Technology has become an inextricably important part of our lives, but is it at the cost of some much-needed sleep, or are clever new gadgets at the forefront of combating insomnia?
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There’s a perception when it comes to sleep that bringing technology into the bedroom is one of the worst things you can do. Decades of research has shown that blue light emitted from mobile phones and watching TV, as well as constant alerts and notifications, are generally seen to be less than conducive for a rested mind.
Yet, technology is also at the forefront of combating insomnia. This year has seen the sector experiencing a big boom with a number of high profile companies unveiling their latest gadgets at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.
With everything from daylight lamps to sleep robots hitting the market, perhaps technology could be the solution, rather than the cause, of this growing problem?
All the time you’re looking at your screen, that’s basically telling your brain it’s daytime
‘The thing is, long before we had mobile phones and tablets and laptops, sleep advice included avoiding TV before bed because, if you’re watching something that’s alerting you and is waking you up, then you’re going to find it more difficult to go to sleep,’ Dr Neil Stanley, the author of How to Sleep Well, explains to me.
‘Since the early 90s we have known that there is a receptor in the eye that is specifically responding to blue light and computers, smart phones, and the such-like give off a lot of blue light,’ he adds.
‘All the time you’re looking at your screen, that’s basically telling your brain it’s daytime and only once you switch the screen off does the brain actually respond to the fact that it’s night and start that process of going to sleep.’
Increasing ownership of screens and a binge watching culture from streaming services also mean that the problem could just keep getting worse, according to Dr Stanley.
‘We’re really like children with a new toy, we haven’t yet developed a good relationship with our technology and that is the biggest cause of the sleep deprivation that we’re going through.’
Innovative solutions include the Somnox sleep robot, which you can cuddle to help you replicate the breathing patterns thought to help with sleep
On the other hand, the booming sleep technology industry is constantly innovating ways to help you get a good rest. These come in the form of apps for smartphones, like SleepScore, which tracks your sleep and recommends aids to help you, and special lamps like the Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750D, which replicates a fading sunset at night to help you relax and a gradual sunrise to help you wake in the morning.
There are even some more innovative solutions like Somnox sleep robot, which you can cuddle to help you replicate the breathing patterns thought to help with sleep.
It’s a crowded field out there in the world of sleep advice, with lots of contradictory solutions making it hard to know the best way to beat a bad night’s sleep. But, according to Dr Stanley, it’s all about keeping it simple.
‘Essentially, to get a good night’s sleep, you need a bedroom conducive to sleep – one that’s dark, quiet, cool and comfortable; you need a relaxed body and a quiet mind, and that’s it,’ he says. ‘Any other advice only builds on that.’