Can sleep technology help you nod off and stay asleep?

If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, you may be considering the latest sleep technology. But do these gadgets actually work?

There’s plenty of advice to suggest too much technology can make it difficult to switch off at bedtime.

But could the answer to your sleep troubles actually be to switch on instead?

The global sleep aids market is expected to hit more than $60 billion by 2030, and there are countless gadgets to choose from.

But before you rush off to the shops, sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo says you should do your research first.

“Sleep technology backed by clinical evidence typically works, but those (gadgets) without supporting data are often ineffective,” Olivia says.

Why is a good night’s sleep so important?

Experts agree we need about seven hours of sleep a night for optimal health, but Sleep Health Foundation chief executive Dr Moira Junge says its research indicates nearly 60 per cent of Australians struggle to fall or stay asleep.

“Sleep is a fundamental pillar of good health,” Dr Junge says.

Sleep supports every aspect of our physical and mental wellbeing, including cognitive function, immunity, and cell and muscle repair; and it reduces the risk of chronic disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes – even some cancers, she explains.

What sleep technology is worth considering?

To help you improve your sleep quality, you may want to look at the following sleep technology tools and devices:

Blue light blockers

Research shows using TVs, tablets, phones and eReaders before bedtime can disturb our slumber by messing with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Blue light-reducing sleep technology can be an effective way to counter this.

“You don’t want to be immersing yourself in blue light in the hours before bed, so these devices can be very good,” Dr Junge says.

Light-therapy glasses

Olivia says while it’s important to block blue light in the evening, exposure to it in the morning will help reset your circadian rhythm so you fall asleep easily at night.

“Clinical evidence supports this – a 2019 study showed people with light-therapy glasses slept better than those without,” she says.

Sleep trackers

“The technology focuses on monitoring sleep through brain activity, movement or heartbeat, and every year these (devices) become more accurate,” Dr Junge explains.

She says monitoring is great if it motivates you, but becoming obsessed is counterproductive.

“The more anxious you are, the more elusive sleep will become,” she adds.

Meditation aids

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep quality.

“Meditation apps and devices can be a great way to relax and get you in the right space for a good sleep,” Dr Junge says.

Nasal dilators

Olivia says nasal dilators can help snorers – and their partners – to sleep more soundly.

“By gently opening up the airways, these devices enhance airflow, which is often the cause of snoring itself,” she says.

Sound machines

There are noise machines for almost every shade of the rainbow these days – white, pink, brown – but they all work in a similar way by creating sounds that mask background noise and encouraging your brain into a more rhythmic pattern.

Research has also found natural sounds – such as the sound of water flowing or the sound of wind – can reduce stress and heart rate, which in turn can aid sleep.

When to seek professional help for sleep issues

Dr Junge says sleep technology can be great as an early intervention, but we shouldn’t need to rely on it every night.

“Technology has some great applications that can be useful but if you’re relying on it and can’t sleep naturally, it might be time to get help from a trusted professional,” she says.

“If you’ve had poor-quality sleep for a few months, there may be an underlying problem that a gadget or device isn’t going to fix.”

Written by Dimity Barber.