Usually, it’s recommended to put your phone away to sleep better, but apps for sleep meditation may lead to a better quality of night rest. These offer guided and unguided meditation that often has soothing sounds to help you drift off easier. The goal is to help you relax and leave the stress of the day behind.
Type: keep your mind active with these brain training apps for Android and iOS.
1. Insight Timer – Best for Variety & Ad-Free
Price: Free / $60 per year
Insight Timer (iOS / Android) includes free meditation exercises, sleep sounds, and even sleep stories. There is some premium content, but most of what you use regularly is free. The more you use the app, the better your daily recommendations become. Or, just use the “Explore” feature to find sleep meditation exercises. What’s great is that you can filter by length of session. Of course, you can also use Insight Timer for daily meditation as well, making it a great all-in-one app for better sleep and to fight anxiety and stress. The paid version gives access to premium courses, offline listening, higher-quality audio, and the ability to rewind meditation exercises. (You can only pause and restart in the free version.)
- No ads, even in the free version
- Over 100,000 meditation exercises
- Daily recommendations
- No offline listening in the free version
2. Calm – Best Sleep Stories
Price: Free / $70 per year
While Calm (iOS / Android) offers meditations for better sleep, reducing anxiety, building self-esteem, and more, the app’s sleep stories might easily become your favorite way to relax before bed. Most content is locked behind a paywall, but there are a handful of free meditations to try before you buy. You also get a 7-day free trial to see if you like the premium features. If you upgrade to premium, you’ll get an original Daily Calm, over 100 guided meditation exercises, more sleep stories, and master classes. For many users, the sleep stories alone are worth the subscription.
- Offers a variety of great sleep stories
- Has different categories of meditation exercises
- Premium version offers new content regularly
- Difficult to really test the app without getting the free trial
3. Balance – Best Free Trial & Personalization
Price: Free / $70 per year
This premium app offers a 365-day free trial, which is something no other premium or freemium sleep meditation apps can beat. Balance (iOS / Android) starts by asking some questions to help personalize your experience. You can also access the full library at any time. In the free version, only a handful of meditation exercises are available. However, since 2020, Balance has offered users a free year, although you can contribute a small amount if you’d like to help support development. The premium version gives you access to everything, including Balance’s personalized programs that adjust daily based on how you’re feeling.
- Offers generous free trial
- Personalize your experience
- Choice of a tailored journey or anything in the library
- More limited library compared to other apps
Good to know: do more to maintain your psychological well-being by downloading one of these apps.
4. Medito – Best Free Meditation App
Medito (iOS / Android) is a simple, yet effective app to help you learn to meditate and build a regular meditation practice. What we like about the app is that while you can just jump into a daily meditation, it also includes packs of meditation exercises, including one focused on Sleep. There’s even a section on the app’s homepage for sleep, which takes you to meditations, sleep stories, nature sounds, and meditative music, all designed to help you relax. Many of the meditations let you choose the teacher’s voice, duration, and background sounds (when applicable). If you’re not sure if sleep meditation is right for you, use Medito as a test run or make it your nightly routine.
- No payment required
- No ads
- Different categories of meditations
- Smaller meditation library
5. Headspace – Most Sleep Options
Price: Free / $13 per month
Headspace’s (iOS / Android) sleepcasts are similar to stories and take you on mental journeys, letting you envision things, like taking a soothing train ride. While much of Headspace is behind a paywall, you can get a seven-day (with monthly signup) or 14-day free trial (with annual signup). In the Sleep section of the app, you also get meditations, music, guides for parents to help kids relax, expert advice, soundscapes, sleep radio, and more. While other apps offer a lot of sleep content, Headspace has the biggest variety of options.
