I'm a late-blooming insomniac, in that I never had issues with sleeping until about six months ago. I'm hoping it's a temporary thing, but for now I'm waking up two or three times a night, and it's turning me into a cranky baby who responds to text messages at 4 a.m. There are a lot of battle-hardened insomniacs out there who have very impressive melatonin regimens and supplement plans that they were willing to share with me — but I'm more of a wobbly-newborn-baby-deer insomniac, and I don't think I'm ready for that just yet. I have switched to decaf at 7 p.m., which might be helping, but the two most useful things I've found are both apps.
First up: Twilight.
Obviously I'm a screen-addicted millennial, and it certainly doesn't help that I work in social media. Some nights, I'm on Twitter right up until I fall asleep (though I have tried to switch to just paperbacks in bed). Turns out that the blue light emitted from your screen can really mess with your Circadian rhythms. In the linked interview, Harvard University neuroscientist Anne-Marie Chang says, "Participants who read on light-emitting devices took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep [the phase when we dream] and had higher alertness before bedtime [than those people who read printed books]. We also found that after an eight-hour sleep episode, those who read on the light-emitting device were sleepier and took longer to wake up."
I know blue light is supposed to be the new scapegoat as far as premature aging is concerned (and beauty companies are pumping out dubious skincare products claiming to "filter" blue light just as fast as they can), but I'm more concerned with the effect on my sleeping patterns, which is why I downloaded Twilight. It's a really simple (free!) app that's set up on a timer to slowly dim the brightness and filter out the blue light coming from your phone the later in the day it gets. I do notice that it's easier for me to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer when I'm using this on my phone or laptop right before bed.
The second app I've been using is Noisli, a (free on desktop, $1.99 on mobile) ambient noise generator. I yanked my air-conditioning unit out of my window last weekend and have been sleeping with the windows open, which is great as far as temperature control goes, but pretty awful as far as waking up to construction noises and last call at the metal bar across the street.
Rather than just having tracks you can select from, Noisli has a bunch of options you can layer over each other and control the volume on each layer. I'm a big fan of the campfire + trees + wind combo, but you can also get coffee shop, train, and fan noises (all of which seem stressful to me, but you do you). It's also worth noting that Noisli is really attractively designed, especially compared to other white-noise apps out there, which may or may not matter to you, but was more of a deciding factor for me than I'm willing to admit.
Let me know in the comments if you've used either of these, or if you have any surefire ways to get asleep and stay asleep!