Students try to improve sleep with apps

Anna Watson

Staff Writer

Smart phones have an established presence in the lives of some Parkland students, providing a variety of apps to make everyday activities simpler; several of these apps focus on helping people with sleep.

Anna Worley, a Parkland student, said she uses an app called Calm every night to get to sleep. She gets around six to seven hours of sleep each night.

Calm is a meditation and sleep app that creates several calming sounds in order to soothe a person to sleep.

Parkland student, Stephanie Gonzales, has a routine schedule for sleeping. She utilizes an app called Bedtime which was pre-installed on her iPhone.

“Go on to the timer settings app in your iPhone,” she said, “and it’s the middle button.”

With this app, a person pre-sets how much time they want to sleep at night. Then, it will tell you the exact time to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning.

Ted Powers, a professor in the psychology department at Parkland, explained that understanding how sleep works naturally is important to good quality sleep.

“The most important thing to have people realize about sleep is that a typical sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes,” said Powers.

He said the biggest misconception about sleeping is the idea that people need a full eight hours of sleep each night. He explained his reasoning.

“When you sleep, it should be in some increment of 90 minutes. This can be one hour and half, three hours, four and a half, six hours, and seven and a half hours,” Powers said.

Rapid eye movement, or REM, cycles are known as the stages of sleep where a person dreams at night. The 90-minute increment is when a person goes in and out of their REM sleep cycle.

Powers said the scientists and health professionals that say humans need a full eight hours of sleep, assume people are setting their alarms eight hours from when they lay down. Based on the assumption that it will take a person 20–30 minutes to fall asleep, the amount of sleep a person gets per night should be closer to seven and a half hours.

Between studies, work, and social activities, college students lack sleep. However, Powers talked about other factors in student’s sleep degradation.

“When someone drinks alcohol or takes a prescription sleeping pill, there is a chemical in their nervous system that tells their neurons to shut down,” Powers said.

Powers said, in either case, it is more like passing out than sleeping. The body isn’t going through typical sleep cycles, therefore the substances’ limit the brain’s REM sleep.

As a professor, Powers discussed the difficulty students experience when trying to perform without sleep. He said they will appear groggy and cannot think through decisions as well as they normally could.

“Students will always tell me days after a test ‘why didn’t I put that answer on the test, because I knew it, I just couldn’t think of it,’” Powers said.

He said it’s because they lack sleep.

Other sleep apps on the market include Deep Sleep, Pzizz, Relax & Sleep Well, Sleep Genius and Sleep Cycle alarm clock.