When providing sleep hygiene guidance to patients, our sleep specialists are keenly aware of the role "blue light" devices like tablets and smartphones play in preventing quantity and quality of sleep by messing with our circadian rhythms. But with the advent of apps specifically designed for personal sleep tracking and mindfulness, how do we balance proven therapy with technology that may increase compliance and help everyone sleep better and live healthier?
I met with a family care provider today. She clued me in on patients showing her apps they use on their phone to help with relaxation, meditation, even tracking your heart rate and sleep cycles with your smartwatch as a bio-monitor.
We are passionate about knowledge and education so that people can advocate for their health through better sleep. But it was a little concerning to think that people might be ignoring or putting off traditional sleep testing in lieu of a phone app. Since technology has come quite far in accurately tracking people's biometrics and providing detailed reports, it can be easy to self-diagnose and decide that all you need is Apple or Android. But you would be doing your health a huge disservice by not consulting with your primary care provider and sleep specialist about everything you may be learning outside their care. Of course, you shouldn't make decisions about your health care in a vacuum, which means the most responsible way to integrate what you learn from your sleep app and what you learn from your doctor is to introduce them to each other.
If you decide to use a phone app to help you track your sleep or create good bedtime habits through meditation and mindfulness, remember that it's important to adjust the blue light or shut down completely from electronics at some point in the day (your health app probably agrees). Apps like f.lux use your smartphone to adjust all of your WiFi or bluetooth enabled electronics to a warmer light in the evening to match your indoor lighting and help you relax at night. Apps can raise awareness and screen for issues by telling you something is up, but eventually you've got to talk to a professional for diagnosis. Technology should compliment and encourage our path to wellness, but not be used as a substitute for listening to our own bodies and talking to our providers.
Interested in learning more about apps for sleep and wellness? Here's a list of sleep apps that may lead you to better ZZZZ's. Remember to use other sleep hygiene tips to help you get your best sleep in 2018 and beyond.