Is Insomnia Coach the Best App for Improving Sleep Hygiene?


If you’re anything like me, a good night’s sleep has become somewhat of a luxury. As society’s collective cry for restful sleep grows louder, the app market has seen an influx of tools promising to be the remedy for such restless nights.

Developed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs and the National Center for PTSD, Insomnia Coach isn’t just another sleep tracker. It’s a digital sleep coach that aims to diagnose and slowly correct poor sleep hygiene. Learn what makes this app unique and why it might be worth considering if you struggle to sleep.

Understanding Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene isn’t about having clean sheets (though you are probably overdue for a wash). It refers to the habits and practices that set the stage for a night of quality rest. It encompasses the bedtime rituals, the environment you sleep in, and even the activities you engage in during the day.

Poor sleep hygiene can lead to difficulty falling asleep, frequent nighttime awakenings, and waking up feeling unrefreshed. Factors like consistent bedtimes, a cool and dark sleeping environment, and avoiding caffeine or electronics before bed all play pivotal roles in sleep hygiene.

By tracking your sleep patterns and paying extra attention to sleep hygiene, you pave the way for a night of uninterrupted, quality rest, giving your body and mind the rejuvenation they need.

Features of Insomnia Coach

When you start using the Insomnia Coach app, you realize that the entire premise of the app is based on something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, commonly known as CBTi.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

At its core, CBTi is a structured program that helps individuals identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep.

CBTi is also a proven approach to treat chronic sleep problems such as insomnia, according to the Sleep Foundation. It’s not just about changing sleep habits, but also about addressing the thoughts and behaviors around sleep.

And this is why Insomnia Coach shines as a sleep modification solution. Unlike sleeping pills, CBTi helps you sustainably overcome the root causes of your sleep problems without the risk of dependency and without having to go to (or pay for) in-person therapy sessions.

How Insomnia Coach Uses CBTi to Help You Sleep

Here are some ways the app incorporates CBTi principles.

Behavioral Strategies

The app guides you through techniques like sleep restriction and stimulus control, which are foundational to CBTi. I’ve found these strategies work by breaking behavioral patterns that lead to insomnia (like going to bed and waking up at different times each night) and rebuilding a healthy sleep routine.

Insomnia Coach also includes guided relaxation exercises and mindfulness techniques, aligning with CBTi’s approach to managing sleep-related anxiety.

Cognitive Techniques

Insomnia Coach offers tools to challenge and change sleep-disruptive beliefs. This includes addressing misconceptions about sleep and restructuring negative thought patterns that contribute to insomnia. Be sure to read all the information available on the app! This includes following the app’s Rules of Sleep outlined.

Sleep Progress Tracking

As with all CBT-based interventions, tracking progress is key. The app’s daily reminder to complete your sleep diary aligns with CBTi’s emphasis on monitoring and adjusting based on outcomes.

Being able to see the impact of new sleep habits is very encouraging, so be sure to do this every day. It’ll also provide the app with enough data for it to be able to recommend when you should go to bed, and when you should get out of bed.

For example, I was surprised when the app told me to go to bed later than I thought was needed. However, by doing so, I am building a stronger sleep drive during the day and am able to fall asleep more quickly.

Tailored Sleep Education

The app provides tailored information about sleep and insomnia based on where you are having trouble (falling asleep, waking up during the night, getting out of bed on time, etc.), ensuring you understand how your behaviors are affecting your sleep.

Sleep Assessment

Before diving into solutions, Insomnia Coach assesses your current sleep habits and recommends where you might want to focus your attention. The app also includes a periodic survey to calculate an insomnia severity score before making recommendations for when to go to bed or wake up.

Daily Sleep Diary

Like many smartwatch apps that can track your sleep, Insomnia Coach uses daily reminders to track your sleep patterns, bedtime rituals, and wake-up times.

Progressive Goals

Based on recurring sleep assessments, the app will set progressive weekly goals, nudging you towards better sleep hygiene practices.

Pros of Using Insomnia Coach

Here’s a look at the key advantages that make this app a top choice for those seeking better sleep.

Rooted in Science

The backbone of Insomnia Coach is CBTi, a method that has been extensively researched and proven effective in treating insomnia.

Unlike many apps that rely on general advice or anecdotal evidence, Insomnia Coach is grounded in a method that’s been vetted by the scientific community (the doctors who contributed to the app’s development are listed in the app for reference).

Expert Endorsement

Given its development by the US Department of Veteran Affairs and the National Center for PTSD, the app carries a stamp of credibility.

Comprehensive Approach

While many sleep apps focus solely on tracking sleep or playing relaxing sounds, Insomnia Coach offers a holistic approach. It addresses both the behavioral and cognitive aspects of sleep, ensuring users tackle insomnia from multiple angles.

Personalized Feedback

The app doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, it assesses individual sleep patterns and provides tailored feedback, making the advice more relevant and actionable for each person.

Cons and Limitations of Insomnia Coach

Here are some areas where Insomnia Coach might not fully meet the needs of all its users.

Not a Replacement for In-Person Therapy

While the app integrates CBTi principles, it can’t fully replicate the experience of in-person therapy. You might benefit more from face-to-face interactions with a trained therapist.

Generic Recommendations

Despite its personalized feedback, you might find that the app’s recommendations can occasionally feel generic or not entirely tailored to your unique situation.

Not Suitable for All Sleep Disorders

While Insomnia Coach is designed primarily for insomnia, it is not effective for other sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

At the end of the day, if you try Insomnia Coach and decide it isn’t for you, you can always check out one of many other apps that use CBT for insomnia.

Choosing a Sleep App That Works for You

Insomnia Coach offers a robust approach to tackling sleep challenges, grounded in science and expert insights. While it stands out among other apps for its simplicity and utility, it does have limitations.

The key is to use it as one of many tools in your sleep toolkit, complementing it with other practices and, if needed, professional advice.

Las Vegas News Magazine

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