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Your iPhone Can Hurt or Help Your Sleep

Sleep is a restorative process necessary for maintaining our bodies’ functions and mental health.  Lack of sleep and/or poor sleep can lead to weight gain, decreased productivity, poor immune system function, diminished concentration and greater risk to a variety of health problems.  These include heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory conditions, and depression.

Negative Effects of Improper Use

Given these negative consequences, you’d think we’d all be doing our utmost to get a good night’s rest.  Instead, we’ve become addicted to personal electronic devices, including iPhones and iPads, that may be decreasing the amount and effectiveness of our rest.  Scientists and medical professionals have been warning for years that electronic devices can lead to difficulty falling asleep and poor sleep quality throughout the night.

  • Using your iPhone or iPad immediately before bedtime can result in over-stimulation or stress.
  • The screen’s blue light can suppress melatonin production, a natural hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle.
  • FOMO combined with leaving your device near bed can lead to a temptation to check email, play games, etc.
  • Ringing and other alerts can jar you awake.

Strategies for Reducing Undesirable Effects

To avoid these problems, you can try implementing one or more of the following strategies:

  • Use the Night Shift feature on your iPad or iPhone to shift the display colours to warmer tones during evening and night hours.  It’s found in Setting under Display & Brightness.
  • Read and watch only relaxing content before bedtime.  Especially avoid visiting social media and news sites.
  • Implement at least a 15-30 minute “transition” time before bedtime during which you do something technology-free, such as read an actual paperback novel.
  • Program the Bedtime function on your iPhone to remind you to go to bed at approximately the same time each night.
  • Use your iPhone’s Downtime setting to block all but essential apps during your transitional period and rest hours.  If necessary, it can be overridden passcode.
  • Put your phone on Silent-mode while you sleep so it will vibrate instead of ring.  Or go further and use Do Not Disturb to silence all calls and notifications.
  • Make the bedroom an iPhone- and iPad-free area.  Go so far as to switch to a regular alarm clock and relocate any charging stations.

Apps to Track and Improve Sleep

All that said, while iPhones and iPads can also improve it if used properly and in conjunction with the strategies above.

Certain iPhone and iPad apps can track how much and how well you’ve slept.  Some such apps require using wearable device while you sleep.  While these often cost upwards of $100, they can also be used during the day track exercise, calories, heartrate, etc...  For example, if you purchase a Fitbit, the accompanying app will track your day and night functions all through one easy-to-review platform.  Sleep tracking apps that don’t pair with a wearable device use the iPhone’s or iPad’s motion and sound detection capabilities instead.  SleepCycle is one such example.  It even claims to work with two people in the bed.  If you’re also interested in heart rate analysis and personalized tips, Pillow may be the app for you.  With Beddit, you’re encouraged to track the conditions and your daily habits that may affect your sleep so you can fine-tune your bedtime environment and routine.

iPhone and iPad apps have also been developed to help induce slumber and keep you asleep.  These apps typically involve some combination of soothing music or nature sounds, mediation and/or gradual wakening.  Sleeptime, for example, offers “soundscapes” to fall asleep to and promises to wake you during your lightest sleep phase.  Developed by clinical hypnotherapist Glenn Herold, Relax & Sleep Well offers four free hypnotherapy and meditation tracks with additional recordings available for purchase.  Similarly, Digipill offers a variety of guided meditation tracks for sleep, anxiety, power napping and more.  For psychology fans, Pzizz will introduce you to the science of psychoacoustics.  Through clinical study, the developers claim to have created “sound sequences and dynamic dreamscapes that are tailor-made for each portion of the sleep cycle.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that apps for tracking sleep and improving sleep quality work well together.  Indeed, some apps perform a combination of both functions.  Tracking your sleep can indicate whether a sleep aid app is warranted.  It’s also is a good measure of whether use of the latter is, in fact, leading to improved slumber over time.



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