It’s one of my top rules for better sleep – take technology out of the bedroom. That’s everything from laptops to TV’s and smart phones. No excuses! If you are using your phone as an alarm clock, spend five dollars for the real deal. If you’re in the habit of falling asleep to the TV, it’s time for a new routine. Here’s why – blue light emitted from these devises 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.
However, I’m going to make a few 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 four top picks here – feel free to bring these to bed.
• Smart Homes: From smart thermostats to automatic shades, our houses are now starting to adapt automatically to our lifestyles. In the past we have addressed the need for a decrease in core body temperature to fall asleep and maintain sleep. For a minimal cost you can add a thermostat that will begin decreasing room temperature when it’s time for bed and will begin increasing temperature when it’s time to wake up. Automatic shades will make sure your room is dark and will lighten your room when it’s time to wake up. Do you worry about whether you shut the garage door or left the back door unlocked, there are aps to remind you if you forgot.
• Wake-up Light: I said it earlier – if your phone is your alarm clock, you need a new one! Forget the sound function; what I really like about this is that it’s designed to wake you up naturally and gradually by slowly brightening so we wake 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 design by Philips - there are 20 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.
• Low Blue-Light Nightlights: 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 or ten minutes – 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.
• White Noise Machine: Noise is incredibly disruptive to our sleep. Whether it’s the dripping faucet or the neighbor’s blaring stereo – both can steal your shuteye. This bit of technology has been around for decades and it’s still one of the most effective – the sound conditioner, also known at the white noise machine. Forget the rainforest, ocean and nature sound settings – changes in the audio track can actually wake you up. I recommend the static sounds of white noise. 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.
Technology is part of our every-day lives. It can be all consuming – but we have to draw the line somewhere. Remember, in general – the bedroom should be a “tech-free” zone. Unless of course, that technology was specifically designed to help you sleep better and wake rejuvenated.
Dr. Robert Oexman is the Director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Mo. He oversees the Institute’s research studies, particularly the impact of the sleep environment on quality of sleep. At the Institute, Dr. Oexman helped develop bedMATCH™, a patented system using 6 million people profiles, 18 statistical measurements and over 1,000 calculations to assist consumers in determining the best mattress and pillow options for their body type. Visit a Mattress Warehouse near you and you could be fitted for your bed in just 3 minutes!