Many moons ago, ask someone about sleep tech and chances were, they would suggest you tried some sleeping pills if you were struggling to get enough shut-eye. Today, whilst sleeping pills still have their place in the market, there are many other technological cures for insomnia.
Make no mistake: sleep problems have a huge impact on productivity, and in turn, an impact on the economy. People who don’t sleep well can’t work to maximum efficiency. Research has shown that 10% of Americans suffer at least three poor nights’ worth of sleep each week. Whether that’s down to having a small baby or health issues is unclear, but what is clear is that we all need sleep.
The benefits a good night’s sleep has for your mind and body are immeasurable and much solid scientific research exists to back this up. The list of potential benefits is endless – a good night’s sleep will reduce stress, inflammation and your risk of depression, and it will improve your mood, memory and even aid in weight loss. It’s no surprise then, given the endless list of benefits, that modern technology companies are putting a lot of their focus into improving sleep. The modern tech market has seen some interesting and clever sleep aid innovations in recent times.
The Wearable Market
Our first stop on the journey through tech that helps you sleep has got to be wearable technology. The boom in wrist-based movement trackers has been great for getting people off the couch and moving again, but there’s another side to them too. They make quite good and surprisingly accurate sleep monitoring devices. They can monitor how you sleep by tracking periods of movement (tossing and turning), as well as when you’re in deep sleep. This can help you monitor the quality of sleep you’re getting in certain conditions and show you how to make changes to try and improve it.
It’s not just wearable based technology that will help you either. Consider, too, things like smart lighting that can be programmed to slowly raise the light levels in the room as your wake time draws near to simulate a sunrise rather than a harsh alarm.
Sound can also be used to assist you on either side of your night’s sleep – both by using calming music or sounds while you drift off to sleep and by gradually increasing intensity in the audio used to wake you up in the morning. Using this, along with your smart light, means that this technology gets all your senses involved in the process of falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up.
The Science of the Mattress
Stepping slightly away from pure technology and into the realm of sleep surfaces, we’ll find one of the biggest factors for a good night’s sleep – a quality mattress suited for both your sleep style and body type. Infinite amounts of research and development have been spent in the mattress industry using both traditional research methods and newer sleep science technology to innovate and create the perfect mattress. There are lots of excellent resources where you can learn more about the science of sleep, too. Websites like Eachnight.com do a great job of rounding up new and good quality mattresses and summarizing who might want to use them.
There’s an App for That
Your smartphone can be a useful tool for promoting good sleep too. The app stores for the various mobile phone ecosystems are filled with innovative and clever apps that can aid you on your quest for good sleep. There are alarm apps that wake you up over time, slowly increasing the volume and intensity of their chimes. And there are those that require you to solve math or pattern problems before they will switch off, preventing you from snoozing.
Other apps will use your smartphone as a sensor, requiring you to place it under your pillow or on the corner of your mattress. They then use the vibrations and movement of your bed to provide valuable sleep information to you.
All blankets are the same, right? Well, no. If you are too hot or too cold, you won’t sleep properly, even if the mattress you are lying on is the most comfortable on the planet. This is where the technology of weighted blankets comes in.
A weighted blanket applies a warm, even pressure over our body. It’s designed to make us feel we are being gently held down, in the same way swaddling a newborn baby makes them feel safe. This encourages the brain to release oxytocin, which is a natural pain reliever and stress-boosting chemical. And, as well all know, it’s really hard to fall asleep if you’re stressed and in pain!
Weighted blankets encourage the user to lie still, which is handy for the bed partner of a restless nighttime thrasher. Try one and see if it helps you sleep better.
Do you have trouble sleeping in a bright room? If so, a hoodie pillow is perfect. Hoodie Pillows go over your head, so you are cocooned in a light and sound controlled space. Wrap one around your head and block out your annoying roommate who insists on watching Netflix late at night or use it when you work shifts and the curtains don’t block out the light.
There are also portable versions of the hoodie pillow, which are ideal for travelers. Wear one on the plane or use it so you can catch some shut-eye during an airport layover. Not surprisingly, these pillows have proven to be a huge hit with travelers and students, but they are great for anyone who shares a bedroom with someone who likes to read or watch TV in bed.
Embracing technology to improve your life is a no-brainer. Of course, some of the tech gadgets, research, and services being offered by these Silicon Valley startups are for convenience and a bit of a novelty, but others can really improve the quality of your life, and those that promote good sleep are amongst that group.