09 December 2014

Sleep and Technology: Ways to quiet your smartphone for sweet, uninterrupted sleep

"Byemobile" image courtesy GoPixPic.com
One of the common challenges that sleep technologists have while working with patients in the lab setting is the requirement that all technology be turned off at bedtime. No television, no tablet, no game device, no cell phone, no radio.

"How am I supposed to sleep?" is often the outcry when the television or radio is removed from the laboratory setting. They want to read their tablet or play that last round of digital Solitaire, which is actually going to keep them awake at night, thanks to the blue-light emissions.

On the one hand, it's a great opportunity for the sleep technologist to educate their patients on bedtime habits that can challenge a good night's sleep.

What is far more challenging, however, is to get patients to understand that having a cell phone that is turned on all night may be one of the biggest problems that person faces when trying to achieve quality sleep.

The argument for leaving the phone ring and vibrate tones on is often that the particular individual is "on call" for their job and can't turn it off. Or they have small children at home who may miss them, or a teenager at home by themselves, or a loved one in the hospital with a critical condition, and they need to be able to take incoming calls in order to be in touch at a moment's notice.

Fair enough. Life happens.

But you can do something about this. Most smartphones these days have features that allow you to create a "Do Not Disturb" distinction of some sort, which will silence and send all incoming calls to the voicemail except for those which you give a special exception. You really CAN turn your phone off to everyone at bedtime except for that teenager who is going to be out late and needs to phone in if they are going to be out even later. You can also specify for individual incoming calls or texts.

Also, a word about notifications. Some patients who don't turn their phones off will receive chimes all night long from text messages, often not from people directly (though this happens, too) but via social networks like Facebook and Linked In, where notifications have been enabled. This can be extremely intrusive to one's sleep patterns if the text chime is constantly going off.

You can silence these notifications through your smartphone settings as well so that your phone basically "holds your calls" until you are awake again and can page through your notifications during the light of day.

This is really helpful for people who have social connections crossing many time zones, as their contacts may be posting at what is a normal time for them without realizing that the notification for their message is actually pinging their followers much later in the evening or extremely early in the morning.

Give it a try! I know my sleep is much better now that I am in charge of my cell phone activity. You can easily do this for yourself and, trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Priority settings for Android || c|net.com
Do not disturb settings for iPhone || Houston Chronicle
Blocking mode for Samsung Galaxy || GottaBeMobile

If for some reason these options don't work for you, or you would prefer a "do not disturb" feature as an app, you can also check your cell phone app store for free options to help give you control over your incoming calls and texts.