5 Apps to Help You Sleep and Nap Better

This post is written by Emily Wheeler and is published as a part of our blog exchange with Tar-Heel Tone Up.

I’m sure we’re all starting to feel the effects of 8 weeks of accumulated sleep deprivation that the semester has caused. Fall Break was a welcome chance to have fun with friends and family, but also to take some time to catch up on rest and reset to healthier habits for the second half of the semester.

Since we rely on our phones so much these days, I’ve looked up a handful of apps designed to help you fall asleep more easily, track your sleep cycles, and even wake up more easily. Every app is free or less than $5, so if you find yourself wishing for better sleep every day, consider giving them a try!

  1. Sleep Cycle for iOS

This highly impressive $1 app requires you to place your phone on your bed beside your pillow in order for it to use your motion throughout the night as a way to track your sleep cycles. The app collects data during the night and then shows you easy-to-read graphs in the morning about your sleep quality! It also has a nifty alarm clock feature that allows you to set a time range, during which the app will wake you up during the moments in that range when you’re sleeping most lightly, helping you to wake up at the best possible time for your body. When the alarm goes off, you get a good morning message and a weather report for the day, but you can also run the app in the background and set a separate alarm if you wish!

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  1. Sleepbot for Android

Believe it or not, the most popular mobile phone brand in the world is not the iPhone, so for all of the many Android users, Sleepbot is a great Android app similar to Sleep Cycle, mentioned above. It also tracks your movement as you sleep and creates various graphs of information about your sleeping patterns. It also records sound so you can hear if you snore or talk in your sleep, which is actually a really unappealing feature to me but hey, whatever floats your boat.

Although it was originally an Android app, it is also now available for iPhone. The app does work with other Android alarm clock apps however, so if you’re using it from an Android you can use your favorite alarm clock app along with Sleepbot. The app is free and also has a paired webapp so you can view your sleep stats on your computer as well!


  1. Sleepmaker Rain

I absolutely love falling asleep to the sound of rain outside my window, and the Sleepmaker Rain app simulates different rain sounds ranging from “gentle onto forest foliage” to “heavy torrential downpour.” You can pick from 20 different rain options to lure you to sleep on restless nights.


  1. aSleep for iOS

This $1 app has a huge variety of soothing sounds that include nature sounds, instruments, lullabies, and life sounds such as helicopters, showers, and a heartbeat. You can choose a duration for the sound to play, which preserves your battery after you fall asleep.


  1. Relax and Sleep Well by Glenn Harrold

If the sounds of rain or nature aren’t your preferred sounds to help you sleep, you can try listening to a 27-minute self-hypnosis recording. This audio clip is designed to help you clear your mind as you listen to the lovely British accent of Glenn Harold, a clinical hypnotherapist. Whatever works, right?


Whether you choose to try an app that uses measurements of your sleep patterns to help you wake up more easily, plays soothing sounds to help you relax, or uses hypnosis to lull you into slumber, you may be pleasantly surprised by what these sleep-help apps can do! Even though I rarely have trouble falling asleep, I enjoy using Sleep Cycle just because I think it’s interesting to see graphs of my sleep patterns over the course of a night or a whole week. I also find the nature sounds soothing when I’m trying to study because it helps create a more peaceful atmosphere that helps me focus.

If you’re looking to improve your sleep quality and quantity for the second half of the semester, or just trying to take a great afternoon nap, try out some of these sleep-help apps and see what you think!

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Eat Smart with your SmartPhone

Do you love your Droid or iPhone? If so, let your SmartPhone help you eat smarter and stay healthier. I spent an afternoon reviewing all of the nutrition and exercise apps out there and found four that I think you’ll love.

Download them and try them out, then let us know what you think!

