Insomnia is an old friend of mine. As a child, I would get out of bed in the middle of the night and knock my parents' bedroom door to let them know that I couldn't sleep. (And typically my mom would tell me: "Just close your eyes and sleep!"). So I usually ended up in bed, with my eyes closed and then thinking to myself: "OK, here we are, what am I missing now?".
Months pass by in which sleeping is not a problem at all, and then suddenly the old friend is back and prevents me from falling asleep, or makes me wake up at night wondering if it is daytime yet.
In recent stressful weeks, I have experienced it all over again. As compared to my childhood days, it now has an extra component: I now know that I "have to" sleep, because my hours are limited (the alarm clock will ring soon), and if I am too tired I can't get much work done - and if I don't get the work done that I need to do, I will start thinking about that the next evening, instead of just falling asleep.
Now that I got an iPhone, I've tried using it to help me sleep better. Here's a quick overview of what I've used so far:
1. Sleep Cycle
I've only used this app for the last 2 nights, and I haven't used it as an alarm clock yet - I've only been using it to track the quality of my sleep. Usually, when I wake up in the morning I have a vague idea that I woke up 2 or 3 times during the night. Now, I can use this app to actually study which part of the night I am in deep sleep, when I am dreaming, and how many times I wake up. I'll try to use these stats to see if there is a pattern: do I wake up around the same time every night, and can I find an indication of the necessary conditions to get a better quality of sleep (less times I wake up and more deep sleep)?
With this app, you can combine some relaxing sounds, plug in the earphones, and fall asleep. I've used it last week, and it indeed has helped me to fall asleep faster. Usually, I keep listening to the sounds in my apartment building, but this app simply blocks out all the noise and replaces it with relaxing sounds. You can put a sleep timer, so I used it for 2 hours or 3 hours to help me fall asleep and sleep through the first hours in which people keep walking around in the building (typically, the building gets really calm around 2am, so I used the app until roughly that time of the night.
Disadvantage of this app: it can't run in the background, so I can't combine it with Sleep Cycle.
Similar to eSleepLite, this gives calming sounds. The quality of the sounds is richer, but the amount of options is much more limited. However, this program can run in the background, so I can actually combine it with Sleep Cycle.
4. Silva Relax
So far, I've only once used this app, but it managed to kill a migraine which would have otherwise either sent me to bed or to heavy medication. After a stressful day, I think 20 minutes of relaxation exercise are better spent than 20 minutes of mindn umbing internet surfing.