Breathing machines for sleep apnea. Smartwatches to monitor heart rates. Trackers to measure blood oxygen. White noise machines to calm brain waves. Noise-canceling earplugs to
tolerate your spouse help you concentrate at work. Temperature regulating pillows to reduce night sweats. Weighted blankets to curb anxiety from an email you forgot to send…. (Tired yet?)
The billion-dollar sleep market is flooded with every kind of solution imaginable because sleep is the undefeated heavyweight of health and survival.
Even with an arsenal of sleep weaponry, sweet slumber does not happen easily for everyone and even with the best-in-class sleep tools we are still not guaranteed high-quality sleep. We are all too familiar with the correlation between screen exposure and its effects on sleep to a point where even the most responsible among us overly stress about the amount of screen time children often consume. We, unfortunately, cast blame at technology and screens – of which have persevered despite the bad wrap.
What if we change our negative views about technology and the science of sleep?
What if we stopped blaming our productivity tools and technology pacifiers and embrace their potential like the cooler side of the pillow?
Practically unavoidable in modern lifestyles, screens invade our lives from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed. Phones themselves perform so many tasks – alarm, email, games – those mobile wizards do it all. Not to mention our companionship with televisions to help us fall asleep. Our consistent usage of screens throughout our day and at night inspired experts to better understand their effects on our bodies at night and what we can do to regain deeper, more meaningful sleep.
In their quest, for example, sleep experts learned that hues of red, yellow, and orange do not have as damaging of an impact on sleep quality as does blue. And so, ‘nighttime mode’ technology emerged. No, this is not Facebook’s long-awaited dark mode (which came a few years too late, in our opinion). Some devices like phones also include automatic blue light reduction by a specific time of day. If your phone or laptop does not automatically go into a nighttime mode, programs such as f.lux can help transition your screens automatically as it gets closer and closer to bedtime.
In the same breath, the light from a television omits the similar disruptive qualities as any other screen, telling the chemicals in your brain to stay awake. If you feel like you need to get your screen fix, but your trusty blue-blockers are in the other room, consider grabbing an e-reader. While it might seem pointless given the big e-reader apps can be found on iOS and Android, e-readers use a different type of screen technology so that they do not emit much light and actually strive to reduce the emission down to virtually nothing. Hard copy books are also an option if you are feeling particularly old school (or just like the smell).
Whether we admit it or not, some of us find relaxation in streaming, scrolling, or even blankly staring at the screen as much as any other sleepy-time ritual. Although unnecessarily ragging on screens or shaming ourselves for enjoying them is as harmful as ingesting too much blue light itself, interaction with screens and technology can be beneficial when approached similarly to any other aspect of our daily lives.
Look, we are not the experts on sleep (although we have worked with some of the best). However, we are experts in dealing with screens, since most of what we do revolves around staring at, messaging through or coding on them. For many of us, it’s not reasonable to simply “turn off your screens as soon as you leave the office,” but it is still important to know the facts so we can make adjustments to our lives.
If you are experiencing exhaustion during your normal awake time and are trying to make major life changes like removing screens or technology, how do you know if your efforts are working?
Turns out that is a billion-dollar question. Roughly 32 billion, to be accurate.
Wearables technology has no doubt changed the way we demand personal data. And, the tech keeps getting better and better. Big players like Apple, Samsung, and Google charged the way to improve battery technology, extending longevity between charging cycles, and allowing users to track sleep over the course of the entire night.
While not as many people are lured in by devices that only track sleep, fitness wearables are also excellent devices that offer both awake stats and sleep scores.
Regardless of the route, any device that tracks sleep is using your heart rate to determine the time the body is spending within the different stages of sleep along with motion sensors, even microphones to detect changes in breathing patterns. It’s actually very complex! Six hours of sleep does not automatically indicate the quality of sleep. Maybe you are tossing and turning for two of those hours and never hitting the perfect combo of REM, deep and light sleep. The tracker tells all.
Additionally, newer wearable technology monitors SpO2, otherwise known as blood oxygen saturation level. SpO2 data can be an indicator pointing toward sleeping disorders and breathing disturbances – serious conditions causing degradation of sleep quality and dangers to your overall health.
Any reliable brand of wearable technology aims to shine a light on occurrences so you can take charge of your health. The data rendered can be super helpful if you find difficulty solving sleep issues at home and decide it time to involve a practitioner who can analyze the data, too.
It would seem – or at least one could argue – that the greatest inventions of the 20th and 21st centuries are the most disruptive to our quality of life via sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. But even if you do manage to stop browsing /r/BirdsWithArms before the wee hours of the morning and get a whopping, glorious eight hours of perfect sleep, data tracking can further determine if all non-awake time is boasting beautiful quality.
Technology aids the more self-reliant person to better manage their sleep. For others, sometimes you need an expert. Healthcare providers are super ‘jazzed’ about patients using technology to gather data about their body’s performance. And when it comes to sleep, that data can help practitioners find the perfect mix of conditions and tools for their patients to achieve a more restful experience. The best diagnoses come from quality information, and that begins with patients willingness to track patterns and work within the parameters of their doctor’s treatment programs or recommendations.
Every section of our post is a musical reference because, well, why not? In case you haven’t had a dose of classic rock today, we’d encourage you to take a listen to ZZ Top – I Need You Tonight. While INXS may have a more popular song of the same name, this one takes you for a ride–though it may disrupt your sleep.