Night time tech: Technology that puts me to sleep

The third week of HackerYou’s spring cohort just ended, and my classmates and I found that we have one thing in common: an onset of poor sleep habits. Late nights staring at screens, too many coffees and questionable fast food choices are keeping all of us up at night. A Thursday afternoon headache inspired me to look at ways in which I use technology to help improve my wellness, rather than blaming it for bad life decisions. 

Burn out

For many, the cycle of stimulants and poor sleep is a reality of daily life. In a past life I worked a job with long hours and a long commute at an organization that was short staffed with short deadlines. Needless to say, I was stressed. As a result my physical, emotional and mental health suffered. Fast forward to February of this year: I had had enough. I sought help from a nutritionist to try to get my diet back on track, with the hopes that everything else would follow. We discussed the stressors in my life, my sleep quality and past medical history, among other things. My work with her was life changing, and I came out of our sessions with a new appreciation for kombucha (fermented tea) and a better understanding of how to keep balance in my life.

A major area I needed to focus on was sleep, both qualitatively and quantitatively. I knew I wasn’t getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep, but didn’t know how to make it a priority – It seemed counterintuitive to me, living in a fast-paced, deadline-focussed environment. My nutritionist told me that we should be preparing for bed all day, not just at night. What does that mean? Drinking water, getting outside, exercising, eating healthy whole foods and curbing caffeine intake during the day contributes to a better, longer sleep. No brainer right? My mom has been telling me all of that for years. But what really peaked my interest was how some technologies can effect our sleep patterns.


Blue light special

My nutritionist asked me how long I work on my laptop or smart phone into the night. Obviously I fall asleep mid-swipe while perusing Instagram, doesn’t everyone? Although the blue light emitted from laptops and smart phones are very energy-efficient to produce, the short frequency of the light is perceived as similar to bright sunlight by the brain. Staring at your devices well into the night will prevent your brain from producing those sleepy-time chemicals that aid in regular sleep patterns.

If you’re like me, some of my most productive computer hours are after the sun goes down, so the thought of shutting down my screens early seemed really unreasonable. Here are a few programs I use to ease into evening screen viewing:

F.lux – F.lux is a proram that adapts the colour of your screen to the time of day. It emits blue light during sunny hours and transitions to a golden glow as the sun sets. Make sure you aren’t selecting doing design heavy work that requires accurate on-screen colours. everything is going to look a bit jaundiced. You can also install this on your iPhone/iPad.

Twilight – My iPhone went for a swim recently, so I’ve transitioned to a Nexus 5. My instructor told me about an app for android called Twilight. EASY! 

These programs make evening screen viewing easy on the eyes, but don’t discount the psychological effect of working into the evening. If you are still answering emails and stressing about tasks in your PJs, you’re doing it wrong. Power down early to help your eyes and your mind relax for sleep. There’s an app for that.

How did you sleep?

In an effort to motivate myself to exercise more, I got a Jawbone UP. This device pairs with an app to track movement, mood, sleep and even your diet (if you take the time to punch it into the app). I was thrilled every time I met or exceeded my daily goal of 10,000 steps, but horrified to find out how poorly I was sleeping. The band informed me that I was waking up several times in the night and hardly getting any deep sleep (determined by the amount of movement it sensed when set to sleep mode). After making a conscious effort to “prepare for bed all day” paired with newly acquired earplugs, my sleep improved drastically. This was evidenced by both my UP band and the absence of purple circles under my eyes.

Sleep is an important part of our overall wellness. These are just a few of the technologies out there to help you get a better nights sleep. What technologies put you to sleep?



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This post was written by Vanessa Merritt

1 Comment

  • Wisam Zaghal says:

    I have an iphone so I can’t get f.lux, but I’m seriously considering getting blue-light blocking glasses! I find that waking up properly is equally as important as going to sleep properly, and that’s why I’ve moved away from regular alarm clocks and now using ‘Sleep Cycle’ –

    Great post on an important topic!

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