Blame my phone and my laptop's blue light, blame me hitting snooze more than I should, or blame me staying up late on the weekends, but I often struggle to fall asleep at a decent hour — and stay asleep. I'm not alone either — about one-third of Americans regularly don't get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So when I heard that there are a few hypnosis apps to help you fall asleep, I thought that I might've just found my one-way ticket to Snoozeville.
According to WebMD, Swiss researchers found recorded audio hypnosis helped female participants spend more time asleep — and in deep sleep, which is the restorative, rejuvenating kind. The researchers think hypnosis is successful because it gives people something to focus on, and also helps them relax and quiet their own thoughts.
Scrolling through the App Store on my iPhone, I came across Sleep Well, which has a free version. According to the description, it promises to help you "reduce anxious thoughts and sleep calmly after listening daily for just 1-3 weeks" by changing "your mindset through subconscious thoughts to prepare for deeper sleep."
It also seemed like my best option, since it's rated more than four stars by 81 people. One review said, "Works like a DREAM!" Always liking a good pun, I tapped download and threw on my pajamas.
Night one, commence!
The first thing I realized was a small technical difficulty: My iPhone 7 had to be disconnected from the charger in order to plug in earphones.
Off to a rocky start, I started the recording, in which a woman blessed with smooth vocal chords told me over dull background music to tighten parts of my body, ranging from my toes to face, and then release. The goal here was to relax my muscles.
Then she told me to breathe out certain thoughts from my mind, and imagine myself swaying in my happy place. She suggested a hammock. I struggled, forcing myself to try to relax, and obviously this resulted in the opposite.
She counted down from 10 slowly until the recording ended, and I was still wide awake, trying to "sway" myself into relaxation.
Then I had to unplug my earphones and yank them out of my ears. I felt like I just wasted 20 minutes of my time, and I pondered my experiment while I stayed awake.
Knowing what I was going into on the second night, I simply put the phone on speaker. Halfway through the tightening exercises, I realized that the last thing I wanted to do before going to bed were these tedious exercises.
I also noticed that using my phone to turn on the app goes against what a lot of sleeping advice says about blue light. I may or may have not spent the rest of the meditation thinking about this.
On night three, I was annoyed at the app. It felt like a chore. Maybe this was because it was Friday and I had gone out with some friends, so all I wanted to do was pass out.
On night four, when the imaginary swaying came about, I decided to picture lying on a pool float drifting in the ocean on a sunny day. This seemed to work, and by the time she was counting down, I noticed my breathing was slower.
But I still found myself aware of when the recording would stop.
By imagining the same vacation-like scenario, I was getting more and more relaxed on nights five and six. I was also beginning to enjoy the part when she prompts you to think about all that you're grateful about. It actually did put me in a better state of mind. Although relaxed, I was still awake when the recording ended.
On night seven, a miracle happened. I fell asleep before the recording ended, somewhere between being grateful and counting down from six. As far as sleep quality, I didn't notice anything magical, but then again it's only been a week.
To be honest, using the app was more difficult to fit in my schedule than I thought, and I doubt I could regularly set aside 20 minutes to listen to it every night.
Although I can attest to feeling more relaxed from the app, this experiment taught me that I'd rather just train myself to really put my phone away a solid amount of time before hitting the hay.