Top 7 Sleep Apps That Actually Work

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The Foundation to Optimal Mental Health Starts with a Good Night’s Sleep

This post may contain some affiliate links. Not every link is an affiliate. These are truly the apps I have found to offer the most value regardless of whether or not they are an affiliate brand.

Since the end of 2020 I’ve been testing several sleep apps to see what each has to offer and what makes each app different than the other. Around November of 2020, I decided to see what resources and discounts were available related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did I know that not only were there a ton of resources for nurses, but most of these resources are also available to the general public.

I found that the self-care, self-development, meditation and sleep apps offered some of the best services, discounts and/or “freebies.” As a psych nurse I’ve been a bit on the fence about using apps like these to help with personal development and mental health. Despite touting the wonderful benefits of meditation to my patients, I had never tried it myself.  Due to the increase in stress related to working as a full-time nurse during a global pandemic and the “new normal” of being a single steady income household I thought it would be a perfect time to try as many of these discounted or free apps as possible and create a review to share with our community.

I left off the apps I tried that brought me no value, were too cumbersome to use and cost too much to give a full try. If you are curious to find out if I tried an app that you are considering using and want an honest opinion, please reach out.

I’ll review the apps based on the following criteria: Pros, Cons, Benefits, Features and Cost. Then I will give my final thoughts. I have listed these in no particular order and several of them may be associated with an affiliate link. What that means is that if you click on the link and purchase the app using my link, I may get a financial percentage of that sale. It will not charge you to click the link, and there is no pressure to buy anything. I just wanted to be transparent.

If apps are not your thing, I created a YouTube channel with tons of free sleep sounds, frequencies and immersive videos. Check out Cloud Nine Sleep.

7. Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle App

Sleep Cycle was one of the very first sleep apps I ever tried…EVER! I started using this app to gauge the quality of my sleep during the height of the problems I had with insomnia. This app allows you to track and analyze your sleep by using patented sound analysis technology. The results of the sleep analysis are presented as easy-to-understand insights, graphs and trends, providing tailored guidance on how you can change your routine to improve your sleep. The app also offers meditations, sounds and stories to help you fall asleep. Sleep cycle is very easy to use.


  • Sleep Analysis
  • Music, Meditations, Stories
  • Alarm options
  • Sleep notes and Journaling
  • Compatible with FitBit, Phillips Hue, Google Fit, Android Wear, Apple Homekit and Apple Health

Pros: I love the technology this app offers for free. This app wakes you up when you’re in your lightest sleep phase, which helps you feel more rested and fully recovered. I’ve had numerous insights into my own sleep patterns to help me reach a better level of optimal sleep quality. The graphics and ambient sounds are fantastic.

Their website also has a ton of information on sleep and provides statistics from around the world.

Pros: Sleep Cycle offers an extensive sound library. The technology providers data and insights that will help you improve your sleep quickly. The app will “listen” to you while sleeping, which I found helpful to figure out if I was waking on my own or due to external noises. There sleep analysis results are easy to navigate and understand. This app can be used with Apple Watch.

Cons: Unable to use some features unless you pay for the subscription. Not all features can be used if you have an Android phone.

First 7 days for free, then $29.99/year (very affordable for what you get). You can cancel anytime. NEW – Sleep Cycle now offers a 60 day trial and discount for students click here to get the deal. 

6. Headspace

You can start learning to meditate right away with Headspace’s free Basics pack and other bite-sized minis. Headspace started in 2010 and is a global leader in meditation and mindfulness through its meditation app and online content offerings. The app provides tools to help with meditation, sleep, stress and mindfulness. The sleepscapes have high-quality, outstanding ambient sounds that immerse you into the story. The app is very easy to use. Headspace is also available on Netflix!


  • Music, Meditations, Stories
  • Work-out and Yoga sessions
  • Animations
  • Articles
  • Videos
  • Kid Friendly
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

Pros: Headspace offers options to help with focus. I have used this during shifts at work that require the most focus.

Cons: There are so many features, I have not had a chance to try them all. (so, kind of a pro/con)

First 7 days are free. After that it’s $12.99 a month. If you don’t mind paying a year ahead of time, Headspace if now offering a year of Headspace for 40% off! Get your Free Trial here.

5. Calm

Calm is the leading mental wellness brand with the #1 app for sleep, guided meditation and relaxation, designed to help you manage stress, sleep better and live a happier, healthier life. There are hundreds of hours of original audio content available in seven languages, Calm supports users in more than 190 countries.

