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Your Alexa is your secret weapon for better sleep

 Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker on a bedside table.
Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker on a bedside table.

If you're mostly using your Alexa device to time your pasta or tell you if it's going to rain today, you're missing a trick. Alexa also has a bunch of features designed to help you sleep better, and the real benefit here is that using a voice assistant means you're not picking up your phone, and can avoid evening screen time and the distraction of work emails or TikTok. If you want to take things to the next level, you can even chain them together to create an automated Alexa routine (here's more on exactly how to do that).

If you don't have an Alexa-enabled speaker, and this convinces you it's time to invest, our guide to the best smart speakers will help you choose – the 2020 Echo currently has the top spot (you can read about that in our Amazon Echo (4th gen) review). Now read on for five Alexa skills to try tonight for a good night's sleep.

1. Listen to a story

Reading before bed is an effective way to wind down in the evening, but for a more seamless transition into sleep, listening to an audiobook is a great choice. Alexa has a selection of free short stories designed for exactly this purpose: just say “Alexa, read me a nighttime story”. If you have an audiobook already on the go, ask your smart speaker to resume playing that. Set a timer so you don't need to remember to wake up and turn it off.

2. Play white noise

Many people find it soothing to have white noise playing in the background while they drift off to sleep. It can be especially helpful if you're often distracted by noisy neighbors or traffic on the street outside, as the white noise can help mask those sounds to make them less jarring.

Alexa has a free skill called Sleep Jar that can be used to play calming white noise. There's a library of ambient sounds to choose from, so if the lapping ocean or drizzly rain just makes you need the bathroom, you can pick more general nature sounds or generic white noise instead.

Say “Alexa, play white noise” or “Alexa, play nature sounds” to launch. (Even if you don't use it for sleep, white noise can still help you relax, as our Sleep writer discovered when she tested it out.)

Amazon Echo smart speaker on a bedside table
Amazon Echo smart speaker on a bedside table

3. Turn on a night light

Darkness is one important way that your body knows it's time to sleep. However, if you can't doze off in a pitch-black room, there's a skill you can use to turn your Echo device into a low-level nightlight. Say, 'Alexa, open Night Light' and it'll cast a dim glow in your room. Add a time limit, like '... for 30 minutes', to that command, and it'll turn itself off after you've had time to fall asleep, too.

4. Try a guided meditation

It's difficult to sleep when you're stressed. If it's a busy mind that's preventing you from dropping off, Alexa has a guided meditation skill to help calm things down. Say “Alexa, open Guided Meditation” and your speaker will play a different meditation exercise every day. This gives you something relaxing to focus on and helps slow your thoughts.

Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker on a bedside table
Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker on a bedside table

5. Play soothing music

You probably know that your smart speaker can play music, but in case it slipped your mind, if podcasts or white noise aren't your sleep aid of choice, perhaps a gentle playlist will do the trick. You could even use the music as a timer for your bedtime routine, so you're not clock-watching while you go about your pre-bed tasks.