What do Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and Chernobyl all have in common? They were caused by someone with lack of sleep.
It may not kill you, at least not right away, but not getting enough sleep will eventually do you in. According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, 10 years of research prove that lack of sleep can be blamed for obesity in adults and children, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, and even alcoholism.
So, what do you do if you’re one of those workaholics with big dreams and passions, and have little time for the annoying practice of “sleep”?
As a fellow sufferer of the affliction known as workaholism, I’m going to share with you a number of web tools and services that I’ve used to not only get to get more sleep, but to do it more quickly and more deeply than ever before.
Web Apps and Sleep? Say What?
Okay look, I’m writing this article at 12:38 A.M. It’s when I do my best work. I also need to wake up at 6:30 in the morning, which means in most cases I’ll get 5 to 6 hours of sleep per day during the week. I get a wonderful 8 to 9 hours on weekends.
Is it ideal? No.
But how many people do you know have an ideal schedule? Just because you can’t get the optimum number of hours of sleep each night, there are ways that you can make the hours you do get much more effective, and that’s where these web apps all come into play.
Use Night Reading Mode
It’s true that getting computer screen time close to bedtime is not conducive to a good night of sleep. Andy Betts wrote the 2012 AMA report that explained this. A month later, Bryan Clark confirmed this as a scientific fact. So what can you do to reduce the short wavelength blue light that can affect the quality of your sleep?
Lots, actually. One example is the Night Reading Mode Chrome extension [No longer available], which inverts light/dark colors on websites you visit.
It includes brightness and contrast adjustments, and even a Text Zoom feature so that you don’t have to strain your eyes to read text.
All of these things can combine to keep your eyes relaxed in the hours before you’re about to go to bed.
I actually found that the extension above doesn’t always flip the white/black colors on the entire web page for many sites. Another extension that works a little better, if the text magnification feature isn’t critical to you, is the High Contrast Chrome extension created by Google.
It literally flips light/dark on the screen so that you’re reading white text on a dark screen. If you’ve never tried this, I highly recommend that you use one of these at least two to three hours before you usually go to bed. You’ll find that your eyes aren’t nearly as sore and you’re able to fall asleep more quickly.
Remind Yourself to Go to Bed
One of the biggest problems most workaholics have is that they lose track of time at night. 10 P.M. turns into 1 A.M., and before you know it you’ve finally finished your work, and are shocked when you see the clock reads “3:00”.
Don’t let yourself lose track of time. On average, people need at least 15 minutes to fall asleep. Add on 15 minutes to brush your teeth and get ready for bed, plus an additional 15 minutes for good measure, and you should be getting ready for bed 45 to 60 minutes before you actually want to get to sleep. A great way to do this is setting an alarm clock in your browser.
There are a lot of very easy options for this, short of setting your watch or your phone. Make it easy by going over to the Online Analog Alarm Clock, and set the alarm for an hour before you want to go to bed.
The alarm is a really loud, traditional electronic buzzer alarm clock sound. Trust me, you won’t miss it.
Another useful web service for this is KuKuKlock, which lets you set the time you want to be alerted (in military time), and you can choose from four really annoying sounds that are sure to get your attention.
Try the “Slayer Guitar” — it’s crazy.
If you don’t really trust yourself to close your work and get to bed, then outsmart your own workaholism by using the Sleeper Chrome Extension. Set it for an hour before bed, and it’ll close all Chrome tabs (after a 1 minute delay so you can save your work).
If that doesn’t get you off your computer and headed to bed, nothing will!
Crank the Ambient Sounds
Earlier this year, Rob Nightingale listed a few really useful ways you can relax for better sleep. One thing he actually left out of the list was one of the most effective — sound.
In a study conducted by Jue Zhang, Ph.D. at China’s Peking University, researchers found that 75% of participants experienced a more restful sleep when exposed to pink noise. Most interestingly, when brain activity was measured during sleep, researchers found that the most restful form of sleep increased 23% for the sleepers who were exposed to “pink noise” during sleep.
“White noise” may not have the same effect — in fact some studies find many background “white noise” machines can be detrimental to brain development, so choose your soothing sounds carefully.
According to Dr. Zhang, you want sound where there is a consistent frequency for every octave. An example Zhang offers is, “Think of rain falling on pavement, or wind rustling the leaves on a tree.”
A good place to start looking for these sounds is a site called Calmsound.
There you can choose from video or just sound, featuring various nature sounds — the exact stuff you should listen to for the most peaceful sleep.
This will pre-select various sounds for you. Or, you can just manually click the icons on the page for the background sounds that you want.
Personally, I love the night time sounds (the moon icon) — the song of the night crickets brings me back to my childhood in Northern Maine, sleeping by an open window. It gets me to sleep in seconds.
Another really impressive site is called Ambient Mixer. This one lets you choose from different “atmosphere” themes, like “A book by the sea”, “Fire on a stormy night”, or “Spa Day”. Then, you can adjust the 5 channels that make up each individual track within the sound itself — allowing you to choose the elements of the noise that relax you the most.
Last, but certainly not least, is a site called Noise Machines, where real noises are meticulously recorded on multiple tracks, and provided to you to choose from.
Technically, the site isn’t free — a donation of at least $5 will make you a “patron”, but considering the many noises Dr. Ir. Stéphane Pigeon has traveled the world to collect, it’s a small price to pay, really.
Each high-quality recorded sound features 10 or so tracks that you can adjust to your liking. At this site, nearly all the sounds are real — those aren’t computer generated ocean waves. The good doctor traveled on-site and recorded only the best quality audio he could manage.
No matter which noise generator you choose, activate these sounds on your computer about an hour before your “1-hour go-to-bed” alarm goes off. This starts getting your mind into “sleep mode” just a little ahead of time, and will dramatically reduce the amount of time that it’ll take you to actually fall asleep when you do go to bed.
Not to mention, it’ll make you feel really, really relaxed. Try it.
Time When You Wake Up Carefully
There is one last tip I’d like to share to optimize the little amount of sleep that you get. Time when you wake up very carefully.
It is well known that the human brain, in fact the human body, goes through a sleepiness cycle known as the circadian rhythm. During the night, your body will cycle through this rhythm and at some point near morning your body and your mind will be at its most rested state — perfect for waking up and feeling refreshed.
There is actually a web app you can use to calculate what time you should set your alarm for in order to ensure you wake up when your body and your mind is ready to, called Sleepyti.me.
Once you’re ready to head to bed, just click the “zzz” button at the bottom of the window and it’ll calculate what time you should set your alarm so that you feel most rested in the morning.
Or, you can type in the exact time you need to wake up, and the service will calculate the time you should try to get to sleep (remember to give yourself at least 15 minutes!)
Another option, if you prefer to use your smartphone to look up the idea sleep times, is an Android app called Sleepytime. Even better, if you have an iPhone, you could use the Sleep Cycle alarm clock which monitors your sleep cycle (based on your restlessness patterns) through the night, and will wake you up exactly when you are feeling the most rested.
Hack Your Sleep and Get Healthy
The ideal scenario is that you go to bed early and get a full eight hours of sleep. But when that can’t happen, at least using all of the tools and tricks above, you can make the most of the sleep time that you do have.
Give them a shot and let us know which techniques worked the best for you.
Do you know of any other web services or apps that can help enhance your sleep? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Feeling exhausted by g-stockstudio via Shutterstock