It’s the magic number everyone aims for, but how many people actually get eight hours of sleep a night? The Centers for Disease Control reports more than 30% of Americans aren’t getting enough shut-eye.
New, blue light sleep devices claim they’ll help you wake up rested and ready for your day. So we decided to put them to the test with some FOX31 Denver and Colorado's Own Channel 2 employees. First up were Linda DiSanto and her husband, Jim. With busy careers and four daughters, both are having trouble getting enough sleep.
“[You] go to bed, and you think you’re going to fall asleep and you don’t fall asleep,” said Jim. “Tossing and turning. Wake up, fall asleep, back tossing and turning, it’s not fun.”
Linda also deals with waking up in the middle of the night.
“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you start thinking and you just keep thinking and you can’t go back to sleep. It’s frustrating,” she said.
For our story Linda tested out the Glo to Sleep mask. It’s a padded eye mask with glowing blue lines in each eye which the company claims will help clear your mind so you can relax and sleep.
Jim is trying an iPhone app called Sleep Blue. It’s a glowing blue light on your phone that you place next to your bed which should help you fall asleep by resetting your body’s circadian rhythm, which is how your body reacts to light and dark to fall asleep.
We also enlisted the help of editor, Sean Elliott, who was having trouble sleeping after a medical procedure.
“I would quite literally be sitting there with my eyes open,” he said. “When your eyes are open you’re thinking about things, you’re constantly pondering in your mind, which distracts you from trying to get to sleep.”
Sean was only getting about four to five hours of sleep a night.
“I tried everything from medications to herbs to breathing techniques,” he said.
So we set him up with the NightWave sleep assistant which claims its blue light will help you control your breathing and fall asleep. All three used their blue light devices for about a week.
So did our testers wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed? For Linda and Jim -- not so much; they found the blue lights more distracting than helpful.
“It was bothersome to see that glowing, so you closed your eyes, but it wasn’t comfortable,” Linda said. “I couldn’t get relaxed.”
“[I] had that light going off and off and off, so it was more of a nuisance than an aid,” Jim said. “I’m probably sleep deprived right now because of it.”
We went to Dr. Emily Roby, a psychologist with Porter Adventist Hospital’s sleep disorder center, for some explanations.
“Light is actually very alerting. It alerts the brain, the body. It’s a signal to be awake,” she said.
Roby told us that doctors sometimes use blue light to help people wake up, not fall asleep.
“It’s the opposite of what we tell people to do in order to sleep,” she said.
But our third tester, Sean, saw things differently. After several nights, he saw some results.
“The first night was a little distracting,” he said. “At about the fifth day I started to see some value in it. I see it kind of like the counting sheep thing only it’s breathing instead of counting.”
Sean attributes the improvements more to the breathing techniques than the blue light itself. But he says the NightWave did help him get into the right rhythm.
“As you look at the light you start to notice after you keep trying it for a while that your breathing is matching the light without you even attempting to do that,” he said.
Dr. Roby says breathing properly really can help you sleep. But she doesn’t recommend getting there with a blue light.
“I would rather patients pair breathing and relaxation with visualizations,” Roby said. “Having light on in the bedroom is the opposite of healthy sleep hygiene.”