Sleeping with Electronics

Detail of electrical components

By now you know about my current obsession with FitBit. Actually, part of the reason I’m so enamored with FitBit is because the electronics help monitor my sleep. Those of you who know me in person (*waves*) probably know I’m a chronic insomniac. On a good night (let’s face it, most aren’t good) I get just under six hours of sleep, with barely enough deep sleep for my aching bones. It’s true, I have trouble sleeping, and technology helps by monitoring how well I’m sleeping, how much time I spend in each stage of sleep, how many times I wake up in the night, and a whole lot more. It’s actually pretty helpful, considering I wear what’s really just a wrist watch in disguise. One of the down sides of this is that, well, if you want electronics to monitor your sleep activities, you have to wear something while you are sleeping, and lots of electronics and a groggy Carol don’t always mix all too well.

Now, I’ve gotten somewhat used to sleeping with electronics. The model I have is one that, when you turn your wrist or move your arm, the clock turns on and you can see what time it is, otherwise it remains dark or is supposed to anyway. One of the little “quirks” about this is that sometimes when your turn your arm, the clock does not come on like it should. As you can imagine, sometimes while I’m sleeping and my arms are flailing about, the clock wakes up and I’m blinded by the light from the display. It’s quite piercing in my darkened room and this little “feature” has woken me up several times now but I try to take it in stride. The technology is not quite there yet and so the clock comes on when it’s not supposed to and remains off at times you want to turn it on. Groggy Carol soldiers on.

Since I am a chronic insomniac, I try to actively take steps to help my sleep. Technology has some gifts here too. I’m supposed to sleep in a dark room, just the right temperature, avoid screen time, caffeine and alcohol before bed, exercise regularly (and also not just before bed) listen to soft music, and do things like read before bedtime (rather than watching TV.) There are a host of others but you get the idea here. I’m also supposed to kick Chase off the bed but he’s a regular fixture, so much so he often takes up more than his share of the bed, leaving me uncomfortably curled up in a little ball, but he won’t budge so I’m pretty much stuck. I do try some of the other things on the list as they do seem to help out, if only for a little bit, and I use things like a smart thermostat to help the temperature in the room remain suitable for sleeping.

Light itself can be a problem. For a while, I had an alarm clock that was blindingly bright, shining in my eyes, and keeping me awake. Now replaced with an Alexa device, I can talk to Alexa and it allows me to select a face for the clock that is not glaringly bright. This little Echo Spot is actually very nice as I can tell it to play music too. I’ve even selected music to help, classical music mostly, stuff like Brahms, Fur Elise, Itzhak Perlman, Debussy, and Yo-Yo Ma. Alexa has trouble with classical music sometimes, as my New York pronunciation of Itzhak Perlman does not usually yield good results. Still, it’s better than the glaringly bright alarm clock. Technology is not perfect but I find it often gets more closer than nothing at all so I tend to stay the course.

I’ve been thinking about getting a new mattress as well. I currently have a sleep number bed and have been toying with the idea of getting a newer one. An interesting thing about the sleep number is that they are adjustable and also feature electronics to monitor your sleep. The beds actually monitor you and adjust the bed while you are sleeping in order to, so the theory goes, get a better night’s rest. The idea being the bed can raise and lower you, as you are actually sleeping, in order to put you into a better position. Frankly, I’m not too sure how I feel about a bed thrusting me around in the dark as I sleep but it’s supposed to work so I may give it a try.

While I love the idea of having all these electronics, as you can imagine there are some gaps here. Since FitBit, Alexa, and Sleep Number are all made by different manufacturers, they weren’t designed to work together. That is, FitBit would not know Sleep Number is also monitoring my sleep and Alexa knows nothing about sleep at all, she just purrs music at me upon request. Technology is wonderful when it all works. It’s actually great to be able to monitor my sleep and these devices really do help make me more comfortable but my brain can’t help but jump to some worst case scenarios here.

Picture it. I’m in bed, trying to sleep. Chase has hogged the bed and I’m curled up into some sorry little fetal ball in the corner, helplessly trying to get some shut eye. It’s two in the morning and I can’t sleep so I start tossing and turning, finally drifting off just a little bit when I move my arm slightly, maybe to keep it from cramping or some such thing. The FitBit kicks into gear, shooting a laser like high beam into my eyes, waking me up instantly. The sleep number bed, thinking I’m restless suddenly catapults me into a new sleep position, actually hurling me across the room. Flying through the air, I crash land into the wall but now I’m thinking no problem, I got this. “Alexa, call an ambulance!” I cry out, only to have her respond.

“I can’t find Itzhak Perlman ‘Ambulance’ playing ‘Ambulance’ by My Chemical Romance instead.”

As I’m sitting there, slouched in a ball in the corner of my room now completely unable to sleep, with music blaring, Chase looks at me the way he always does, with that half poodle stare, and that judgemental look on his doggie face. I know what he’s thinking, he doesn’t even have to bark at me. “More than 14 billion opposable thumbs on this planet and that’s the best you can do? Really? Man’s best friend, my ass. I should have hitched my wagon to another species. I wonder if it’s still not too late. Maybe I could shave my curls off and take my chances with a pod of dolphins. You humans are too stupid for words!”

Sleeping with electronics. “You don’t know a thing about this life,” indeed.

Until next time…

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