  1. Drinking Water: This app reminds you to drink water and allows you to track how much water you are drinking daily. Every couple hours you hear a calming sound of pouring water. Just reach for your water bottle, chug some water, and then mark off one of the cups on the screen.
  2. Fooducate: Use this at the grocery store. Scan the barcode of an item before you put it in your cart or basket. Find out the good and bad about each item and get some guidance on healthier, but similar, products.
  3. Restaurant Nutrition: It’s hard to know exactly what’s on your plate when you are eating out.  Take your phone with you and use this app to combine menu items from popular restaurants to build your entire meal order and see the nutrition facts.
  4. iMapMyRun: Use this app to record the route, time, distance, speed, pace and calories of your walk, run or bike in real-time. Just make sure your phone is GPS-enabled.

Do you use any of these apps? Or do you think you might try them? Tell us what you think by commenting on this blog, posting to our Facebook page (UNC Campus Health Services) or tweeting (@UNCCampusHealth).

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Store Your Health and Fitness Data in Your Pocket with iOS 8

by: Emily Wheeler

In this time of omnipresent technology, many health-conscious individuals are using their phones to track measures of fitness and nutrition information as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Apps such as MyFitness Pal and Livestrong have made it routine for some people to track their calorie intake, calorie expenditure, active time per day, and even water intake.

If you have an iPhone and you’re running iOS 8, you’ll notice a new default app has been added to your phone. The app has a white background and a single pink heart and it is simply named “Health.”

When you first open the app, it can seem pretty confusing. There are several empty graphs, with options to chart everything from weight, to blood pressure, blood glucose, and even magnesium. There is a main menu of eight categories of measurements that you can choose from, and you’ll definitely want to limit yourself to choosing a handful of them to display on your dashboard, because displaying them all would be completely overwhelming! Most of the category names are self-explanatory, but the “results” category with a little Erlenmeyer flask icon beside of it is for tracking the results of regular medical tests for individuals who require them often, so you can input your results and avoid saving the paper print-outs each time. Instead, you can see your blood alcohol content or your oxygen saturation in graph form over time.


For each category you choose, you can select that category and then turn on the switch to “show on dashboard.” This will show you a graph of any data from this category on your main dashboard next time you open the app! An example of a good set of metrics to show might be “weight,” “active calories,” “dietary calories,” “fiber,” “sodium,” and “blood pressure.”


You can also choose to display certain categories that might be of special interest to you based on your health status, such as “blood glucose,” for diabetics, and “iron” if you are anemic or planning on donating blood anytime soon.

The confusing and slightly inconvenient aspect of the app to many individuals is the fact that you can’t really make the most of the usefulness of this app by inputting data points into the app directly. For example, the app doesn’t track the calories in specific foods you eat or the number of steps you take in a day. Instead, the app is intended to be used in conjunction with other health and fitness apps, which you can set to share their data with the health app to generate your graphs and results automatically.

If you already have and use other fitness apps, linking them to share their data with the health app is simple. All you need to do is launch any of your other health apps, enter the “settings” or “profile” area of that app, and look for the option to “share” information with the Health app. You can also adjust exactly what information from that app will be shared with the health app, such as only calories consumed, or only steps taken per day (which can be configured with the health app if you’re already using FitBit!) The option that says “read” lets you set what information the app of interest can use from what is already in your Health app, and the option that says “write” lets you adjust what information from the app of interest will be shared with the Health app.



If you don’t currently have any other health and fitness apps but would like to try a few in conjunction with the new Health app, here are the three I would suggest starting with:

1. MyFitness Pal: This is probably, by far, the best dietary tracker app out there. It’s free on the app store and has the nutrition information available for over three million foods, including foods served at specific restaurants and even at Ram’s Head Dining Hall here at UNC. You can also track calorie expenditure with 350 tracking options for cardio and strength training exercises!


2. Withings: This free app features an icon of a person with an overlaid pair of 4-quadrant butterfly wings meant to symbolize four categories of health (weight, activity, heart health, and sleep) that are monitored in the app. You’ll get supportive messages from the app and the butterfly wings will grow and shrink depending on your health status, reminding you that you might need to get some more sleep or exercise tomorrow!


