6 Types of Tech That Can Help You Sleep Better (Hint: Your Phone Isn't One of Them)
It’s one of my top rules for better sleep: Take technology out of the bedroom.
That's right -- remove your laptop, TV and smartphone. No excuses! If you are using your phone as an alarm clock, spend $5 for the real deal. If you’re in the habit of falling asleep to the TV, it’s time for a new routine. Why? Blue light emitted from these devices inhibits our body’s natural melatonin production, which we need to fall asleep and stay asleep each night. Quite simply, technology can keep us up at night.
Still, there are some exceptions to the rule. I believe there is “good” technology that can actually help you to sleep better and wake up rested in the morning.
I’m highlighting my top six picks here. Feel free to bring these to bed.
1. Smart home and security devices
We need a decrease in core body temperature to fall asleep and maintain sleep. A thermostat that lowers room temperature at bedtime will help you fall asleep and maintain sleep. Have the thermostat begin to raise room temperature 30 minutes prior to wake time to help you wake up. Some smart home devices allow you to lower and raise shades automatically and alert you if the doors are not locked and the garage door is open (this way you won’t worry about safety after bedtime).
2. Fitness monitor
Most fitness monitors like Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin have the ability to monitor sleeping behavior. Don’t be concerned about one or two nights of poor sleep; look at how you are trending over time.
3. Wake-up light
An alternative to the traditional alarm clock is the wake-up light, which sits on your bed table and wakes you up naturally by slowly brightening so that it feels like you're waking up with the sun. Think about it -- before electricity, we slept and woke by the sun, taking our cues from Mother Nature. That’s best for our bodies. I like the ones by Philips, which offer multiple brightness settings to fit your personal preferences. Here’s an additional tip for you: As you wake up, don’t immediately jump out of bed. Instead take five minutes to do a bit of light stretching. The combination is an effective, gentle way to wake up each morning.
4. Sleep Smart bed
Most mattresses are passive – they just lie there! This sleep system has built-in technology that actually “reads” your body, so it adjusts itself to your body. An interactive sleep experience, Sleep Smart mattresses are designed to monitor movement, understand pain, ease pressure, track sleep patterns and even gently wake you from a deep sleep. As your body changes (pregnancy, weight gain, age) the bed will change with you. How? Scientific Measurement And Response Technology (S.M.A.R.T) sensors automatically trigger air cylinders that slowly expand or contract for individualized comfort. Paired with an optional app you can view graphical sleep reports showing the amount of time slept, how well you slept and how your sleep patterns have changed over time. (Note: I helped develop Sleep Smart through research collected at the Sleep to Live Institute. The Sleep to Live Institute is the research arm of Kingsdown, the company that manufactures the Sleep Smart sleep system.)
5. Low-blue nightlight
Remember when I mentioned that blue light can inhibit the production of melatonin? Low blue-light bulbs provide light (an amber glow) without the negative side-effects of blue light. That’s why I suggest that all nightlights in the house should be low blue light. This way if you wake in the middle of the night – whether for two minutes or 10 – the light won’t disturb you and wake you further. On that note, if you do wake at night, it’s not the time to read or watch TV. That will only wake you further. Sit in a dark space and take some time to lightly stretch, meditate or pray. Soon enough your bed will be calling you back.
6. White noise machine
Noise is incredibly disruptive to our sleep. Whether it’s the dripping faucet or the neighbor’s blaring stereo, the sounds around you can destroy your shuteye. White noise machines have been around for decades and they're still one of the most effective. This is not a reason to bring your phone in the bedroom; I don’t want you using a white noise app. Instead I recommend Marpac, the company behind the original white noise machine. Turn this on each night and tune out the rest of the world.
Dr. Robert Oexman is the director of the Sleep to Live Institute. He oversees the institute’s research studies, particularly the impact of the sleep environment on quality of sleep. He received his Doctor of Chiropractic from Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City, Mo., and his MBA from Missouri State University.