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Can technology help with sleep deprivation? A Ball State professor says he’s not convinced

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MUNCIE, Ind. — A recent study out of Ball State University found nearly one third of Americans are sleep deprived.

That number is up eight percent from just 10 years ago, according to health science professor Jagdish Khubchandani.

Over the last six months Khubchandani studied nearly a decade's worth of sleep data.

The people affected the most are those that work in the medical field and first responders.

He believes the results could indicate increased levels of stress.

"They are in this hyper-excitable mode, on call, and what they see on the job is not routine normal things," said Khubchandani. "They see shootings, blood, accidents, homicides, and it’s hard to come back home and decompress and sleep."

Now, thousands of people are turning to technology to help them shut out stress and fall asleep. But are the apps helping?

Khubchandani says he's not convinced.

"In my world of public health, we don’t believe in things until we see evidence through experimental studies," Khubchandani explained. "I’ve never seen an experimental study on apps showing that a certain app will help you sleep better."

Some apps made for mediation and sleep have become wildly popular. Over 500,000 people have rated apps like Calm and Headspace, and both have near 5-star ratings.

Whether it's a story read by your favorite celebrity, or soothing sounds of nature, it's easy to find reviews raving about the benefits.

Still, when it come to meditation Khubchandani says getting away from tech is more effective.

"Using an app means that you are being engaged somewhere when the goal of meditation is to be blank, or to go into a space where you have nothing bothering you," he said.

He admits they could help people fall asleep, but they could also have a biased effect.

"It’s a placebo, yes," Khubchandani said. "Because the U.S. Government has not released any statistic or study showing that a certain kind of app is effective."

Other apps help you track your sleep. They often show when you fall asleep, when you enter deep sleep, and if you woke up.

"There are some people that feel like their life has been disrupted because they have to wear something," Khubchandani said.

The best solutions he says are tried and true. You can decrease stress by disconnecting from technology.

"Even for those using the apps, how much time do they use the apps for? Maybe one month, three months, six months," he said. "It’s not seemingly like a long-term solution, but exercise is a long-term solution. It’s like a medicine for life."

Khubchandani also recommends spending time with those closest to you, and focusing on physical health instead of using apps.

In the future, he would like to see a study done with at least 200 participants. Half would use an app and the other half would not. He says the study would ideally be conducted over a year at least.

Until then, he says if it works for you—use it. If you notice that a lack of sleep is affecting your health and performance, he says you should talk to a doctor.

To read Khubchandani's full study, click here.

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