May is Better Sleep Month, courtesy of the Better Sleep Council. This awareness campaign was developed to draw attention to the severe epidemic of sleeplessness and sleep deprivation currently plaguing society. With over 40 million Americans suffering from chronic sleep disorders, and many millions more simply leading lives too busy to sleep, it is safe to assume most of us could sleep better than we currently do. For decades, sleep researchers have proven just how important a solid eight hours every night is for humans to maintain high cognitive functionality and combat physical fatigue. Sleep loss over time has been linked to numerous serious health issues that creep up slowly and thus are easy to dismiss, like weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.
While many often blame technology for causing much of our sleep loss (thank you smartphones!), there are some ways technology can actually help you get better sleep. If the old standbys of avoiding caffeine and setting a routine aren’t working for you, consider some of the following hi-tech ideas.
Hi-Tech Tools for Better Sleep
It is no joke saying there’s an app for that. In fact, it is more accurate to say there are hundreds of apps for that. And while you’ll be amazed by how much a smartphone can do for sleep these days, new sleeping aids and assessors aren’t limited to phones.
With so many options to help understand and regulate our sleep, it is difficult to decide where to start. A good starting point is finding a comfortable bed, as this is the foundation for a good night’s sleep. Several beds have recently hit the market that are designed to help you sleep better, from hi-tech foam mattresses to electric bases.
There are many highly advanced beds entering the market, offering much more than a soft sleeping surface. For instance, the Prodigy adjustable bed from Leggett and Platt has built-in features to help you find a healthy night’s sleep. Some of these features have been around for a while, like the position adjustability and massage, but this is not your grandparents’ adjustable bed. It has a snore feature that allows the user to reposition their partner to alleviate the noise without disturbing the sleeper. It also features a “gentle wake” alarm that uses massage and/or noise to wake you up, and timed sleep feature which puts your bed into your preferred sleeping position at a set time. Several beds like these are entering the market as people turn to hi-tech devices and seek multitasking, functional home furnishings.
White noise machines and other sound conditioners are meant to help drown out ambient sounds and allow users to relax quicker and sleep sooner. These types of devices work by drowning out inconsistent background noises that may startle you, and some even play specific frequencies thought to induce relaxation and sleep. For people who want a little something more than just white noise or nature sounds, there are stereo speaker pillows that allow you plug in your favorite playlist or soft sleep headphones for those who don’t want to disturb their partner. Growing evidence suggests that sounds really can help improve sleep, as a Hungarian study from Semmelweis University showed improvements in students’ sleep quality with classical music, and a Taiwanese study showed sleep improvements for older people with soothing music.
It is thought by many that humans have a natural predilection to rise when the sun comes up and sleep when the sun goes down. For those in this camp, wake-up lights gradually increase in brightness to help achieve a peaceful awakening. While not used for the same purpose as a wake-up light, light boxes are used to administer light therapy during daytime hours for sleep disorders and depression. Light therapy devices emit powerful beams of bright UV light to mimic sunlight and help people adjust to a more natural circadian rhythm. Those who spend most of their days indoors and suffer from insomnia might benefit from daytime light therapy.
For those who want to find out why they don’t sleep well, new sleep trackers and sleep managers are available to provide a complete analysis of your sleep patterns, and some include sleep coaching to help achieve a better night’s rest. Some of the higher-end sleep managers track your nighttime patterns through a headband, or a bracelet you wear at night. Other products use a custom sleep shirt or pillow that records your sleep cycle. Many record noise disturbances as well which can be helpful for identifying triggers that impact your sleep.
Phone Apps for Better Sleep
For those curious but not willing to commit to the higher price tags, smartphone apps have been created to breakdown your sleep. Some utilize the accelerometer inside an iphone to record your movements (like a lite version of the sleep monitors previously mentioned) and will even wake you up when it predicts you are in a light sleep phase. Simply placing the phone on your bed allows the apps to detect your movements and noise disturbances throughout the night. Other smartphone accessories can monitor your heart rate and sleep cycles and create a daily analysis of what is going wrong and what is going right. Some have reported using these records to consult with physicians on diagnoses, rather than undergoing expensive overnight stays in sleep labs. Still others play multitudes of ambient sounds and binaural beats to encourage sleep. Other apps have been created to filter out non-emergency phone calls so you can sleep undisturbed and worry-free all night. Just a few of these hi-tech helpers can quickly turn your bedroom into a personal sleep laboratory with a host of gadgets cluttering the nightstand.
New Technology Helps You Get Better Sleep
The science of sleep seems to be improving all the time, with new hi-tech tools developed every year. Now anyone can become their own personal sleep researcher in the comfort of their own home. Finding the right technology, and the best bed to support you throughout the night, will help you enjoy better sleep and have you ready to go every morning.