Are sleep apps helpful or a sign of a bigger problem?

People turn to sleep apps to help catch more z's

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DETROIT - Sleep: We all need it and few of us get enough. Some non-sleepers turn to medications, but recently many of those who are sleep deprived are using sleep apps on their smartphones to help them get some extra z's.

When it comes to going to bed, a lot of us are so stressed, we just can't get any shut-eye. There are plenty of medications that claim they can help people sleep, but some drugs have side effects, so a lot of folks choose to toss and turn until they doze off.

Introducing sleep apps, applications you can download on your smartphone, or tablets.

From using soothing sounds that help you relax, to tracking your sleep patterns, these apps claim they can help you get a better night's sleep.

"The fact that people are starting to recognize the importance of sleep is the bonus," said Dr. Neal Maru of Integrated Neurology Services.

But do they really help when it comes to your health?

"They are not really going to diagnose anything," said Maru. "They are not going to be able to treat a patient with any type of sleep disorder."

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced they will begin monitoring health apps, to make sure they are safe, and do what they claim.

Doctors say even if these programs do cause you to become drowsy, chances are those who download them are having sleep problems that may need to be treated by a physician, because many sleep issues, such as sleep apnea, can lead to serious problems.

"If a person is having an issue with their sleep, that may be why they downloaded the app in the first place," Maru said, "and if that is the case certainly seeking medical advice and certainly testing could be beneficial."

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