Kristin Condon has been exploring solutions for better sleep. If you missed part 1, check it out.
Let’s start with the bad news. Lack of sleep results in poor health. Period. Research has been showing for years that the wonderful devices that help us work more efficiently and more regularly, entertain and educate us, also play a significant role in what the World Health Organization has called an epidemic of sleeplessness. We now understand that lack of quality sleep leads to everything from depression and anxiety to dementia and atherosclerosis.
Stay with me. Unless, of course, you find yourself nodding off. Then by all means, please do not let me or any other article you are reading on your phone keep you from “Nature’s soft nurse” (Shakespeare).
The good news? Perhaps out of guilt or, more likely, seeing grand profit possibilities, technology has stepped up in recent years to help—thanks, technology!
In part one, I shared some simple ways that I have found to work for me over my years of research and experimentation. Here, we take a look at how the technology of sleep is helping us, and a few examples from my arsenal.
So relax, put your feet up, literally (see part one for why), and enjoy your sleep journey!
The truth is I’m fairly new to tracking of any kind, even though it has been very popular for years. As a longtime fitness instructor and yoga and meditation teacher, I think that tracking can be misleading and that time and energy would be better spent developing our relationships with our bodies. Technology can become a crutch and also a barrier.
I still 110 percent believe that. Personalized information can be fantastic but only useful depending on the choices you make with that information and your understanding of it. In other words, build your relationship with your body, experiment on your own to see what works and use tracking to help, but with a healthy grain of salt.
A naturopathic doctor recommended I try the Oura ring ($299) so that I could start to better understand my sleep—what was working and what was not. So I finally jumped on the tracking bandwagon. Find out how the ring works here.
- The focus on balance between recovery and performance
- Just enough detailed information
- The three categories of measurements—readiness, sleep and activity.
Without a doubt, alcohol, even a single glass of wine a few hours before bedtime, which I once used to think relaxed me, dreadfully degrades my sleep. Without the information gathered about my resting heart rate, heart-rate variability, and amount (or lack thereof) of deep and REM sleep, I might not have been willing to admit to myself that my wine was harming my sleep and recovery process.
Having already established a good connection with my body and simple sleep routines, I was able to use the information generated by the ring to make even more refined, better choices. I now completely forgo wine or any kind of alcohol in the evening unless it is the weekend … for the most part. Fun is important, too! In particular, my deep sleep and heart-rate variability has gradually improved over time, showing greater overall health and recovery.
A non-wearable tracker by ResMed, this one focuses on sleep and environment, mind and body. You can get it on Amazon for about $150.
- That it is not a wearable
- The mind vs. body scoring
- The real-time assessment of the environment
I tend to like a warmer environment during the day and get cold easily. I also like to save on electricity, using air conditioning judiciously. However, after using the SleepScore Max for only a week, it became clear that a colder room greatly improved my sleep.
Once I turn on the app to start sleep tracking, I can assess the environment—temperature and light, and I crank that air conditioning if it shows the room is too warm, even if it feels comfortable to me in the moment. It has made a big difference in a short amount of time. I have found I wake up less frequently.
Can an app on your phone truly help you get good zzz’s? Possibly. To me, the simpler the app, the better. There are so many. It’s overwhelming! Where to begin? The only apps I use to fall asleep are so basic that you don’t even really need an app. I just use them because they are slightly more accessible than getting a CD and putting it in my cd player. (yes, I still have one of those.)
I started using this app years ago to have a nice bell sound to bring me out of my daily meditation. It has since expanded exponentially and become a bit of a maze.
There are some wonderful musicians who have given us their music for free. This app is free.
You have the option to support particular artists and teachers and subscribe for more content. You could experiment with listening while you fall asleep. Some of the tracks that I use are more than an hour.
Aside from using the timer for meditation, I listen to binaural beats, which are deeply relaxing while in bed before shutting out the light.
I discovered this one more recently but use it pretty regularly and absolutely love it.
Very simply, it is gorgeous recordings of nature by Lang Elliott.
A recent study linked natural sounds to helping the nervous system. Natural sounds help people de-stress, relax and recover—just the state you want to be in before you close your eyes.
There are free options as well as options to purchase. These are simply the best nature recordings I have heard.
If you’re looking for “hardware” help with your sleep, there are several solutions to consider.
Far infrared rays and negative ions have been associated with deep relaxation.
I’ve been enjoying the sleep-inducing benefits of pain relief and muscle relaxation, for years.
The benefits of this technology are many.
I have been using mine for years. Though this is the most pricey technology in this article, I cannot recommend it enough. It can cost you from $500 all the way to $4,000 for one that will fit over your king-size mattress.
This white noise machine is exquisitely simple.
If you live in a city or on a busy street, it can make an enormous difference in disruption to your sleep.
White noise provides a perfect mask to any bumps that might come up in the night.
This device has been a huge help for my sleep, at only $50.
You don’t have to spend money, however, to improve your relationship between technology and sleep. Here is a starter guide.
- Try to stay away from screens an hour before shut-eye. I have gone back to reading real paper books! Find a local bookstore or head to the library. Enjoy!
- Switch off notifications. I keep my phone set to nighttime, which changes the color of the screen to a softer, warmer tone automatically at 8 p.m. (blue light inhibits the sleep hormone melatonin), and it doesn’t allow texts and calls to come through between certain hours.
- Use technology to help you sleep in all the ways mentioned above, and many more.
In your search for sleep, remember, progress, not perfection. Life (and health) is about balance.
Photo credit: AndreyPopov, Getty Images