Wanna get good sleep? Maybe give the cell phone a rest

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — New technology is offering to help you get better rest by tracking sleep patterns.

There are some concerns, however, that the devices we use could be the very things keeping us up at night.

“We’re going up and down through different stages of sleep each night,” says Doctor Justin Brockbank.   He would know.

Brockbank spends his waking hours studying other people’s slumber at the VCU Health Center for Sleep Medicine.

Much of that research includes digging through EKGs and deciphering squiggles to figure out someone’s sleep cycle and sleep patterns.

8News spoke with Zahleil Willis as he was about to hit the hay at the sleep center. Willis is hoping the study of his nighttime habits might help him out.

“I’ve been waking up in my sleep most nights,” said Willis, “so, I decided to come here and figure out what’s the problem.”

We go through several different stages of sleep. R.E.M. sleep, which comes roughly 90 minutes into each sleep cycle, is the one you need to be worried about.

Brockbank told 8News that R.E.M. sleep is when “you are getting restful sleep.”

“REM sleep is crucial for overall proper functioning during the day,” continued Brockbank.

Lots of apps, working in conjunction with fitness accessories, are promising to help people get better rest by tracking cycles.

Dr. Brockbank questions how accurate the information is on these particular apps.

Dr. Brockbank said it is good people are trying to use technology to try and get better sleep, but said it is hard enough for experts with all the medical equipment, cameras and everything else to track cycles, so sleep tracking apps may not be verifiable.

“I haven’t found that they’re that beneficial for people at this time,” he said, “they’re not able to monitor brain activity.”

Dr. Brockbank told 8News that sleep cycles aren’t the same length of time from cycle to cycle and night by night, so there’s no good way to aim for waking up right at the end of one.

Whether you’re a night owl or early bird, Brockbank said people would do much better for getting between seven and nine hours of sleep.

Except for getting better sleep, if people want to wake up well-rested, Brockbank told 8News it comes down to what you’re doing before you got to bed.

Specifically, with technology.

“A lot of the problems we see are the use of bright light in the evenings, that can throw off your Circadian rhythms,” said Doctor Brockbank, “it really delays your bodies release of melatonin, that stuff in your brain that’s released in the evening, that tells you its time to start getting ready for bed.”

So, hang up on the cell phone or use the blue light filter on it. It might just be the secret to dialing up a great night of sleep.

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