3. Cody: This is a free fitness app that encourages you to workout with comments and cheers from other users. The best feature of the app is the collection of exercise instructions with picture, video, and text instruction!


Perhaps the best feature of the Health app has nothing to do with the graphs and data coming in from other fitness apps. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll notice a tab of the menu in the bottom, right corner that says “Medical ID.” By selecting this tab, you can create a personal medical ID where you can input your name, height, weight, blood type, pre-existing medical conditions, allergies, and all medications you take. You choose what information you want to provide and what you do not. You can also link emergency contacts from your phone’s contact list into the medical ID. This is an extremely valuable feature of the new Health app because it can be accessed from the lock screen under the “emergency” option without requiring your phone password. If you are ever in an emergency situation where you are hurt, unconscious, or otherwise unable to speak to the people or medical professionals trying to help you, first responders are aware of this new feature and will check to see if you have set up your medical ID to give them valuable information quickly when they need it. It also doubles as a way for someone to get in touch with one of your linked contacts if you happen to lose your phone with a passcode set on it, without allowing them to access any of your other information. This is a feature that I would encourage every iOS 8 user to set up; you never know what could happen and it’s definitely best to be prepared!

The present is a time of technology, but it is also a time of poor overall health in the United States. Certainly there are more people who use iPhones everyday than people who get enough physical activity each week, or people who eat enough vegetables on a daily basis. I appreciate the fact that Apple has placed a useful health tool in the hands of millions of Americans, reminding them that “heath” is something that requires attention, monitoring, and effort. Perhaps the health app will encourage more people to be aware of the components of a healthy lifestyle, and might even encourage them to download and link other free apps to help them develop healthy habits and personal awareness of where they can work to improve their health in their own life.

Smart Ways to Keep Tabs on Drinking

Happy Monday Morning! How did you spend your weekend? Did you participate in any of our Healthy Heels recommendations? If you were out drinking, do you remember how many drinks you had? Do you know what your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was?

Keeping an eye on how many drinks you have can help you manage your budget and help you make sure you are keeping your BAC at manageable levels. Keeping your BAC below certain levels can help you avoid the nastier side of drinking – the hangovers, the missed classes, and days spent recovering when you should be studying – while still allowing you to go out, have fun, and enjoy drinks with friends.

With this approach in mind, here are some online tools and phone apps we’ve found that could be useful to someone who wants to take the first steps towards monitoring their drinking on-the-go. If you know of another good way you keep track of how many drinks you’ve had in a night, feel free to share in the comment section!

For starters, there is a very cool iPhone app called DrinkTracker available in the App Store for $1.99. It uses an algorithm to calculate your real-time BAC as you are drinking, taking into account how quickly your body processes the alcohol based on your weight, height, gender, and how long you have been drinking. It’s also has some cool integration with Google maps to help you find the next bar or get home safely by contacting a local taxi service, or even emailing a friend your location. Click here to check it out.

For Android users, we recommend the free AlcoDroid app.  Like DrinkTracker, AlcoDroid uses sex, weight, and type of drink to give you a current BAC estimate. In addition, AlcoDroid plots your BAC over time, giving you an idea of when you’ll be below the legal driving limit or back to zero.  It can also track the cost of your drinks and graphically chart your daily, weekly, and monthly alcohol consumption statistics. Click here to learn more about Alcodroid and its many features.

While these apps are great tools for monitoring your drinking, we want to remind everyone that any information provided should be taken with a grain of salt.  They can’t take into account other things that affect BAC levels, such as whether you have eaten a balanced meal beforehand, or things that are specific to you, such as genetic factors.  It’s very important to stay within your comfort zone.  If you normally wouldn’t drive after having 4 beers in 2 hours, don’t change things up just because DrinkTracker says you’re good to go.  These apps are meant to keep you informed, not to push your limits.

For more information on drink tracking and other cool apps, check-out this page.