Technology: Part of the Problem but Also Part of the Solution
It’s important to point out that technology is not exactly our ally when it comes to getting enough sleep. There’s a growing body of research out there saying that our “tech hygiene” (meaning the habits we employ in incorporating technology into our lives) are making it harder to sleep. Technology is a mental stimulant. Becoming too engrossed in our games or texting in the evenings tends to delay the onset of sleepiness. Those bright backlit screens are part of the problem too. The light can disrupt our circadian rhythms, fooling the body into thinking it’s daytime. Instead of your brain releasing that much-needed cocktail of sleep chemicals, it’s all too easy to find yourself wide awake and pressing start on yet another game of Words With Friends. However, some technologies show great promise in helping us understand our sleep patterns and gradually improving on them over time. Here are some of the more promising possibilities. Noise Altering Technology
Noisli – Free Few people can sleep well in a noisy environment, or one in which sound is sporadic and disruptive. All too easily it jolts the body out of sleep and into full wakefulness. This is a huge issue for people living with partners who snore, or for those who live in densely populated areas. Noisli is a free-to-use website which offers a way to mask those sleep-disturbing sounds. While there are plenty of white noise apps out there, the beauty of Noisli lies in its ability to allow you to mix the perfect blend of sounds for your situation. The sounds loop seamlessly and, handily, they’re sorted by broad theme so it’s easy to narrow in on exactly the sounds you need. Philips SmartSleep Deep Sleep Headband – $399 White noise may well be all you need if you only need a small nudge into restful sleep. On the other hand, if you struggle with constant noise issues or are naturally a light sleeper, you may require a more sophisticated and adaptable solution. The Philips SmartSleep Headband streams a soothing wall of white noise into your ears, but with one key difference. Employing two small sensors, The SmartSleep Headband tracks your sleep state and adapts sound to your sleep cycle. When you’re in the lightest and most fragile stages of sleep the headband works to block disruptive ambient sound. As you drift into deeper levels of sleep, the headband gradually transitions to sound which is designed to maximize the quality of deep sleep. This product is a great option if you have persistent sleep problems and need a bit more help than simple white noise. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock – Free Good quality sleep isn’t just about getting enough hours. It’s also about how you wake up. If you find you’re constantly sleeping through your alarm or suffer from prolonged grogginess after you wake up, the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock app may be a useful addition to your sleep technology. This app uses sound analysis to identify when you transition from deep to light sleep and trigger a gentle alarm to gently pull you from a sleep state to wakefulness. It’s a more natural way to wake up and many find it helps them start the day feeling more rested and relaxed. Sleep Position Technology
Smart Nora – $299 Snoring isn’t just a problem for those who need to listen to it. It also greatly reduces the quality of sleep for the person who is snoring. Chronic and persistent snoring can disrupt the airways and cause poor, non-refreshing sleep. Smart Nora works by subtly altering your sleeping position when the sleeper begins to snore. A tiny device which sits unobtrusively in a standard pillowcase, this device will gently inflate when it detects snoring sounds, causing the head to shift into a better position for unobstructed breathing. It’s a clever and simple solution for people suffering from mild to moderate snoring issues. O2 Vibe Sleep & Fitness Monitor by Bodimetrics – $199 The Vibe Sleep & Fitness Monitor monitor serves a similar purpose but it works by directly detecting blood oxygen levels using a tiny light sensor placed on the thumb. The Sleep & Fitness Monitor will emit a tiny vibration when blood oxygen levels fall below a healthy threshold, giving the sleeper a gentle reminder to move into a better sleeping position. The technology provides great peace of mind for people concerned about their breathing habits during sleep. Light Manipulation
Hue Smart Lighting – MSRP $150 Lighting has come a long way in the last few years. LED lights surround us, providing a cheap, energy efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs. Any artificial light poses a problem for sleep though. By simulating the effects of the sun, our interior lighting can greatly alter circadian rhythms and delay sleepiness. This is a particular problem for conventional LED lights, with their higher blue light component. The Hue Smart Lighting system gives you greater control over your lighting, with a range of lighting options that can be more conducive to sleep. By opting for yellower and gentler light in the evening, you can more readily ease into drowsiness and, hopefully, get a better night’s sleep. Then in the morning, the system can be used to generate some bright and cheerful rays — perfect for launching into your day. Verilux HappyLight Touch – $80 The Verilux HappyLight Touch is another light product with a lot of promise for the sleep-challenged among us. These lights are “full spectrum,” meaning they are designed to precisely copy the quality of sunlight. Working under these lights is like being out in the sun (though without the risk of sunburn). Used during the day, this product can help turn on your body’s natural drowsiness response in the evening. Sleep Mindfulness
Withings Sleep Tracker – $100 We’re increasingly learning that attitude to and awareness of our sleep behaviors are an important part of improving our sleep behaviors. The problem lies in the fact that sleep occurs when we aren’t conscious of it — making it a challenge to track and understand this part of our lives. Withings Sleep provides a novel and effective solution. This thin mattress underlay is simply placed underneath your standard mattress. Through the night it captures a wealth of data about your sleep behavior; sleep position, ambient sounds, snoring, temperature, and other variables are all brought together to create an accurate picture of how you sleep. You can then use this valuable data to develop strategies to better improve your sleep over time. Smiling Mind – Free You may also wish to explore the impact of meditation on sleep, through the free app, Smiling Mind . This resource offers a range of meditation exercises designed to reintroduce a measure of calm into your busy life. For the large majority of us, sleep isn’t a state which comes naturally. Getting enough sleep can require thought, planning and experimentation. Thankfully, technology can be put to good work in helping us achieve the sleep we need to feel rested and remain healthy.