Technology has pervaded virtually every aspect of our lives, for better or for worse. Since we spend a third of our lives sleeping, it is vital to pay attention to how our sleep is affected by the gadgets and gizmos of the computer era that we have become inseparable from. And as is the case with technology applied anywhere else, it can be beneficial or detrimental to your sleeping pattern depending on how it is applied.
Beneficial Effects of Technology on Sleep
If there is any standout success story of technology being used to positively impact our sleep, it has to be the one about memory foam’s entry into the sleep industry. Originally developed for NASA’s astronauts to cushion them against the impacts of entering and leaving orbit, the material was eventually recognized for its adaptive and responsive properties and incorporated into mattresses that contoured to the shape of the sleeper’s body.
Today, several decades after the first viscoelastic foam mattresses were introduced, there are dozens of brands offering sophisticated memory foam products, such as the ones here, which provide ample pain relief and conformity for people with awkward sleep postures that would otherwise interrupt their sleep by causing acute or sporadic bouts of stress-induced pain.
Mechanically adjustable bases have been around for a long time, but only recently has there been a growing trend towards commercially available electrically-operated adjustable bases for the bedroom. These bases are operated by wireless remotes (and sometimes even smartphone apps!) and enable your bed to transform into a variety of positions through the independent adjustment of head and foot platforms.
One particular medically proven position that these beds let you sleep in is the Zero Gravity position, where your feet are elevated to about the level of your heart with your back making a 120 degrees angle with your thighs. This boosts your circulation and minimizes the stress on your joints by uniformly distributing your weight which in turn hastens the onset of a deep sleep. The Zero Gravity position has been praised by many people who suffer from interrupted sleep.
Wave Massage Mechanisms
Modern advanced massage systems are designed to relax your sore muscles and lull your system into a slumber. These are often incorporated into the adjustable units discussed above; combined with an optimally adjusted position for your body, a massage pattern that targets your sore feet or shoulders creates an extremely relaxing sensation that puts you in the ideal place to drift off into a relaxing snooze.
On a related note, there is also brainwave technology that creates audio and vibratory waves that impact your brain function and induce sleep, completely harmlessly. It is especially useful for chronic insomniacs.
It has been shown that listening to neutral sounds such as rainfall or a thunderstorm can help you drown out disturbing noises that keep you from falling asleep. Whether you use a pair of earphones connected to your smartphone to listen to these sounds or your bedroom has a surround sound system to create a more authentic effect, it cannot be denied that it is a technology that helps you create an optimal bedroom ambiance that invites sleep.
Detrimental Effects of Technology on Sleep
Research has shown that bright blue light, e.g. the one emitted by the LED screens present in many electrical appliances, can have an adverse effect on our biological clock by interfering with the circadian rhythm that governs our sleep pattern.
The result isn’t just limited to interrupted or poor quality sleep – it may even lead to heart disease and obesity if you continue to be exposed to blue wavelength light at night time. Ironically, the same blue light is beneficial for us during the day as it boosts our attention and reaction times!
Electromagnetic wave signals are at the center of our connected lifestyle: your cell phone continuously emits and receives signals in the microwave spectrum, the WiFi technology that brings internet to every device in your home also uses its own EMF, and appliances such as televisions and computer screens continue to produce electromagnetic radiation even after you’ve put them to sleep.
The problem is that your own nervous system also operates on its own electrical frequency of 2 Hz, and when external EMF waves pass through your body, they mess with the internal electrical signals that your brain uses to communicate with the rest of your body. During the night, this translates into interrupted sleep, as your brain’s sleep-inducing electrical signals are interrupted by the multitude of EMF signals zipping through you.
Too Much Information
Our Internet-connected smartphones bring an almost infinite sea of information to us at any time of the day, but it is the constant notifications sent through social media channels that bombard us with often useless information that distract us from our sleep at night.
I have personally experienced insomnia stemming from too many thoughts floating around in my head, and after analyzing these thoughts, I realized that most of them were simply noise that had made its way into my head by way of Facebook posts – quite simply, it is important to disconnect from the rest of the world sometime before you go to sleep, to enable your brain to become free enough to trigger the process.