- Offers soothing sleepcasts for mental journeys
- New sleepcasts uploaded daily in paid version
- Large variety of meditation exercises
- App can sometimes become unstable
6. BetterSleep – Best for Sleep Tracking
Price: Free / $60 per year
BetterSleep (iOS / Android) records sounds while you’re asleep to better understand when you’re sleeping, surrounding distractions, and more. It gives you personalized advice to help you sleep better. In addition to sleep tracking, the app offers meditations, soothing sounds, bedtime stories, and even a section just for kids. There are even sleep exercises to help you wind down with movement before bed. While you can use the app for general meditation, the main focus of this app is sleep, so if you want an app just for sleep without any extras, BetterSleep is perfect.
- Offers sleep tracking
- Takes you through sleep exercises
- Focuses mainly on sleep
- Not made for general meditation
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7. Loona – Best Sleep Journeys
Price: Free / $2 per month
Loóna (iOS / Android) starts off by personalizing the app for you. From choosing what keeps you up at night to your favorite colors, the app seeks to create a soothing atmosphere from the start. What the app does best, though, is create sleep journeys for you. In Escapes, you get to color a moving diorama while listening to calming sounds. Stories fully immerses you with engaging sounds to make you forget about your stress. There are also breathing exercises and sounds to help you drift off. If you want your nightly routine to feel more like a relaxing journey versus just meditating, Loóna is perfect. A few stories and sounds are free, and there is a seven-day free trial.
- Creates a personalized experience
- Uses visuals in addition to sounds for meditation
- Works as an alternative to typical breathing or gratitude meditation
- Some users may not appreciate the visual effects
8. Smiling Mind – Best for Families
While many apps just focus on adults, Smiling Mind (iOS / Android) offers meditation exercises for adults, kids (from infant and up), workplace, school, and more. The free app was created by experts to help provide Australia’s youth with free mindfulness programs. However, the idea took off, and now it’s become a popular app for mindfulness meditation around the world. While there aren’t nearly as many meditation exercises as other apps on this list, the content offered by Smiling Mind is carefully created to help users relax and find peace of mind. Everything is free, although you can donate. The app’s also ad-free, making it great for kids to use too.
- Offers specific programs for adults, kids, and different scenarios
- Also helps combat stress and anxiety
- Meditation exercises are limited
9. UCLA Mindful – Best for Beginners
The entire UCLA Mindful (iOS / Android) app is geared towards beginners, but the meditations are relaxing, no matter how experienced you are with the practice. There’s a Getting Started section to help complete noobs understand meditation. You can also jump into the basic and wellness meditation exercises, some of which focus on sleep. While it doesn’t have many sleep meditation exercises, the “Hammer Podcasts & Drop-Ins” lets you listen to podcasts and access themed meditation exercises. Many of the meditation exercises are available in 14 languages, so it has more accessibility. There’s even a timer feature to let you meditate on your own.
- Provides introduction to meditation courses
- Includes basic and themed wellness meditation
- Meditation exercises are limited
- Some meditation exercises are only available by searching in podcasts
Good to know: need to create a soothing environment so that you can relax? Check out the best sources for calming sounds, white noise and rain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any other ways technology can help me sleep better?
Absolutely! For Android users, check out Bedtime mode When enabled, it will silence your phone and change the screen to black and white. You’ll find this under “Settings -> Digital Wellbeing and parental controls.” On iOS, you can use the Health app, which also boasts a sleep feature. Set it up to receive bedtime reminders, track your sleep and more.
You can also use soothing sound apps on your phone or ask your Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa speaker to play relaxing sounds while you sleep.
Do sleep meditation apps actually work?
Sleep meditation can help you relax, but if you’re not having any luck, it may be time to see your doctor. Your sleep issues could stem from a medical issue or side effects from a medication. Also, give meditation apps a chance to work. It’s common not to see much results until you’ve meditated for at least a week or two. Just as with physical exercise, you need to meditate regularly to help your body and mind adjust and learn to relax more easily.
Do I need to take meditation classes before using any of these apps?
No. Apps for sleep meditation help guide you through the process. If you’ve never meditated before, start with Medito or UCLA Mindful. These two are free and guide you through the basics of how meditation works. Atom (only for Android) is also a free app that teaches meditation basics and is great for complete beginners.
Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Crystal Crowder.
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