Review: Re-Timer

As you may have noticed, we write about sleep here a whole lot at DailyXY. Why? Well, simply put, it’s become a major area of research recently, which scientists discovering that poor sleep may be just behind things like obesity and smoking when it comes to root causes of poor overall health. Don’t believe us? Here’s a quick rundown of a few of the choicer pieces of bad news we’ve read in the past few months:

Enter Re-Timer ($300). What Re-Timer does is this: it can help you shift your circadian rhythm, help you deal with jet lag, or help you deal with seasonal affective disorder (i.e., the winter blues). How? By shining light in your eyes.

No, seriously. If you have delayed sleep (that is, trouble falling asleep at night), you wear Re-Timer for a half-hour to an hour in the morning, as soon as you wake up, and your circadian rhythm starts to shift forward slightly. If you have advanced sleep (you fall asleep too soon), you wear it in the evening. You wear it for a half-hour or so in the middle of the day if you have the winter blues (since light is an excellent cure for that), and you wear Re-Timer if you need to say awake and fight jet lag.

Basically, the green light is waking you up. Not only do studies show that the colour of light can affect your mood, but that your sleep cycle is inexorably bound with the natural light cycle. One study had a group of volunteers go camping and sleep in natural light conditions all week; very soon, they’d all synchronized with natural daylight hours. This is perhaps a bit unsurprising; scientists say that most sleep disorders didn’t exist for most of history, and that the invention of the light bulb (soon followed by smartphones) has given rise to most of our modern sleep aliments. And you can’t even catch up on your sleep over the weekend.

So, Re-Timer. I decided to use Re-Timer for a week, bumping my normal 10AM wakeup time (hey, I’m a freelance writer who mostly works at night!) to 7AM. It works quickly, and the process is painless. Re-Timer has two settings, low and brighter, and your eye gets used to it within ten minutes. Wearing it to much would be bad, but Re-Timer turns off automatically after an hour anyway. While you’re wearing it, you can do nearly everything you’d normally do whilst wearing glasses (which it fits over comfortably). You can read a computer screen no problem, read paper, play video games, whatever. Rooting around in dark closets is a bit of a problem, but that’s a minor one

Of course, for Re-Timer to work, you need to practice good “sleep hygiene”, which means using your bed only for sleep and sex (no computers, reading, tablets, etc), no caffeine after dinner, and no tobacco or big meals towards bedtime. Realistically, everyone ought to practice good sleep hygiene anyway, but the point is that bad sleep hygiene can’t be overcome by Re-Timer.

It took me about a week and a half to start waking up normally at 7AM, and I’ve used Re-Timer a couple of other days since during instances I’ve managed to oversleep, lest my circadian rhythm start creeping later. I think it has a major advantage over sleeping bills or oral melatonin, in that these can cause you to oversleep, and I think that it’s better than caffeine pills because I’m not a trucker and no longer a college student.

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