Advancements in technology affect many aspects of our everyday lives (especially our sleeping habits). Getting adequate sleep (between seven and nine hours) is necessary for proper mind and body functions. New sleep technologies have been and are being developed every year. However, common technologies (e.g. television, cell phones) influence sleep quality more than new sleep technology.
Most people in the U.S. receive less sleep than is recommended, and many report racking up sleep debt. Surprisingly, the sleep habits of those using sleep technologies (e.g. sleep trackers, white noise machines, wake-up lights) are not significantly different from the sleep habits of those not using these technologies.
About half of sleep-deprived Americans report other challenges to their health (e.g. trouble losing weight, poor physical health, frequent mood swings), so it is clear that while sleep technology may help make users more aware of their sleep habits, they do not (yet) seem to make the sleeping experience any more beneficial than it already is.
The use of sleep technology is a privilege for most: using sleep trackers is not a necessity for most people, especially the poor and the hungry. However, most Americans find the means to afford at least one television and at least one cell phone. Well over half of Americans admit to watching television before bed, and almost half admit to using a cell phone within a half hour of going to sleep.
Perhaps sleep quality isn’t improved among most sleep-tech users because they also use cell phones and watch television around bedtime. These technologies hinder sleep by making the brain more alert, decreasing melatonin, and interrupting the sleep cycle (especially if the phone or remote control is within an arm’s reach).
The blue light given off by technology like television, tablets, and cell phones put a strain on the body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for controlling circadian rhythm (the sleep/wake cycle); if the body makes less of this hormone than it needs, it can be far more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
People should avoid using technology, even for a few minutes, within the last half hour of preparing for sleep. Technology wakes up the brain, telling it to stay awake. In addition to disturbing sleep while awake, technology users may want to reconsider having technology in the bedroom (and children’s bedrooms, too). Over half of young children don’t get the proper amount of sleep because they sleep with (or near) these blue-light devices.
Sleep technology can be anything from an REM tracker (wristband) to a white noise machine. The trackers are more passive and don’t seem to hinder or improve sleep, while other devices like white noise machines and wake-up lights can make falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking easier and more comfortable. Sleep technology may not be an immediate fix for improving sleep, but monitoring sleep habits is the first step in becoming aware of sleep habits. It seems poor sleepers should focus their attention on limiting their television and cell phone use.