Calm was named by the Center for Humane Technology as “the world’s happiest app”.

What I like most: I love the numerous options for sleep that range from listening to a story narrated by numerous celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and LeBron James, meditations, music and soundscapes. Calm also includes a gratitude log, that reminds you to be grateful every day.


  • Music, Meditations, Stories Read by Notable Voices
  • Work-out and Yoga sessions
  • Gratitude Log
  • Breathing Techniques
  • Frequently Updated Content
  • Ideal for Use with Children
  • Easy to Use

Pros: Calm offers sleep and meditation options for kids and the “Move” feature that encourages people stretch in a therapeutic way to help achieve more relaxation. Calm now sells additional sleep products like weighted blankets and masks, sleep mists and books, to help you get the most out of your sleep routine. It’s easy to use, the layout makes sense, and the graphics and sounds are top notch.

Cons: I’m a big fan of customization and the Calm app seems to be more on the “one size fits all” page. Calm can be on the higher end financially for those seeking a free or less expensive option, this is not the app for you.

The app is free to download, and you can try it free for 7 days. They will send you an email reminder in 5 days before charging you for a membership. The membership or subscription will run $69.99 a year. You can cancel anytime.

3. YouTube (yep, I said YouTube)

Water Droplets on Red Surface

I know, I know…YouTube. Well, it’s technically an app. YouTube has thousands of FREE videos that help with anything from learning how to meditate with Sadhguru to healing your chakras with a sound bath from Healing Vibrations. You can actually find samples or whole videos from the other apps in this list with free content they have released (ahem…Calm, Headspace, etc.). YouTube can be a treasure trove of endless self-help, self-development and self-care videos.

What I like most: It’s free and again…endless! Obviously, you have to filter through what you don’t like or what is nonsense, but it’s definitely worth following those you’ve personally gained value from.


  • FREE Music, Meditations, Stories, Frequency Tones and more
  • Work-out and Yoga sessions
  • Ability to Create Your Own Playlists
  • Frequently Updated Content
  • Easy to Search and Use

Pros: YouTube is FREE! I can’t say that enough. While there is a paid version, if you don’t mind ads, it’s essentially completely free. The vast amount of information that is available is mind-boggling. One can typically learn anything they desire to learn on YouTube.

Cons: YouTube has some limitations. Some content creators do charge extra for specialized content. You don’t know if the video you’re watching is backed by scientific evidence unless the channel provides that data and info in the comments. Even with all that it still is up to whomever uploaded the video to be honest about its intent. Quality isn’t always up to par. Clearly YouTube is for a broad market, so it’s harder to find videos customized to your particular needs.

Might as well check out the YouTube Playlist I curated below and check out the recommended videos page on the blog. Need help with sleep, try my new channel: Cloud Nine Sleep Channel (I’m always open to requests, suggestions and feedback).

Recommended Videos

3. Relax Melodies (Now Better Sleep)

Relax Melodies or Better Sleep is the App Store’s #1 most positively reviewed sleep & relaxation app. They are dedicated to providing tools to help people relax and get better sleep. They believe in the power of harnessing technology and the science of sound to improve overall wellbeing.

Since sleep is unique to everyone, Better Sleep gives you the freedom to create your very own bedtime experience. Choose your favorite tracks from their HUGE library of sounds and guided content. You can layer and mix tracks together and fall asleep peacefully to your own perfect soundscape.

Relax Melodies was created by two longtime friends, Simon Alex Bérubé and Philippe Lapierre. In 2006, Phil developed tinnitus after attending a rock concert, causing him insomnia problems.

What I like most: The ability to add brainwave frequencies to your own customizable mix. They offer numerous free options to those that aren’t quite ready to buy. One of the few apps that offers hypnosis, which offers so many benefits in itself.


  • Hypnosis, Music, Meditations, Stories, Frequency Tones and more
  • Sleep Moves (stretching and exercises designed to help facilitate optimal sleep)
  • Ability to Create Your Own Playlists
  • Frequently Updated Content
  • Easy to Search and Use
  • Journaling
  • Wellness Articles

Pros: Relax Melodies is like a one stop shop. This is one of the most comprehensive sleep apps I’ve found and it’s less expensive than most of the other apps. The customizable sound mixer is one of a kind. My children love the ability to turn on and off the sounds they don’t want to hear. I like the sound of frogs and crickets and those options are available with Better Sleep…not many other apps offer this feature. There is an option to try it for FREE.

