How to Use Your Home Assistant to Help You Sleep Better
Do you have trouble falling asleep at night or waking up in the morning? A home assistant might be able to help.
Feb 12th, 2021 •
Getting enough sleep, like eating a healthy diet, is one of those things that we all know we should do but struggle actually doing it. There’s something inherently tricky about going to bed and waking up when you ought to—just like it’s hard to say no to your favorite treat when you’re hungry.
But there is a piece of technology on the market that can help you get the sleep that you need—and allow you to wake up more easily, too. This relatively new technology is called a home assistant. You have probably heard of the three most popular home assistants:
- Amazon Echo with Amazon’s Alexa
- Google Home with the Google Assistant
- Apple HomePod with Apple’s Siri
These products are all smart speakers that you can tie to your electronic devices and smart home devices. They have some pretty nifty features, not the least of which are a variety of tools that can help set you up for a good night’s sleep.
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Why You Need to Prioritize Sleep
Many of us treat sleep as if it were optional, something there for us when we have the time for it. This view is dangerous as not getting enough sleep can wreck our health. After just one night of insufficient sleep, you are more likely to feel exhausted, groggy, stressed, and unhappy. Not to mention, your performance will suffer, and you will be more likely to give in to unhealthy food cravings.
When poor sleep becomes a habit rather than an exception, it can spell trouble for our mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation has been tied to chronic health conditions like depression, diabetes, and heart disease.
So, why is it that most of us struggle to get enough sleep each night? We know we will be better off when we do. And let’s be honest, there are few things as relaxing and cozy as spending the night wrapped up in blankets on a comfortable mattress.
A lot of it comes down to two things: distraction and a poor sleep environment.
We live in a time where there is endless entertainment at our fingertips 24/7. With Netflix, YouTube, and social media vying for our attention, sleep can become an afterthought. What’s the harm in watching one more show, checking our work email, or scrolling through Reddit or Facebook?
The fact is, there are several things wrong with giving in to these urges.
To start, many of these distractions expose us to excess blue light exposure. As humans, we have an internal clock called our circadian rhythm that is sensitive to light cues. When we surround ourselves with televisions, smartphones, and computers late into the evening, the blue light that’s omitted tells our circadian rhythm that it’s daytime—not time to go to sleep.
This excess light exposure stops the body from releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone, when it ought to. Without your circadian rhythm telling your body and mind to slow down and get ready for sleep, you’re not going to get tired when you should. And as a result, you may find yourself struggling with insomnia, where you cannot fall asleep even when you put everything away and head to bed.
Another thing that these late-night entertainment fests do is cue a variety of emotions that can keep us up. A scary movie can lead to the release of adrenaline, which is sure to keep you awake. Plus, you may find yourself having trouble sleeping because of related nightmares. A work email may cause stress and worry, making it hard to fall asleep.
Another thing to consider is that your environment may not set you up for a good night’s sleep. Light exposure from bright room lights, temperature extremes, and noise can make it hard to sleep well at night.
Home Assistants to the Rescue
Technology is not all doom-and-gloom when it comes to our ability to sleep well. Living with technology is a given, so why not use it as a tool to help you sleep, rather than as one to distract you from it?
Home assistants are incredibly useful tools for anyone serious about getting enough sleep and waking up on time. They offer a variety of functions that you can use to set yourself up for sound sleep and a successful morning. Here are the ways that you can use your home assistant to get the sleep that you need for a happy and healthy life.
Tip #1: Use Light as a Tool
One of our favorite smart home devices is the Philips Hue lighting system. These smart lights can be paired with all three of the popular home assistant speakers, allowing you to use light as a tool when you go to bed and when you wake up.
Our brains are programmed to respond to light. When the sun sets and we are exposed to less light, a series of events occurs that makes us tired and allows us to fall asleep. You can mimic this effect using the Philips Hue dimmable lights. The idea is to have the lights be warmer and dimmer at night, at least an hour before you head to bed.
Similarly, you are more likely to wake up feeling well-rested if you wake up with light rather than with sound. With gradual light, your body can wake up between sleep cycles. This increases how alert you feel upon waking.
One example of how you can use these lights is with Google Home. Google’s Gentle Sleep and Wake feature allows you to set a schedule where your lights will turn warm and slowly dim 30 minutes before you head to bed. Similarly, you can set Google Wake to gradually increase the brightness of your room 30 minutes before your alarm is set to wake you up.
