Since I've started using the Lark "un-alarm" clock, I have become more aware of my sleeping habits. I have a bedtime routine, usually consisting of washing my face and brushing my teeth, taking out my contact lenses, checking my email/Facebook/iPhone, setting my alarm and then going to sleep.
But sleep doesn't usually come quickly. My head is filled with questions, ideas and reminders. Did I turn the stove off after dinner? Is my black dress at the cleaners? Do I have time to pick up paper towels at the drugstore tomorrow? I typically lie in bed for another 15-20 minutes before dozing off. I also seem to come up with my best ideas at night. Once I start thinking about something, my mind just keeps working. It's like I get a second wind once I lie down -- typical of a night owl, I suppose.
Now that I'm more in tune with my sleep schedule, I can see what I think is keeping me awake -- it's the use of the electronic devices. These high-tech phones, high-definition televisions and sleek new e-readers seem to be both a blessing and a curse. We all love to use them, but they're really affecting our sleep cycles!
According to experts, you're not supposed to use electronics before bed, as they stimulate your brain and keep you awake longer. The lights from computers, phones and televisions suppress melatonin, the hormone that tells our bodies it's time to sleep.
As much as we'd like to deny it, this rationale makes complete sense. You want to check one more email, finish your game on your phone or add one more item to your calendar for the week, so you do it right before hopping into bed. Even though you physically shut the lights off, your brain doesn't shut down immediately. Then you're wide awake and end up tossing and turning and watching the clock slowly approach morning.
The Lark system actually monitors how many times you wake up during the night by detecting high levels of movement. A "wake up" is not necessarily a fully conscious experience, but enough movement for Lark to detect tossing and turning -- in other words, not restful sleep.
I am not one of those people who get up in the middle of the night to grab a glass of water or use the bathroom. Once I finally fall asleep, I'm down for the count. As a New Yorker, my body has been trained to sleep through construction, honking cabs, car alarms and thunderstorms. So naturally, I didn't think I would see anything above a zero when it came to how many times I wake up per night.
I was sorely mistaken. Over the last week, I have woken up between six and 25 times per night! Upon seeing these numbers, I was shocked. I guess I toss and turn more than I thought -- apparently, I am quite the restless sleeper. Now, though, I'm able to piece together the puzzle -- my theory is that my brain is stimulated from my use of electronics before getting into bed, so I toss and turn. Because I move around a lot, I end up with less restful sleep.
Though I know my routine includes a lot of electronic stimulation, I have a hard time avoiding it. Technology has become such a large part of daily life, it's nearly impossible to come home from work, eat dinner and go straight to bed without turning on an electronic device. I would like to achieve a more restful sleep so I feel better during the day. Therefore, I am going to make a conscious effort to try to limit my nighttime electronic usage. I can't go cold turkey, though -- at the very least, I have to program my Lark wristband for my wake-up the next morning!