My wife kept waking up in the morning exhausted. Instead of being rested and rejuvenated she felt tired and groggy. Being the loving husband that I am, I immediately ran to technology for help! “Google, how can I sleep better using my Android?” The results were quite interesting.
The first thing any true geek is going to do is look for ways to gather data. After all, how can you hope to fix a problem if you don’t know the root cause? “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” apparently doesn’t work in every situation.
My first thought was to acquire a special piece of hardware like UP by Jawbone. This product says it will help you “Know your sleep patterns, get to bed on time, and improve the quality of your days”. Well that sounds perfect! I put that on the short list, but it meant buying something new. Couldn’t my wife’s Nexus 4 already do something like that?
Sure enough, there’s an app called Sleep as Androidthat lets you track your sleep cycle, shows you graphs of your “sleep deficit” as well as statistics for “deep sleep” and even snoring. When it’s time to wake up, it can gently help you rise and shine using alarm sounds from nature (birds, the ocean, a thunderstorm, etc.). You can even tie it into your Philips Hue LED lights, and it has helper apps for Pebble, Android Wear, and Gear (Tizen) smartwatches. That sounds even better!
Then I remembered something a friend had told me about. Apparently we humans are particularly sensitive to light in the blue spectrum. That’s usually not a problem since, other than the sky, there’s not much blue in nature. As night approaches, blue all but goes away, replaced by reds and oranges.
In the olden days people didn’t stay up much past twilight, and didn’t begin their day much before dawn. Why? Many didn’t have ready access to artificial illumination, and those who did had oil burning lamps or candles – both which burn in the red part of the spectrum. Even incandescent light bulbs put off a warm, yellow/white glow. Apparently, “light at night is bad for your health, and exposure to blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient light bulbs may be especially so”, at least according to Harvard Medical School.
“While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).”
That’s when it dawned on me. My wife and I generally put our young family to sleep at 8:30pm, then we stay up waiting for them to fall asleep. What do we do? You guessed it! We pull out our smartphones or tablets. She’ll play some Minecraftor Clash of Clans, while I’ll read an ebook or watch some instructional videos on YouTube. The light from our screens has enough blue in them to seriously mess with our melatonin – or so went my theory. Now, to test it!
A coworker at my day job swears by a program called f.lux and a friend of mine wears “blue blocking” glasses whenever he works on a computer screen. Hmmmm… maybe there’s something to this!
I found an app called Twilight which filters the blue out of your Android’s display in sync with the sunrise/sunset cycles for your area. I installed it on my Nexus 7 and on my wife’s Nexus 4, and told her about the theory.
We’ve both been using the app (which runs automatically in the background) for about three weeks. We started to see a marked improvement on our quality of sleep as well as how we felt in the mornings after only a couple of days! It’s gotten progressively better ever since. While I’d still like to get some sound data, and perhaps even put my Moto 360 or Pebble to the task of monitoring my sleep, I’m really quite happy with the success I’ve seen just by running Twilight.
If you’re curious to see it this might help you sleep better, head to the Play Store and try it out on your Android. Sent me a Tweet to @JoeLevi in a few days and let me know how it worked for you!