Tip #2: Turn on White Noise or Relaxing Music
Unless you live by yourself in the wilderness or a tranquil suburb, you likely have unwanted noises disturb your slumber from time-to-time. Noise can be particularly troublesome if it is close to you—for example, if your partner is a snorer or if your upstairs neighbors are rowdy.
Home assistant speakers are one of the best solutions to help drown out unwanted noise and allow you to sleep soundly. You can ask your assistant to turn on soothing music or ambient noise to help you sleep better. This could be white noise, classical music, the sound of the beach, or anything else that you find relaxing.
You can choose to use relaxing noises from the moment you go to bed to the moment you wake up. Or, if you prefer to sleep in silence, you can use the home assistant only when something makes it hard for you to sleep. Just call to your assistant and ask it to turn on your favorite calming music or sounds.
Tip #3: Try Google’s Wind Down Time
Google Home has a digital wellness app designed to help protect you from excess light exposure and unnecessary distractions before bed. This app allows the user to set a “wind-down time” during which your phone will be turned on to do not disturb. You can also opt for your screen to turn to greyscale, reminding you to leave it alone rather than scrolling or texting when you should be getting ready for bed. Come morning time, DND will be turned off and your screen will return to normal.
Tip #4: Listen to a Podcast or Other Bedtime Story
Bedtime stories aren’t just for kids. Listening to a story while you fall asleep can help to slow down your mind and allow you to drift off more easily.
Ask your home assistant to turn on one of your favorite podcasts or audiobooks. Be sure to choose something that won’t keep you up at night (your favorite crime thriller might not be the best choice here).
There are even podcasts designed to help adults fall asleep. A crowd favorite is the Sleep With Me podcast, a twice-weekly podcast designed to help adults drift off into dreamland.
This strategy is particularly useful when you wake up during the middle of the night and cannot manage to fall back asleep. The last thing you want to do is turn on your television, look at your phone, or spend hours tossing and turning in bed. Instead, ask your home assistant to turn on a story that can distract your mind as you try to fall back asleep.
Tip #5: Incorporate Meditation
Meditation is a great way to calm a busy mind and clear it from thoughts that can keep you up at night. Your home assistant’s smart speakers can fill your bedroom with a guided meditation designed to help you fall asleep. Try Headspace, one of the most popular meditation apps around today. You can use Headspace on your Google Home or Amazon Echo for free.
Tip #6: Control the Temperature
Did you know that people sleep best when the thermostat is set a little cooler than most of us prefer during the day? This is why it is incredibly common for people to go to sleep completely comfortable, only to wake up a few hours later, sweating like crazy.
When you pair your home assistant with a smart home thermostat, you will be able to control the temperature just by talking with Alexa, Siri, or your Google Assistant. If you wake up hot, simply ask that the thermostat be lowered. You can also pair these assistants with a smart fan if you don’t have AC or would like some air circulation.
Tip #7: Use a Bedtime Setting
Using your home assistant, you can schedule certain things to all happen at one time. For instance, you can create a nighttime setting with your Apple HomePod. When paired with the right smart home devices, your nighttime setting could result in your doors locking, AC turning on, the lights going out, and your favorite bedtime playlist turning on.
Google Home has a way for you to set up Routines, including a Bedtime and Good Morning routine. These can include things like turning on relaxing white noise, setting your morning alarm, or updating you on the traffic when you wake up in the morning.
Choosing the Right Home Assistant for You
To get the most from a home assistant, do some research to see which of the existing devices will work best for you. Keep in mind what features you’re looking for as well as what technology you already own.
For instance, someone who is an avid Apple enthusiast with an iPhone and Apple TV will probably do best with the Apple HomePod. But someone with an Android phone may prefer Google Home or Amazon Echo.
In a Forbes review, they picked the Amazon Echo as the smart speaker with the greatest capabilities. But they do point out that other factors, like your existing phone and what you’re looking for, will impact which of the three devices is best for you.
When we get enough sleep, we are mentally and physically better off. With more energy, a cheerier outlook, and better overall health, there are few legitimate excuses not to spend ample hours wrapped up in cozy blankets each night. Using a home assistant may be just what you need to set up a routine and make sleeping soundly an easier goal to accomplish.