How to Use Technology to Get Better Sleep

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More and more of what we do is done electronically, virtually, or through an app. There are fitness trackers to improve your workouts, online shoppers to improve your wardrobe, and, yes, gadgets to help you get better sleep. If you are looking for help with improving your rest, here’s a look at what technology might be able to do for you.

The Bed First

Look to where you sleep. Mattresses can be customized to a specific sleep style, and some even come with tracking to monitor your time in bed. This can be used to look at trends and cause/effect situations. You may be able to match a restless night with something you’re eating, or something you did or didn’t do before bed. Then, you can also try different ways of sleeping and check the results to see if it’s helped.

There’s also adjustable beds. These come in models from basic to luxury, and allow you to customize your sleeping position by remote or app. Adjusting your position can help with snoring, aches and pains, and more.

What to do instead: These options are expensive. Check your bed for a simple, less costly upgrade first. If your slats are sagging, or if your mattress is over eight years old, you may want to do an update. The right support and comfort will help you sleep better, without the bells and whistles.

Pillow Power

It’s not just about down or memory foam. You can get your pillow with air chambers, aromatherapy, cooling gel, or copper infusions. Pillows are also getting technical with sleep tracking, the ability to play music, and more. They come in different shapes and sizes, to support your neck, back, or a particular position.

The most important thing about your pillow is that it provides support for your head, neck, and spine, and keeps you comfortable. You’ll have a personal preference, but it’s also a good idea to consult a guide that helps you choose a pillow to support your sleeping style.

What to do instead: Again, the fancier your product, the more it costs. Just like with a mattress, you may just need a new pillow, not a new technology. Pillows can wear out, and if they’re not supporting you, you’ll end up with neck pain, breathing issues, and other problems that disrupt your sleep. A normal pillow can help, you just have to choose the right one.

Trackers

Many smart watches and fitness trackers include sleep tracking now. If you don’t want to wear yours to bed, there are sensors that you can put directly on your bed. Trackers monitor how long you’re sleeping, your respiration, and your heartbeat to tell you what your sleep quality is. They might give you tips on how to fix issues. This is similar to the information you’d get during a sleep study. However, depending on your tracker, the information may not be very accurate – and you’ve still got to make use of it. This is definitely not a substitute for a medical diagnosis, but they might help you figure out if something is wrong and solve minor problems.

What to do instead: Keep a sleep journal. Put a notebook next to your bed so you can record how well you slept that night, if you had any issues, and how you felt when you woke up. Include your bedtime routine from the night before, and anything you think might have impacted your sleep. There’s no technology involved, but you can use this to link certain foods, behaviors, or even times of the month to how you sleep. Then you can make changes and see what works.

There’s an App for That

There are a lot of apps out there to help with sleep. Some are trackers, while others encourage meditation, play soothing sounds, or simply provide a natural alarm to wake you up more gently. The downside is that you’ve got to use them consistently to see results, which requires being on your phone – and we all know how distracting that can be. Plus, the blue light from your screen is bad for sleep in the first place.

Consumer Reports studied different sleep apps and found that they don’t provide enough information to really diagnose the root issue of your problems. They may still help you relax, but seeing a doctor could help more. 

What to do instead: Talk to your doctor, see if they have suggestions based on your medical history and their expertise. You can also try the sleep journal, mentioned above, and relaxation techniques independent of apps. A few minutes of meditation can relax your body and mind and get you in a better place for good sleep. No phone required.

Setting the Mood

There are technologies that you may not associate with sleep that may still be able to help. For example, the light and temperature in your bedroom can have a big impact. A programmable thermostat like Nest lets you set a wind-down routine where it automatically goes to the perfect sleep temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees F. If you and your sleep partner disagree on what’s “perfect”, there are bedding options like a smart duvet that allows each side to set their own temperature.

Humans are made to sleep best in complete darkness. If you’ve got a lot of light pollution coming through your windows, try blackout curtains. You can even get them on a remote control to open and shut them as much and as often as you want. If you like your curtains the way they are, try a sleep mask (there are smart versions of those too).

For those who prefer a little light in their bedroom, try adding some smart lights, which you can control with an app. Any light can actually be controlled from your phone with a smart plug.

What to do instead: Instead of a smart thermostat, set a reminder to turn yours down and make that part of your bedtime routine. Try blinds or heavier curtains instead of blackout, and get a salt lamp on a timer for a warm, comforting nightlight.

Science for Snoring

Snoring is one of the primary reasons people say they don’t get enough sleep, whether because they do it, or the person next to them does. This is a huge category that’s been around forever, and there are hundreds of solutions from special pillows to stick-on strips. Technology is at work here too, with items like pillows that will actually move you or nudge you if it detects that you’ve started to snore. 

What to do instead: Prop up your head. Propping up your head as little as 10 degrees can open your airways and reduce snoring. For some people it takes a little more, and it can be hard to keep the pillows in place. But this is a simple, and free, place to start.

Not sure where to start? Here are some gadgets of all types to help you and your family get better rest. You might find something that works for you - just remember to check with your doctor.

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