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Expert weighs in on effectiveness of sleep apps

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Our spotlights on better sleep continued with a look at the effectiveness of sleep apps Wednesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

They have lots of names like “Headspace,” “Noisli,” and “Slumber” but do sleep apps work? Can they actually help us get a better night’s sleep?

Dr. Alice Hoagland is the Director of the Insomnia Clinic for Rochester Regional Health. “Most of the white noise apps are actually probably – again, there’s no really good literature on this – fairly helpful, especially because people can condition themselves to fall asleep in the presence of a little bit of white noise,” she said. “The other apps, the guided imagery apps where they teach you to meditate and kind of walk your way through things, they may be helpful but we have no literature about whether or not they’re efficacious.”

Dr. Hoagland said using sleep apps present on inherent challenge. “It is incredibly seductive and tempting to pick up your phone in the middle of the night and once people do that – my patients tell me all of the time they will quick get on Facebook, or they will quick check to see if they have any messages, or they will quick check their emails and now all of a sudden you’ve engaged in behaviors that are highly alerting.”

In addition, Dr. Hoagland said the light from your smartphone display stimulates your brain to stop producing melatonin, which helps you sleep. She said when considering a sleep app, assess whether your sleep problem is environmental or chronic, and if you should seek professional help. “If all you have is clearly some environmental noise and you wish to mask that out then that’s one thing but if you are constantly either having trouble getting to sleep or more recently staying asleep then definitely see a professional first before you intervene on your own with some apps.”

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