calm.com
Calm. 2020. Calm Sleep Stories. [Online] Available at: https://app.www.calm.com/sleep?coupon=freetrial.
Headspace. 2020. Headspace App. [Online] Available at: https://www.headspace.com
Headspace. 2020. Headspace App – About Us. [Online] Available at: https://www.headspace.com/about-us
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2018. Consumer Sleep Technology: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Statement. [Online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5940440/
Meditopia. 2020. Meditopia App. [Online] Available at: https://meditopia.com/en/
Perez, S. 2020. Meditation and mindfulness apps continue their surge amid pandemic. [Online] Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/28/meditation-and-mindfulness-apps-continue-their-surge-amid-pandemic/.
Sensor Tower. 2020. Downloads of Top English-Language Mental Wellness Apps Surged by 2 Million in April Amid COVID-19 Pandemic. [Online] Available at: https://sensortower.com/blog/top-mental-wellness-apps-april-2020-downloads.
Trice, E. 2020. These Celebrity Meditations and Bedtime Stories Will Lull You to Sleep In No Time. [Online] Available at: https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/celebrity-meditations-bedtime-stories