Insomnia is a surprising epidemic. Around 60 million Americans suffer from sleeplessness—though 50 percent frequently present symptoms—and its effects are wide-reaching. Insomnia is linked to depression, overdoses, and incidents on the road.
While there’s no cure-all fix for the condition, smart device can help you get more sleep each night. You can get better sleep by making a few simple changes around your house.
White Noise Generators
Hearing is different to listening. It’s why you might be used to traffic noise, but a dog barking keeps you on high alert. You can “tune out” of one but be alarmed by the other. Seth Horowitz writes, in The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind:
“There is no such thing as silence. We are constantly immersed in and affected by sound and vibration… And the reasons the constant thrumming doesn’t drive us all insane are the same reasons we get distracted by radio jingles and can’t read when the TV is on: we are good at choosing what we hear.”
This is where white noise comes in. It’s a constant frequency that acts as background noise. Your brain gets used to this and blends other sounds into the tone you’re already used to.
The SNOOZ White Noise Sound Machine is a fan-based unit—but don’t worry, you can still use it in winter as it doesn’t generate cold air. Its timer and variable tones allow you to customize the SNOOZ for adults, kids, and pets. Control it remotely through the accompanying app.
This includes a timer and “Nursery Calibration”, ideal for protecting babies and toddlers from excessive noise.
It looks like an Echo Dot or Google Nest Mini, so it’s light and compact. Once you’re accustomed to white noise, you can take it wherever you go.
Every Moment Counts’ White Noise Machine produces white noise but is also a natural sound generator. These are perfect if you’re not keen on listening to something that sounds artificial.
This unit can generate 38 sounds, including birdsong, a train ride, pink noise (a deeper resonance than white), waves, a clock, and lullabies. Some—like the heartbeat or a dog barking—are superfluous or unsettling. The dripping water function might make you need the toilet. But this nonetheless offers amazing range and personalization.
Ever hear someone say they’ll sleep well after a long walk in the countryside? Natalie Dautovich, PhD, of the National Sleep Foundation, explains:
“Exercise helps, of course, but fresh air is a big factor. A decrease in temperature can lead to tiredness, and fresh air simulates a cooler environment… [T]here are a lot of positive associations between fresh air and relaxation, and when we feel relaxed and comfortable in our environment, we’re more likely to feel sleepy.”
You could also be victim to allergies, especially if you suffer from congestion during the night. Your breathing could be affected by dust particles, pollen, and mold, all of which may stop you relaxing in an evening.
The AeraMax 300 Large Room Air Purifier uses a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter to remove allergens, dust mites, and mold spores.
It also comes with an intensive mode to filter germs in flu seasons and pollen in the spring. This makes it ideal for anyone with breathing difficulties, as certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The small LONOVE Dehumidifier is great for small bedrooms, bathrooms, or basements.
By keeping air moisture below 50 percent, it reduces the chance of mold, making a healthier environment for sleeping.
Yes, it’s tiny, but this makes it easily portable and quiet. Unlike some dehumidifiers, it emits less than 30dB, so can be used in children’s bedrooms. You can even put one in your wardrobe and it’ll slowly eliminate musty smells and slowly dry your clothes.
You already know that it’s difficult to sleep if it’s too hot or too cold. Bill Bryson, in The Body: A Guide for Occupants, writes:
“Although our body temperature varies slightly throughout the day (it is lowest in the morning, highest in the late afternoon or evening), it stays within a decidedly narrow compass of 36 to 38 degrees Celsius. To avoid catastrophe, the brain has its trusty control centre, the hypothalamus, which tells the body to cool itself by sweating or to warm itself by shivering and diverting blood flow away from the skin and into the more vulnerable organs.”
Our body temperature reacts to the environment around us. Aim for your bedroom to be 16 to 18 degrees Celsius (that’s 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit).
It’s one of the best-known smart home devices. The Google Nest Thermostat is a self-learning unit which creates a heating schedule based on what temperatures you like and when you’re typically home.
The main selling point of a Nest is to save on energy bills. But it can also help you sleep by automatically regulating ambient room temperature. Of course, you can also alter settings remotely through the Nest app.
The SwitchBot Hub Plus isn’t designed solely for temperature control—pair it with any smart home appliance. That means you can use the SwitchBot app to control the lights, turn the TV on and off, and regulate the air conditioner.
Plan a schedule using programs like IFTTT, then decide which devices should be automated in different seasons. It means you can cool the bedroom in the summer while you’re binge-watching Netflix in the living room.
Plus the light-up cloud design looks fantastic.
Smart Home Lighting and Light Switches
Our bodies react to light. You get tired as the gloomier evenings draw in; you wake up earlier than usual as the sun shines through your blinds. It’s part of your internal clock known as the circadian rhythm, also controlled by the hypothalamus but affected by light exposure. The Sleep Council says:
“When we see light, our bodies assume it’s time to wake up. When it’s dark, we release melatonin which relaxes the body and helps us to drift off.”
Smart lighting affects your health. By attuning to your circadian rhythm, you regulate your sleep/wake cycle, so you’ll feel more energized during the day.
The biggest brand name in smart lighting can be intimidating. How do you even use it?
Just screw in one of the smart bulbs, download the free app, and connect the Hub to your router using an Ethernet cable or smart plug. You can use your phone to remotely turn your lights on, even if you’re not at home. You can dim them, set timers, and (depending on the bulb) change the color.
Each bulb is designed to last over 20 years.
If you or a youngster needs a night light, this is a good option as the Philips Hue Starter Kit bulbs can emit red light. A 2017 study by the University of Haifa found that “exposure to red light showed a very similar level of melatonin production” to when sleeping in total darkness.
The Treatlife Smart Light Switch lets you control your lights from the comfort of your bed. Use the app on your smartphone or connect it to a voice assistant. You can also set a schedule so your house automatically lights up at the time you’re normally home from work.
There’s an Away Mode, reverting to a routine when you’re on vacation so no one knows you’re away.
The most useful addition is Group Control. Use these smart home light switches in every room then sync them. When you get into bed, Group Control lets you turn off every light in the house with one command. Just learn the distinction between a smart home light switch and bulb, so you make sure you’re opting for the right appliance.
How to Set a Sleep Timer Using Alexa
Can voice assistants help you sleep better? Many smart devices connect to voice assistants like Alexa. You don’t have to get up to adjust the Google Nest, for instance: just instruct Alexa to do it for you.
Alexa, sleep on my behalf.
— Akanksha ???? (@Dayumbiryani) November 7, 2019
Voice assistants can also be used to relax in the evening by playing your favorite soothing music. Worried that it’ll continue playing after you’ve drifted off? It’s easy to set a Sleep Timer on Alexa. Simply say “Alexa, set a sleep timer for 60 minutes”, or however long you want it to continue.
After an hour has elapsed, it’ll switch off the music, audiobook, or podcast you’ve been listening to.
You can extend this afterwards if you’re still awake, of course. But if you want to stop the timer, say “Alexa, cancel sleep timer”.
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Technology is often linked to insomnia. But gadgets aren’t always damaging:
- White noise and natural sound generators help you ignore background noises.
- Breathing devices purify the air in your bedroom, meaning you suffer less from allergens.
- Temperature controllers help you regulate your body’s heat.
- Smart home lighting aids your natural circadian rhythm.
In fact, if you’re suffering from sleeplessness, these apps track your nights and find out why you can’t drift off.