Technology to the  Rescue!

Ruwandi Perera analyses the various methods available for inducing sleep

On most nights, we fervently wish for the sandman to drop in and magically put us to sleep – especially during weeknights when our bodies say ‘no’ but our minds say ‘go.’ There are many culprits that keep us up at night but technology – more specifically, smartphones and other electronic devices – get the lion’s share of the blame.

Increased screen time during the day causes sleep latency, which is the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and using your phone at night prevents you from getting sufficient sleep. This leads to sleep deprivation, which translates into crankiness.

There are several reasons for this dilemma.

Apart from emitting blue light that messes up our body clock and sleep hormone secretion, our phones make us vulnerable to the ‘one more syndrome.’ This includes one more chapter, one more post, one more episode and one more text… and we’re wide awake three hours later!

So what do we do when we can’t fall asleep? We turn to our phones – and the vicious cycle continues.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be so…

While there are ample tech-free methods to get a good night’s sleep (such as keeping your phone away from you, reading a book, drinking warm milk, massaging your temples with essential oils and even counting sheep), there are also many technologically driven solutions to get some good shut-eye.

There’s a plethora of sleep-related technology out there, and most of it is designed to improve sleep through measurement aided diagnosis; and consequently, treatment by modulating sleep patterns.

Sleep laboratories have been in existence for decades; but now you can measure your sleep cycle at home by yourself if you have the right devices. Wearable sleep detection systems are gaining momentum as more individuals look to improving their sleep patterns.

While simple phone apps such as Apple’s Health or Samsung Health may work, they essentially require the user to input data such as time of sleeping and waking, symptoms of sleep deprivation and other features of their sleep cycle.

Unintrusive miniature sensors that monitor physiological signals are now claiming space in bedrooms. These sensors are embedded in beds, pillows, mattresses, drawers and so on, to collect sleep-related data such as sleep time, breathing, heart rate, body temperature, snoring and even humidity.

Low-cost options of sleep monitoring include wearable smart devices such as smartwatches and activity bands, which mainly monitor movement in sleep and heart rates. Even some smartphones have built-in sensors such as gyroscopes, microphones and accelerometers that monitor a person’s sleep patterns, and even register events like coughing, snoring and body movement.

However, these sensors use heaps of battery energy, which in turn interferes with our energy fields and interrupts sleep.

Once sleep-related data is measured and processed, it can be used to design sleep modulation techniques. Sleep clinics and experts who have access to advanced AI technologies can process sleep data, using algorithms and other technologies that imitate human cognitive functions, and provide decision-making insights to diagnose sleep disorders and design treatments.

In addition to person-specific recommendations on improving sleep, this type of technology can even interact with smart home infrastructure such as lights, heaters, air conditioners and sound systems to construct a better sleep environment automatically.

There are also many novel devices in the market such as smart pillows that regulate temperature, noise devices that provide acoustically optimised surroundings and essential oil diffusers that spread sleep inducing oils in your bedroom.

Sleep Number 360™is a smart bed that can sense a person’s sleep behaviour and automatically adjust the mattress to their sleep position. If you snore, it will adjust your head position and even warm your feet to induce sleep faster.

Technology can destroy sleep; but in an age where technology is inevitable, it’s a matter of fighting fire with fire.

Though not all of us can invest in a smart bed, we can start with simple steps such as switching to nighttime mode on our phones and reducing blue light emissions, changing our settings to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode and simply keeping the phone away 30 minutes prior to sleeping.

Some sleep experts also recommend conditioning our bodies during the day to not check our phones every time they beep so that we may easily replicate this behaviour at night.

So make technology work for you while you’re awake as well as asleep. Good night – sleep tight!