Everyone loves sleeping, but not everyone does it well – according to the CDC, 30% of adults sleep less than six hours per night, and there are a bunch of terrible public health risks because of it. What do we, as a nation, do about it? Thanks to the whole "quantified self" movement, we’ve got people using gadgets and apps to tlrack their sleep. But while sleep trackers will prove to you using data that you’re a bad sleeper, they don’t inherently help you fall asleep.
If you’re tired of counting sheep, try one of these three weird tech solutions to your sleep problems.
1. Sleep With Me podcast
Website | iTunes
Remember that part in Funny People where Adam Sandler asks Seth Rogan to tell him a bedtime story? If he had a smartphone and a podcast app, he could’ve just listened to Sleep With Me.
Sleep With Me is probably the only podcast that actively wants you to fall asleep before you finish it. The podcast itself is kind of insane – take Napcast 24, where the host, "Scooter," pretends to be Prince Tommen from Game of Thrones and spends the entire episode talking to his cat, Ser Pounce.
But what makes this podcast so good at getting people to fall asleep? No one really knows, but the creator, Drew Ackerman, theorized that it has to do with the rambling nature of the stories. Nothing repeats, and there’s no internal logic to the story, making it hard for your brain to focus on any of the details. Ackerman has also admitted that it may just be his personality.
Sleep With Me is also pretty low-tech – as long as you have a smartphone or any MP3 player made in the last twenty years, you should be able to listen to it. If you need help, check out our article on how to listen to podcasts for a quick FAQ.
2. f.lux / Night Shift / Twilight
Americans spend a lot of times looking at screens. We move back and forth between a lot of different screens, too – computer screens at work, tablets at home, phone all day. Unsurprisingly, spending this much time looking at screens can affect your sleep habits! Who would’ve guessed?
In case you didn’t realize this, pretty much every screen is made up of lights. When you look at a screen, it’s a lot like staring directly at a light bulb. Because our body’s natural sleep cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, uses sunlight to gauge when we should be sleeping, staring directly at a light source messes it up.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do short of throwing out all of your electronic devices. First things first, turn down the brightness. The brighter your display, the more awake your body will force you to become.
Secondly, cut out the blue light. What does that mean? Well, all white light is made up of a spectrum of different colors – hence, the album cover for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Science tells us that it’s blue light, specifically, that tricks our bodies into believing it’s still daytime. Therefore, if you could cut out the blue parts of your screen’s white light, you could still use your screen without suffering from insomnia.
No matter what screen you’re using, you can cut out blue light somehow:
- On your computer, download f.lux. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and will automatically figure out when the sun is going to set and block blue light as the sun goes down.
- If you use an iPhone or iPad, you can use Night Shift, which does the same thing. Night Shift will come as a part of the 9.3 upgrade later this year, but if you can’t wait, you can grab it on the public beta now.
- If you’re an Android user, check out Twilight. It has basically the same feature set as f.lux and Night Shift and it’s free.
Is your screen not represented here? Check out these crazy orange goggles. They will make you look foolish but at least you’ll sleep okay.
NightWave sounds like a superhero who has a magic surfboard that can travel on "night waves" (basically waves of darkness [a.k.a. the absence of light]) and fights enemies by blinding them. But it’s not! At least, not until Marvel hires me to finally produce my dream project.
The NightWave is actually this little black box that spits out a weird ebbing light that works kind of like hypnosis. In fact, it’s actually designed using relaxation techniques that psychologists use in cognitive behavioral therapy. If you want more insight into how the science of NightWave works, take a look at this video explanation:
If nothing else is helping you fall asleep, NightWave may be a good alternative to either prescription sleeping pills or herbal remedies. Of course, you could also just try one of these light projectors designed for children, which are twenty bucks on Amazon and can probably show you the stars or something.