Cons: To unlock the full experience you will need to buy a subscription. Not many downsides to this app.

You can always start with the option to use the free content. You can get 20% off your total subscription by clicking on my affiliate link here. Or use discount code: ALLFORMYSELF20. Better sleep will often run deals if you download the app and click “upgrade.”

2. Loóna

This app is a new way that lets you quickly disconnect from a long stressful day and get in the right mood for sleep. They designed Loóna to become a part of your evening routine, a sanctuary for the mind, a safe place where you can restore your mental and help you to create emotional balance.

This app prepares you emotionally for sleep. It helps you to change your mood for optimal sleep and helps you disengage from stressful thoughts. Loona is backed by scientific evidence that helps you reframe emotions and bring balance to your nervous system.

What I like most: I honestly cannot say enough about this app. It’s in my top 3 for a reason. I love the graphics, the music, the stories (and I’m not a big fictional story person). The guided, immersive, coloring sleepscapes have helped me fall asleep easier and have better quality of sleep overall. I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to a new adventure each night prior to bedtime. This app brings back tons of nostalgia. Additionally, both my children use this app. My youngest requests a “story” every night before bed and loves to choose his own sleepscape every night. My oldest child finds comfort after a long stressful day at school or after completing in sports.


  • Immersive Stories
  • Sleepscapes
  • Nature Sounds & Soothing Sleep Music
  • Guided Imagery
  • Art Activities
  • NEW – Breathing Exercises
  • NEW – Short Self-Care Exercises (5 minutes or less)

Pros: You can try this app for free and use it on several devices. This app is unlike most other sleep and meditation apps. Loona offers a creative way to release your stress at the end of the day like no other sleep apps available.

Cons: The app is free to download, but after the first session, you will be prompted to buy a subscription. There is NOT a completely free version available.

The subscription is $12.99 monthly, or a lifetime subscription for $69.99. I believe this app is worth every single penny and I am a current lifetime member.

1. Balance *My #1 Favorite

I have personally recommended the Balance app to patients, friends and family. This meditation adapts specifically to you by gathering real time feedback from you, yourself. This is the world’s first personalized meditation app.

Each day, you answer short questions about your meditation experience, goals, and challenges. This customizes your experience specifically to your needs. Let’s say you didn’t fully understand how to “label” your pain, Balance occasionally checks in with you to make certain you fully understand and if not, it will give you a chance to review the skill again or it will subtly reintroduce the concept.

Balance allows you to access an audio library with thousands of files, and Balance assembles meditations personalized for you based on your responses. The more you share over time, the more personalized and effective your meditations become.

What I like most: Balance will “teach” you how to mediate and provide insights as to why meditation and mindfulness works. I love soothing voices (Ofosu Jones-Quartey is my fave) and the vibration-based immersive experiences. You can literally “feel” the wind. You can also gift Balance to your friends and family by offering them a FREE YEAR!


  • NEW – Sleep Journals
  • Bedtime Stories Featuring Nature Sounds
  • Immersive Stories, Meditations and Focus Specific “Plans”
  • Short Meditations (less than 10 minutes)
  • Time of Day Specific Meditations (Wind Down, Focus, etc.)
  • Crisis Interventions (Pain, SOS, Grief, etc.)
  • Progress Tracking

As I mentioned above you can experience Balance for one FREE year and then gift Balance to your friends and family so they too can benefit. Get your free year on me, here. After your year is up the lifetime membership is $139.99 billed one time.  Occasionally Balance offers up to a 65% discount if you buy a lifetime membership, which I think is worth every penny even at full price.

Keep in mind that there are soooooo many apps similar to these that offer even more tools. Most of these apps are not 100% free and some are completely free with limited features.  These were just a few of my favorites. If you have an app that has helped you tremendously, I would love to hear about it and share with the community in a future post.

Registered Nurse | Website | + posts

Things Always Get Better - I have truly lived. I’ve had good times and bad times. I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister, a psych nurse and a soon to be wife. I love writing about my passions, what interest me, what interests others, and sharing all of my thoughts with my readers. I want everyone to have the chance to live their happiest life. This blog is truly my own little passion project, gaining more and more traction each day. I hope you enjoy browsing my site and all of the unique content I have to offer. Take a look around; perhaps you’ll discover what fuels you as well. Read on and enjoy!
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