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Technology For Sleep

Seems ironic, doesn’t it? Last month I was urging you to give up technology and unplug and here I am, a mere month later, talking to you about allowing technology to help you get a good night’s sleep. While I’m going to hold onto the mantra about not allowing electronics impact your sleep sometimes we can use it to help us sleep. Since sleep is so important for Thriving and is getting more and more press attention (finally!) it does serve us to figure out how to get the most optimal down time we can. Just to be clear using technology here is not a substitute for diagnosing a medically based sleep problem such as apnea or restless leg syndrome; go to your doctor for that.

There are essentially two types of technology, which have the potential to help you with the whole sleeping routine and getting up out of bed problem. White noise machines, apps on your phone that simulate rain in the forest have been around for a long time and are generally good to use if you have problems with noise issues or need a distraction to allow you to drift off to sleep. Just one slight problem is that if your phone is still set to ring or alert you of a text message/email/new posting on Facebook the app becomes slightly counterproductive.

If you want to more accurately track your sleep rather than just “I turned off the light, drifted to sleep and woke up 7.8 hours later” there are a number of choices out there to do that. There are the wrist-band type, which you will wear to bed and in the morning it can tell you how much you slept, how deeply you slept and how often you woke up in the middle of the night. For those who don’t wish to wear a wrist-band to bed there are monitors you can strap to your bed or apps which use the microphone of your cell phone to listen to your breathing and give you information in the morning about how you slumbered. Jawbone and Fitbit would be examples of wrist-band type devices and Beddit would be an example of a strap to the bed type of device which apparently also has the app feature for your phone.

If you’re already shopping for a new mattress you can, really and truly, get a smart bed. Sleep Number, a mattress that allows you to adjust the firmness of your mattress by inflating or deflating the air bladder in it, now has a mattress that has a wi-fi set up in it to allow you to track your sleep throughout the night. One advantage of this would be that if it’s a new bed you’ll be able to easily track your sleep for the next 10 years!

On the other end of the spectrum are devices to help you wake up in the morning. For those who need to Thrive sooner in the day rather than later or for those Thrivers who work rotating shifts being exposed to light in the minutes before becoming aware of waking up is critical. Dawn simulators are designed to meet this very need. A simulator will gradually increase the light over a period of 5 to 30 minutes, allowing your body to begin waking up and your brain to feel less sleepy when you do open your eyes to start the day. Dawn simulators are good for people who need to wake up before the sun comes up, during winter months when dawn has a way of showing up later than most people need to get the day started and shift workers. For people who live in dark spaces where there is little natural light this is also a good option.

A 2014 study by Thompson, Jones, Gregson and Atkinson published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology clearly show that workers exposed to dawn simulation felt their quality of sleep was better than without the simulator and their ratings of alertness were higher. A Thriver surely wants to be more alert upon waking and who wants to be woken up with a jarring alarm making an awful noise? Dawn simulators, used over time, can replace noisy alarm clocks as your body begins to adjust to waking up with the light.

As March marches on we can expect the days to get longer and dawns to start at more reasonable hours for those Thrivers who need to get up and moving but in the meantime these are a few ways technology can help us get the best possible sleep!

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