By Leslie Wyman
From smartphones to computers and large television monitors, technology is all around us, just lurking and waiting to steal our precious hours of sleep away from us. It’s not surprising why people blame technology for a lot of sleepless nights.
In fact, research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reveals that four out of ten Americans or 39 percent of the population use cell phone before going to bed.
While technology may be a leading cause of sleep deprivation, and despite numerous studies in the adverse effects of using technology before bed, there are still some benefits to it. There are many ways that technology can help you sleep better, and it’s through various functionalities of the devices that you use.
Lessen Exposure to Blue Light
In America alone, more than 95 percent of the population own a cell phone of some kind. 78 percent are Men, and 75 percent are women. These numbers show that a lot of people use their devices after waking up and before going to sleep. And being exposed to a device’s screen means also exposing one’s self to blue light.
Blue light is perfect for the day since it stimulates alertness and energy, but too much blue light, especially during the night, prevents the brain from producing a sleep-promoting hormone called melatonin. The decrease of melatonin at night makes it harder for an individual to get sleepy.
Rebecca Scott, Ph.D., research assistant professor of the New York University Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center-Sleep Center, explains, “If we’re exposed to that type of light within an hour to two hours before bed, it suppresses the melatonin rhythm. So what happens is the brain doesn’t get the signal that it’s night time and time for us to go to sleep.”
There are some ways to reduce a person’s exposure to the blue light even when using a phone during the dark. Experts recommend using filters, which uses a ‘warmer’ orange light in your phone after sunset; based on your time zone and location. This method works because red light has the least effect on the production of melatonin.
Filtering is easy to achieve in smartphones since various apps can alter the screen’s color, changing it to the redder end of the spectrum. Using this kind of technology allows you to browse social media apps while having no trouble sleeping afterward. Thus, this method helps in battling the adverse effects that technology has in your sleep.
Apps and Devices That Are Useful
Mobile apps that help perform tasks using the data people provide can help regulate your sleep. These apps use mathematical models to recommend optimal times on when to be exposed to light and dark. These apps assist people for them to wake up to a much better time or help understand their body’s sleeping patterns.
For instance, an app developed by researchers at the University of Michigan helps shift workers and travelers cope up with disrupted sleeping cycles to adapt their body to the environment more quickly. Using the data provided by the user, the app suggests when they need to wake up. This app is useful for those who travel across time zones or operate their body outside the “normal” hours of work.
People also developed devices that allow you to wake up during the light sleep phase by calculating your body movements. This device wakes you up by flashing a blue light which slowly increases in brightness and plays a tune loud enough to wake you up.
This device can come in handy because it gradually wakes you up during the light sleep phase, rather than in the middle of deep sleep or during Rapid Eye Movement sleep, which can then lead to a more refreshed feeling when waking up.
Relax and Meditate Through Your Devices
Blue light isn’t always the one to blame when it comes to devices that keep you awake. Even when you already filtered your screens during the night, it does not help when you’re still thinking about the stress or fuzz of your virtual world. For instance, checking work emails before going to sleep, sends your mind into crisis mode, which can be difficult to overcome.
Dr. Carl Bazil, Ph.D., director of the Epilepsy and Sleep Division of the Department of Neurology at Columbia University explains, “I think that the number one problem with devices is not the device itself or the light, it’s mental stimulation. Sleep isn’t automatic; you need to wind down. You need to convince your brain that it’s OK, that there’s no crisis going on.
Fortunately for people wanting a solution through technology, there are relaxation and meditation apps available to prepare one’s self for sleep. They use techniques utilized in sleep medicine. Dr. Sherlin of the SenseLabs developed an app that uses simple breathing techniques to encourage an individual to go to sleep.
Dr. Sherlin said, “We’re not giving people sleep aids. We’re just saying, ‘Hey, why don’t you take three minutes and just breathe more healthily.’ And people are reporting dramatic results.” These techniques are not new, but they are integrated with the digital age, helping eliminate the risk of sleep deprivation because of using electronic devices.
In the end, whether technology helps you sleep at night or doesn’t, it’s all up to you. Technology, however, is offering something that can give hope to the sleep deprived, by helping them learn how to regulate their mind and body, with simple and proven techniques.
If you’re unhappy with the feeling of not getting enough sleep due to electronic devices, then you have the power to change it.
Leslie Wyman is a health enthusiast who also loves to read about the latest innovations in technology. She writes her experiences and thoughts as a hobby while also designing various interior designs for her freelance work. Leslie patterns her designs from her everyday surroundings and sites like Beds Online. Her free time routine includes cuddling with her two puppies.