How I Hacked My Amazon Echo to Help Me Sleep Better

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The Amazon Echo ($99)—colloquially known by the name of its voice command technology, Alexa—has been one of the top-selling gadgets every holiday season since its release. Since Alexa came into my life, she has seemed to get a little smarter every day, and I’ve grown more knowledgeable about her capabilities.

The beauty of the device is that it has an ever-growing selection of “skills” to install. While I love asking Alexa about the weather and for a news update, I’ve also found the Echo to be a great tool for improving my sleep habits. Ahead, learn how you can hack your Echo for better sleep.

How to Hack Your Amazon Echo for Better Sleep

Ask for a sleep playlist

You can create a sleep-specific playlist either on Amazon Music or Spotify. For example, I prefer brown noise to white noise, so I made a Spotify playlist with just one track of brown noise and titled it "Sleep Sounds." To play it, I ask Alexa to "play 'Sleep Sounds' on loop" so she knows to repeat the track indefinitely. There's also an application for Alexa called Sleep Sounds, which has 40+ different noises to fall asleep to. You can also ask her to play "Sleep Music," which she will dutifully do.

Ask for a sleep timer

The Echo does have a handy capability to turn off any functions or noise after a given amount of time. After queuing up my sleep noise playlist, for example, I ask Alexa to set a sleep timer for 10 or 20 minutes so that it doesn’t play the noise all night.

Ask for thunderstorm sounds

A second way to hack the Echo into a noise machine is to enable a skill called Ambient Noise, which offers ocean, rain, and thunderstorm sounds. While it lacks the customization of searching noises and crafting my own playlist on Spotify, it makes up for it in convenience: I simply ask Alexa to “play thunderstorm sounds,” and she complies. (And since not all thunderstorm noises are created equal, I’ll vouch for this one—it’s ambling and very calming.)

Ask for a meditation

There are a handful of great meditation and breathing skills on the Echo. There’s one devoted to the 4-7-8 breathing technique. However, I passed on this one since Alexa dictates the “inhale” and “exhale” commands, and her robotic voice is a little jarring when I’m trying to fall asleep.

My favorite is Stop, Breathe & Think, a popular mindfulness app that syncs with the Echo. It’s essentially a guided meditation, and it’s different every day—the sessions are quick, too, usually ranging from one to five minutes. The voice is so soothing, and I typically don’t even make it to the end of the meditation before drifting off.

Ask for a bedtime story

Alexa is capable of lulling you to sleep with bedtime stories. However, the first time I asked Alexa to tell me a tale, she got sassy. "Hold onto your hats," she said. "This one's a nail-biter: Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after. The end."

As it turns out, you need to give Alexa a name to work with to enable an actual, sarcasm-free bedtime story. For example, you can say, "Alexa, tell a bedtime story to Victoria." She then weaves a personalized story—for example, the tale of a queen named Victoria who ruled the land of Victoriaburg. It's a skill intended for kids, but it gave me a chuckle nonetheless as I settled into bed for the night.

It's also worth noting that the Echo syncs up with Audible, so you could easily fall asleep to your chosen audiobook. You just ask Alexa to read the book by name and request she set a sleep timer for a given amount of time to ensure the book doesn't play all night.

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