Technological Advances in Sleep

By now it’s old news that sleep is just as important to our overall health as are exercising and what we eat. Yet even with this general recognition of the importance of getting our eight hours a night, people have a bad attitude about the topic in general. In many industries and individual businesses, not getting enough sleep has become a badge of honor about which people boast, and even those who recognize that they need to improve their sleep quantity and quality are generally not interested in reaching out for help to achieve that goal. Still with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounding a warning about the fact that nearly one third of employed Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, and constantly reminding us that sleep deprivation can lead to a myriad of health problems including obesity and cardiovascular disease, innovators are trying to help remedy the problem so that we can save ourselves from ourselves. Though sleep labs and sleep doctors are seeing an uptick in the number of patients that they’re seeing, even more consumers are turning to hi-tech products that can tell us what needs to be fixed and how to fix it without having a professional looking over their shoulder or scolding them. Two of the newest innovations are a super-bed and a smartwatch. Both are designed to send feedback directly to the consumer’s computer or mobile device along with documentation and recommendations. The Sleep Number X12 Bed with Sleep IQ Technology is not for those on a budget. At just under eight thousand dollars, the bed is fully wired and integrated with multiple sensors that measure such bodily functions as heart rate motion and respiration. The mattress essentially takes its own temperature five hundred times per second sensing and recording when pressure changes occur. The system keeps track of each night’s sleep and presents solutions based on patterns that it detects. The product has gotten such positive reviews from consumers that according to Pete Bils, the company’s vice president of sleep innovation and clinical research, “Eventually we want this Sleep IQ technology in every one of our beds.” The Basis Smartwatch is a much less pricey method of measuring similar signals, but it goes a step further by also tracking its wearers while they’re awake. It watches out for motion, perspiration, ambient temperature and skin temperature as well as heart rate, plus the wearer’s motion while they sleep. The idea is to look at the wearer as a whole to see how their sleep quality is impacting their performance the following day. It also provides healthy habits on how to make meaningful improvements to lifestyle and activity levels. One of the more interesting technologies that is still in development is a special pillow that detects episodes of sleep apnea and adjusts itself according to signals that it receives. Preliminary studies indicate a dramatic improvement for apnea sufferers, something that may not only improve sleep quality but may even save lives.

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