ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Four out of five people in a recent consumer reports survey say they have problems sleeping at least once a week.

More of them are turning from sleep meds to sleep apps. But can they help? Here's Better Call Harry.

Nanci Luis Hernandez has a lively family and a busy full-time job, and she struggles every night to get enough sleep -- often logging four hours or fewer before the alarm rings.

"I'll be lying in bed and my mind is just going a mile a minute," says Hernandez.

Over the counter meds have provided some relief, but they're not recommended for long-term use. Could Nanci get some help on her phone? Sleep apps are booming. Downloads of several of them have increased 20 percent in the past year.

"While there has been some research on the effectiveness of sleep apps, it's preliminary at best," says Diane Umansky, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

There are several different types of sleep apps available. White noise apps might help by blocking out that barking dog or those rowdy neighbors. Other apps lead you through guided imagery, meditation and even hypnosis to calm your racing mind.

A third type of app tracks your sleep patterns -- like how long it takes you to fall asleep and how long you spend in deeper stages of sleep.

And then there are apps that us cognitive behavioral therapy -- or CBT -- similar to the techniques a trained therapist would use to help you fix bad sleep habits.

"The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that cognitive behavioral therapy is best first step in treating chronic insomnia. That's because it can help you change the thoughts and behaviors that can lead to sleep problems," added Umansky.

The cognitive behavioral apps may work best in conjunction with in-person CBT therapy.

Nanci says worrying is what keeps her awake and she'd love to find a way to put her concerns aside so she can sleep.

The fine print on most of these apps say they are marketed as entertainment or lifestyle apps, not medical devices. So their effectiveness has not been evaluated by the FDA.

Copyright 2019 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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