Turning to Tech for a Better Night’s Sleep

By Tracey Dowdy

Tired comes in a lot of forms. There’s “the toddler who refused to nap”, “the college student that pulled an all-nighter”, the “I’ve been up all night because I ate street meat”, and then there’s the Queen Mother of them all, “the sleep deprived parent”. It’s the kind of zombie-like haze that The Walking Dead uses to coach its actors.

No matter what stage of life you’re in or what’s keeping you up at night, these tech tricks can help you sleep soundly and wake up refreshed and ready to do it all over again.

Reduce blue light

Sleep experts will tell you to get rid of your electronics but for some of us, that’s not going to happen. I read at night, and many of my books are on my iPad. The issue is that our screens emit blue light, the kind of light that blocks melatonin and tells our brain it’s time to get up, there’s work to do!

It’s easy to fix this on your mobile devices – for iOS, turn on Night Shift and for Android, install an app like Twilight.  Amazon devices have featured blue light filtering on their tablets for quite a while now. For your TV, there’s not really an effective work around other than adjusting the color/tint of the image.

Avoid the bright lights

Consider changing that light bulb or getting a lamp with multiple settings. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than turning on the nightstand lamp and being blinded by the light. Look for a standard lamp that lets you choose between “enough light to land a plane” and “just enough to avoid stepping on the cat”, or, choose a high tech solution like the Withings Aura smart alarm clock.

Not only does the Aura wake you up with a simulated sunrise, in the evening it transitions to a red nightlight so if you have to get up during the night you aren’t blinded. It also comes with an under-mattress monitor and speakers so you can customize your wake-up playlist, play white noise or nature sounds, stream Spotify, or choose from over 20,000 radio stations.

White noise anyone?

Consider a white noise machine. The HoMedics® SoundSpa® is under $20, offers six sound options – white noise, thunder, ocean, rain, summer night and brook – and has a built-in, customizable timer. Sound of Sleep is pricier – models range from $50 – 100 but offers a lot more features.

Most white noise machines loop their track, so if, like me, you’re often still awake after that first cycle, you start to pick up on the not-so-random patterns and sounds in the audio. Sound of Sleep offers 10, non-looping tracks, each with customizable variations. For example, if you select the “Oceans” track, you can add in gulls, seals, or even a foghorn, none of which sound relaxing to me, but hey, you do you.

Change that alarm

Consider changing your alarm clock. I never sleep well if I know I have to be up extra early or use an alarm. I stress about sleeping through the alarm or wake irritated because I was in an REM cycle and woke up at a bad time.

I know that does not make me unique because someone invented the Sleep Cycle Alarm clock that measures your sleep cycle based on sound analysis and your movement. Based on the information, the app implements a 30-minute wake up phase. Instead of being shocked out of a deep sleep, you’re pulled into wakefulness and wake up refreshed and ready. The app is free for iOS and Android with available in-app purchases.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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