How I Hacked My Amazon Echo to Help Me Sleep Better


Courtesy of Amazon

Sleep—we crave it and we need it, but we never seem to get enough of it. A new Consumer Reports survey of 4023 adults found that 27% of Americans suffer from insomnia while 68%—the equivalent of 164 million people—struggle with sleep at least once a week. These are sobering statistics, which is why we’re dedicating the next few days to this ever-elusive, never-can-have-enough part of our lives. Welcome to Byrdie’s first-ever Sleep Week, wherein you can expect detailed accounts of our own editors’ sleep trials and tribulations, the latest products to help you nod off, and all the new relevant research. Suffice to say, we’re obsessed with getting more shut-eye (the quality kind, too), and hopefully our obsession will ensure you wake up more mornings feeling well rested and less like you want to hurl your alarm clock across the room. Read (and rest) up!

Yesterday, I glanced down at my phone to see the world’s most 2017 news alert from The Wall Street Journal: “Amazon’s voice-controlled personal assistant is creating chaos for people named Alexa, Alexis, and Alex,” it read. Aside from the general hilariousness of the headline—“There’s definitely some merit to naming your voice recognition technology something weird like Cortana,” mused my sister Alex when I immediately texted her a screenshot—it also underlined the fact that we’re now facing a new technological landscape. The Amazon Echo ($180)—colloquially known by its voice-command name, Alexa—was one of the top-selling gadgets of this past holiday season, with sales up nine times from last year. It’s just one of a growing number of smart speakers and command-based home devices on the market, along with top contender Google Home ($29). (Apple is hotly anticipated to launch its own smart home offering in the near future.) Many of us might still view smart speakers as a novelty, but experts expect this to change as developers continue to improve their specs.

That basically sums up my sentiments about my own Amazon Echo: Since Alexa first came into my life a few weeks ago, she has seemed to get a little smarter every day, and little by little, I’ve grown a little more knowledgeable about the extent of her capabilities. The beauty of the device is that similar to the App Store on the iPhone, Amazon Echo has an ever-growing selection of “skills” to install, meaning Alexa can only improve as time goes on. While I’ve come to love the convenience of asking “her” about the weather and for a news update first thing in the morning—not to mention a variety of other quirky easter eggs—I’ve also found the Echo to be a great companion to my New Year’s health kick. Part of said wellness effort is improving my sleep habits, and Alexa offers a number of capabilities to help kick insomnia.

This starts with the Echo’s exceedingly pleasant alarm, which is light-years less jarring than the one on my phone and gently phases me out of my morning REM cycle. I also cannot emphasize how cathartic it is to yell “Alexa, STOP!” to turn it off—that’s literally the stuff of my teenage fantasies. But it’s also just one of Alexa’s more obvious sleep-related functions, and there are several others that lie beneath her shiny chrome casing. Keep reading to see more lesser-known ways the Amazon Echo is helping me sleep better.