In the 21st century, smart phones rule all. I constantly check my phone for news, weather, emails, social media, my calendar, alarm clock and much more. When my phone dies or is not near me, I feel as if part of me is missing. As a society we are addicted to our phones, so why not use our phones to improve our lifestyle. In the last two years wearable activity trackers have taken over the market. These activity trackers calculate calories, exercise, heart rate, sleep and often cost a pretty penny. Because of the evolution of technology our phones can track the same categories that wearable bands track. App stores are flooded with lifestyle improvement categories ranging from nutrition to mental health. How can our society use our phones and apps to sleep better? What products are in the market that promote sleep?
Getting up in the morning can be hard. Especially for college students who go to bed late trying to finish last minute assignments. Sure the alarm clock built into my smart phone works fine, but allows me to hit snooze multiple times and doesn't exactly get me out of bed in the morning. The Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock, a highly rated app store essential, analyzes your sleep via your phone's microphone. The microphone picks up movement and sound specific to a 90 minute sleep cycle. During the deepest stages of sleep our bodies produce little movement, it is often hard to wake from these stages and one may feel disoriented and groggy. During the early sleep stages a person may move and wake easily, resulting in the early stages being an optimal time to wake up as an individual will feel more refreshed and less groggy when the alarm goes off.
For people who are interested in tracking their sleep or keeping a sleep diary, Sleep Bot, is the perfect app. Not only does the app track your sleep it also uses a smart alarm like the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock to wake you up. I found this app to be especially useful because it provided long-term insights about how much sleep I was getting at night and how much sleep debt I've accrued. The sleep debt tracker is especially useful because the app gives me a visual cue of the lack of sleep I am getting. This cue triggers me to start getting ready for bed earlier in order to reduce the sleep debt and end up on the positive side.
For students who have a difficult time falling asleep at night, the app Pzizz Sleep, generates a sleep soundtrack with an option of guided meditation to help you fall asleep. Meditation is shown to improve a person's ability to fall asleep. Personally I enjoy listening to music when I fall asleep but often have a difficult time deciding what to fall asleep too. With this app, I don't have to worry about generating a playlist, and can customize the amount of time I would like the app to play. The music is very soothing and helps me fall asleep quickly. A bonus to this app is the ability to choose between two modes, nap mode and sleep mode allowing the app to generate music specifically for naps or a night's sleep.
As touched on before, blue light emitted from electronics delays the release of melatonin. This is critical at night when our bodies and minds are unwinding while watching TV, reading from a tablet, or scrolling through our phones. The blue light prohibits our bodies from releasing melatonin allowing us to not feel tired at night. With the new 9.03 IOS update for iphone users, Apple has built in a new feature removing blue light from your cell phone. To enable this feature go to Setting → Display & Brightness → Night Shift → Scheduled and set the time you would like Night Shift to turn on. For Android users the app Twilight does the same thing. Unfortunately Apple did not build this feature into their computers. F.lux can be downloaded to your computer with an easy click of a button to help remove the blue light from your screen. If you want to take removing blue light from your environment even further, new glasses that reflect blue light from passing through the lens and can be used at night when watching TV. Glasses are available with varying magnification levels, for those of you who need or use reading glasses!
All of the above products and apps are great tools to add to your sleep kit. Remember it is important to set up a sleep environment as a good sleep environment promotes good sleep quality. Sleep is a key to living healthy and functioning daily. Try out one of these products and see if it helps you achieve your optimum sleep potential!