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Tech guys advise steps for sleeping better with your smart device

By Jim Bray
March 13, 2015

Are you addicted to your smart phone and/or tablet? Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night because you're still wired from spending time with your wireless device? In other words, are you completely hung up on your iPhone or iPad or its other OS'd cousin?

Well, friend, if these scenarios describe you, you may be interested in these five tips on how to live better with your wireless virtual little friend. I got these tips from a Beverly Hills, California, PR company on behalf of Shane Broesky and Steven Devries, co-founders of the Canadian-based company Färbe Technik, which they bill as "the leading global manufacturer of mobile accessories for Apple, Blackberry and Samsung."

I have no idea who died and made these guys the sleep gurus, but their advice does have some merit, so I figured I should pass on their bullet points of wisdom for whatever they're worth. Why? Because I'm one of those nerds who pores over his Pad from after dinner to just before bedtime, getting caught up on the "news" or merely surfing or playing idly, and my dear wife has commented on this habit repeatedly, telling me I should curtail my computing and unwind before going to bed.

And wouldn't you know, her advice matches the first point of these Färbe Technik guys. Fortunately, she doesn't usually read my columns so will probably never know I've just admitted in public that she's right about something.

So here, for what it's worth, are the five tips the Färbe Technik guys have for living better with your ubiquitous screen. My comments and snarks follow.

  1. Limit gadget use to two hours before bedtime. As it turns out, these guys aren't just talking about giving yourself some time to wind down, they're claiming that the blue wavelength light that gadgets emit (which I had never heard about before now) actually suppresses your body's melatonin production, which they say controls sleep and wake cycles. So since the human body produces melatonin two hours before bedtime (how does it know when you're two hours away from bed?), reducing exposure during this particular 120 minute window "is key for a good night's sleep." Being tired probably doesn't hurt, either.
  2. Use devices with smaller screens. "Larger devices are more effective in suppressing melatonin, due to their ability to emit more blue light," the Färbe Technik guys claim, adding that the closer a device is used to the eye, the more light the eye will take in. "To avoid exposure to more of this light," they claim, "keep device at an arm's length distance when checking notifications in bed." This is all well and good, but I wear reading glasses and would much rather view the screen of my iPad than the little one on my Samsung smart phone. Heck, it's why I got an iPad in the first place! I use my phone for surfing, email checking and the like when my iPad isn't handy, but it's certainly a fallback position for when I've forgotten to pack the Pad. And I can hardly keep it at arm's length and still be able to read it. 
  3. Turn down the brightness. Here's one I agree with wholeheartedly. According to the Färbe Technik guys, "the brighter a display, the more light that hits the back of the eye, leading to greater melatonin disruption," which is their justification for telling you to dim things down. I don't know about the melatonin stuff – unlike these accessory makers' claims, I make no boast of a medical background - but I do turn the brightness down (or leave it so the iPad takes care of that itself) as a matter of course. I do this with my TV's, too, because they're set far too bright when you get them home and take them out of their box (it's supposedly so they can stand out from other TV's in the store if the unit ends up being put on display there). You not only don't need the screen to be that bright, chances are you'll like the picture quality better – or more natural, anyway - if you dim it down. Naturally, this doesn't apply if you're watching a video outside in bright sunlight.
  4. Use display-altering software"Use apps that allow users to adjust the color intensity of their screens, adjusting blue/green wavelengths to orange/red lights, based on the time of day. Changing to these wavelengths can increase sleep ability and enhance sleep quality." Good luck remembering to do that! I'm lucky if I remember where the home button is!  
  5. Get outside more during the day. "Remember that humans need blue light to alert their bodies and notify it's time to work. The more blue light taken in during the daytime, the better the body is able to desensitize itself to blue light's effects at bedtime." My dear wife has to sweat blood to get me outdoors, and she says that driving test cars doesn't count, so good luck with that one, too. Heck, I don't even  usually put the top down of a convertible during the heat of the day becuase I hate the sun beating down on me; I'm more likely to drop the top in the morning or evening or on the type of warm winter days we get here in southern Alberta.

Still, it doesn't appear any of these strategies could hurt you – speaking again from my vast history in the medical industry – and who knows, maybe the can help.

As is usual with any such pearls of wisdom, your mileage may vary. I admit that I do try to curtail my tablet use earlier than I used to, though it's more a half hour than two hours before I go to bed and usually because my dear wife looks over her glasses at me as a pointed reminder. On the other hand, I rarely have trouble falling asleep – though sometimes I struggle with staying asleep.

And that's why, for just such emergencies, I keep a rubber mallet on the headboard, close by my lovely spouse's hand.

Copyright 2015 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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