Health

Can’t sleep? Technology could be the problem and the solution

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

We’ve already looked at sleep trackers on IQ, but wearable devices from Fitbit, Beddit, Misfit and Microsoft are only one part of the growing sleep tech movement. There’s a whole other side to consider, one that doesn’t monitor your sleep but tries to improve it.

Arguably, you don’t need to analyse the data from a Fitbit Charge HR to know if you’re not getting enough sleep. Or you can’t get to sleep quickly enough. It should be obvious. According to the NHS, one in three of us suffers from poor quality sleep and the blame often lies with technology, specifically backlit screens like the one you’re reading these words on.

As Scientific American points out, the light from your smartphone, tablet, laptop or HD TV is ‘short-wavelength-enriched’, which means that it has a “higher concentration of blue light than natural light — and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength.”

In short: using an electronic device before bed will impair your ability to fall asleep and may adversely affect the quality and the amount of rest you get.

Hello Sense sleep monitoring system
The Sense device is more than a sleep tracker, it monitors your sleeping environment.

Of course, most of us don’t want to abandon our devices. We fail to appreciate how important a good night’s sleep is. So we ignore it or search for easy solutions, reducing blue light exposure with smart filters like F.lux (available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android), or using apps with dedicated Night Modes in an effort to reduce eye strain.

While technology is often the problem when we can’t sleep, it also offers an array of sleep-aiding solutions and some of them might work for you.

The Sense, for example, isn’t just a sleep monitor, it’s an app-connected sound machine and smart alarm. This minimalist white ball can play ambient sounds to keep you sleeping, wake you up slowly, and track room temperature, humidity, light, noise and air quality levels to get to the root of your sleep problems.

If you discover that noise is an issue, then you could try a set of Kokoon: Sleep Sensing Headphones, which allow you to fall asleep to music and block out disturbing sounds. Because Kokoon also tracks your sleeping patterns (the same way a Fitbit does), it also knows when best to wake you up with its intelligent alarm so you feel most refreshed.

Not sure a big set of headphones will stay on all night? Then try a pair of Hush Smart EarPlugs, which are designed to block out noise by playing soothing sounds. Another solution, SleepPhones is a less high-tech (it’s a headband with built-in earphones), but it could be just as effective if you like snoozing to tunes.

If you believe that light is the reason you can’t sleep, 1,944 backers pledged $438,573 to make the Neuroon Intelligent Sleep Mask a reality for you. In addition to built-in sleep sensors and snooze analytics, the Neuroon system apparently “monitors your brain and when it detects REM stage, it triggers gentle flashing beams of light and vibrations that allow your brain to understand that you are dreaming without waking you up.”

Neuroon Intelligent Sleep Mask
The Neuroon Intelligent Sleep Mask uses beams of light to stimulate a deep ‘lucid dreaming’ sleep state.

Finally, you might want to consider changing your bedding. The ZEEQ, for example, is no ordinary pillow. It features built-in speakers and a function that will gently vibrate if it detects you snoring.

Or go the whole hog and splash out on a Balluga smart interactive bed. This former Kickstarter project features air spring cells, dual climate control settings, sleep monitoring and a vibrating massage option. There’s even an anti-snore function that raises your pillow if it detects you wheezing.

If the technology we use in our day to day lives is causing us to lose sleep, become irritable and lose focus, then one of these sleep technologies might just be able to fix the damage.

Main image copyright: Shutterstock/Stefano Cavoretto

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