Apps, trackers and sound machines: what you need to know.

These three terms often cause confusion and, in addition to continued insomnia, buyer’s remorse. Here is how you could think of the three: Sleep apps may or may not include trackers, but sleep trackers just track sleep. Sound machines may include all of the above.

It’s important to know the difference between apps and devices that identify how you sleep (sleep trackers) vs. those that claim to actually help you sleep better.

Sleep Trackers:

You wake up tired, or maybe you know for a fact you’ve gone without healthy sleep for a while now and suspect there may be a problem with your sleep environment. When activated, sleep trackers monitor body movement, patterns and the environment around you to determine how well you sleep at night. At best, they track heart rate, surrounding movement and supposedly monitor sleep patterns – when you’re in restful or wakeful sleep. The price range for a tracker, is usually from “free” (in app form) to about 400$ for a home sleep test.

But how helpful are they if you need to sleep? In an article titled: Sleep-tracking apps: Can they really help you rest easy? Washington Post writer, Hayley Tsukuyama, says “They aren’t stand-alone solutions for fixing whatever it is that makes you wake up tired. They’ll only tell you that it’s happening.” Her article goes on to review different features of a few trendy devices that can alert you to a possible cause for sleep disturbance, but stops there.

Don’t expect much out them except confirmation that yes, you in deed are having trouble sleeping. (No, duh.)

Sleep Apps:

Gaining in popularity because of how portable and easy they are to access via your smartphone, sleep applications (apps) usually include sleep tracking mechanisms, but are also often packaged with soothing sounds that ease you to sleep or just cause you to relax. Also, certain apps can include alarms and even be “programmed with “a ‘smart’ alarm that (helps) detect when you’re in light sleep to wake you at the best possible time within a 30-minute window before a time of your choosing.” Pretty fancy and with prices ranging from “free” to 1.99, it may be worth the risk of trying out.

Even at that price and with all those bells and whistles, are they really effective at keeping you asleep? What if your neighbor’s dog starts barking loudly at 2am, or your partners snoring reaches its highest volume long after you’ve gone to sleep?

Katy Somers, director of the Better Sleep program at the University of Guelph, Ont., says these apps may help some users by distracting busy brains from stressful thoughts. The steady, calming noise will also mask outdoor sounds and the little creaks and bumps in the night that prevent some people from falling asleep. However, she cautions that listening to the same soundtrack all night may backfire on you. “Our brains will tend to follow those kinds of sounds and try to predict the next part of the music.”

While sleep apps and most sound machines may offer these sound preferences to get you to sleep, the sound track is on a loop, so they are not effective at keeping you asleep.

“A sound track has a beginning and an end, said Brian Brockhouse, Sound Story Production Manager, Adaptive Sound Technologies.  “After listening to the sleep sound track a few times, your brain begins to anticipate the end, which is also disruptive to the sleep process. That’s why a non-looping sound track is important to help you stay asleep.” Adaptive Sound Technologies, Sound+Sleep, sound machines and white noise machines accomplish this objective by providing users with non-looping sounds, whether they are listening to the rainfall or ocean sound story preference on the Sound+Sleep or MINI sound machines, or if they are listening to the ‘LectroFan, white noise machine.

Sound Machines:

Which leads us to a different option with, according to many customers, lasting results: Sound Machines, or “Sleep Therapy Systems”. People may think that a sound machine or white noise machine is the best overall option because they help solve the problem (not just ask the question, why am I not sleeping?). They are packaged with a variety of soothing, sounds that take your mind to balmy tropical places or babbling mountain streams, and there are a lot of sound machine brands to choose from.

But how effective are they at helping you get to sleep and even stay asleep? Many will agree that listening to soothing sounds like ocean waves or the sound of an electric fan can help you relax, but they don’t know why. “Your brain is active when you sleep. You hear sounds and if they are startling, they can disrupt your sleep. The sound of an ocean wave or the repeated hum an electric fan fixates your brain on that sound while masking out other noises that could interrupt your sleep,” says Ira Chayut, Founder and VP of Engineering, Adaptive Sound Technologies, Inc.

In short, they help you tune out disruptive, ambient noise.

It’s important to choose a sound machine that lulls you to sleep. Many sound machines boast a variety of soothing sounds, but as mentioned they are on a looped sound track, so you wake up when your brain begins to anticipate the end of the track. Even if the sounds are non-looped, other noises can out-sound the sound machine. Snoring being the most obvious, noisy neighbors or traffic can also be the culprit. Bar none, Sound+Sleep, Sleep Therapy Systems and the ‘LectroFan White Noise machine are the best products that mask sounds, and adjust to noise levels to block out disruptive noise that could wake you up.

Patented adaptive sound technology featured in the Sound+Sleep and Sound+Sleep MINI adjust to noise levels in your environment while you sleep. Noisy neighbors? Barking dog? Snoring spouse? Sleep through it all with Sound+Sleep products. Used to the mesmerizing effects of White Noise? Our best-selling product, the ‘LectroFan, has 12 different levels of white noise / fan sounds that mask noise allowing for sleep and speech privacy.

Sam Nicolino, Founder and CEO of Adaptive Sound Technologies says, “We spent years researching and developing a product that helps people that suffer from sleep deprivation – due to a myriad of causes, includingTinnitus, get to sleep and stay asleep. The Sound+Sleep and ‘LectroFan have received rave reviews from customers not just because they are products that do what they say they will do – but because quality of life has vastly improved—our ultimate goal achieved.”

For more information on the Sound+Sleep and ‘LectroFan Sound Machines, visit

More from Sleep Central

young happy woman woke up in the morning in the bedroom by the window with her back

This Week’s Sleep News In Review

Young African woman sitting in her living room and texting. Tired and sleepy black woman yawning

An interactive map of sleep problems worldwide

Dog muzzle jack russell terrier against the sky with colored fireworks. Safety of pets during fireworks concept

Summer Sounds Can Stress Pets


Don't just take our word for it.

We don’t take the term “sleep like a baby,” lightly. We know you don’t either. Want advice from a baby whisperer? Our sleep trainers understand.


Sleeping Pills Addiction and Treatment


How White Noise Helps You Sleep


Sleep hygiene: 8 ways to train your brain for better sleep


Study Reveals A Surprising New Natural Painkiller