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The high-tech world of sleep

Technology has already taken over the living room (hello, smart TVs and DVR players) and the kitchen (think: programmable ovens and recipe apps instead of cookbooks), and now it’s set its sights on the bedroom. Probably the most obvious change in our bedtime routines these days is that many people curl up in bed with a smartphone or tablet instead of a book or magazine. In fact, 95 percent of people use some sort of electronic device at least a few nights a week during the hour before bed. This makes it tougher to fall asleep. Reading a work email at 9:30pm can keep you up with stress, the blue light from the screens mimics daylight and stimulates you, and you can wake up feeling tired, anxious, and depressed. That’s why you should power down devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

That said, technology isn’t all bad. It’s also helping sleep. For example, the mattress company Sleep Number recently unveiled a brand new “smart bed.” It tracks sleep patterns through your body temperature and movement and adjusts accordingly to different situations. For example, if your partner is snoring, you can use a feature that will naturally tweak the position of him or her to stop the noise.

Small, portable sleep trackers, such as Fit Bit wristbands, as well as sleep-related apps, are all growing in popularity, as well. These devices and applications can help you record how many hours of sleep you get each night, how many times you wake during the night, and more.

There is also a new light bulb that has a microprocessor built into it—all with the goal to help you sleep better. It’s called the Drift Light. Screw it into a bedside lamp and it will operate like any other bulb. But activate the “midnight mode” by turning it on, off, and on again, and it will fade to dark slowly over 37 minutes (just like what would happen during a sunset). Another light, the Philips Wake-Up Light, will do the opposite in the morning and gradually brighten over the course of 30 minutes.

As you can see, technology in the bedroom has its pros and cons. So if you’re going to use a digital device, make sure it’s one that promotes sleep, rather than stops it in its tracks!