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All the ways tech can help you relax

The feature changes your phone in two ways. For one, it turns the entire interface to grayscale, not only to ease the pressure on your eyes, but also to make those colored icons less tempting. It also enables Do Not Disturb mode, which means no sounds or notifications from any apps—only alarms and calls from starred contacts will go through. Tap on Do Not Disturb for Bedtime Mode to see and edit the list of people you’ve chosen as your important contacts. If you’re not comfortable with total silence, you can create a list of apps that can override this mode. Just go back to Settings, Do Not Disturb, and then Apps. There you’ll be able to see the apps that can currently override the mode, and add more to the list by tapping on Add apps.

To make it a habit, you can schedule your phone to go in and out of Bedtime Mode automatically. Set it to turn on when you charge your phone at night, or at a specific time—maybe an hour before your bedtime—and have it switch off whenever your phone alarm is set to ring. Here you can also choose the days of the week you want to activate this setting.

Wind Down, Bedtime Mode’s precursor, had a Night Light option that could be used in tandem with, or instead of, the grayscale mode. It added a warm amber glow to the screen that reduced blue light—which has been linked with the disruption of our circadian rhythms—and therefore made it easier for you to feel sleepy. This feature is no longer linked to Bedtime Mode, but it lives on in Android 12. If it’s something you think you might benefit from, you can find it and turn it on by going to Display, then Night Light.

Like Wind Down, Downtime is intended to put your phone into a Do Not Disturb mode, which is less distracting. It also limits access to apps of your choosing to prevent you from falling into the temptation of spending another few minutes scrolling through Instagram or Facebook—which, we all know, could turn into hours.

By default, when Downtime is active, most apps (except for a few including Safari, Clock, Settings, Maps, Messages and FaceTime) will be grayed out with a small hourglass icon next to them. If you try to launch one, you’ll get an alert that you’ve reached your time limit on that particular app. You can tap Ignore Limit to use the app for 1 minute, 15 minutes, or the rest of the day, but your phone will remind your limit after that time. This should at least be annoying enough to make you think twice about firing up Netflix late at night.

The app includes more than 30 natural sounds and scenes to help you chill out or nod off, and new ones are added daily. While some content (like the spoken meditations) requires a $60-per-year subscription, there’s enough stuff here to fully enjoy the app for free.

Noisli for Android and iOS will set you back $2 but is worth the investment. It lets you mix and match sounds like rain in the forest or a train along a track, then build them up in layers to create your perfect, never-ending chill-out mix. Experimenting with different sounds is a lot of fun, and the fade-out function lets you have the audio stop when you’re sleeping.

Pzizz for Android and iOS offers a combination of soothing sounds—such as melodic music or nature sounds—and voice cues to help you get to sleep faster. Do not use this app up while operating heavy machinery, because you could be out like a light within 10 minutes, based on our experience. The sounds you hear are generated with algorithms based on scientific research, so they change automatically to help lure you into the Land of Nod.

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