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Dream Devices

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The Dreem headband (Courtesy of Dreem)

The “sleep tech” market is booming. A growing array of gadgetry targets sleep-conscious consumers.

 

Most of us understand the importance of a good night’s sleep. Yet in today’s constantly connected world, filled with demands, deadlines, and drama, getting enough pillow time can be a real challenge. It is therefore not surprising that the so-called “sleep tech” market is booming. With New York-based research outfit Persistence Market Research valuing the global sleep aid market at $31 billion by 2025, a burgeoning range of ever-smarter devices is now available to help users manage their levels of “vitamin Z”.

With subtle differences between our varying sleep stages, accurately tracking sleep is no easy task. Yet personal sleep devices now go way beyond a smartphone equipped with an app and accelerometer.

Smart Slumber

Nokia has just unveiled Nokia Sleep, described as an “advanced sensor” incorporated into a smart pad. The pad, which connects via Wi-Fi, is inserted  under the mattress and records the user’s sleep patterns. This data is then relayed to Nokia’s Health Mate app for analysis and the generation of a so-called “sleep score”. With the sensor’s algorithms trained on clinical data from polysomnography tests, it can also track snoring patterns.

Nokia Sleep is an “advanced sensor” incorporated into a smart pad. (Courtesy of Nokia)

One of the most useful features of Nokia Sleep is that it also integrates with the automation app IFTTT, allowing other connected domestic devices to be customized to the user’s sleeping habits. “The system can be configured so that lights dim and the room temperature lowers once the user falls asleep, or the blinds open on waking,” said Audrey Rampazzo, UK brand and channel marketing specialist at Nokia Health.

“The system can be configured so that lights dim and the room temperature lowers once the user falls asleep.”

Mattress pads might seem like a more comfortable way to monitor sleep than wristbands, but critics point out that restless sleepers could receive inaccurate data if they lose contact with the pad during the night. Placed under the side of the mattress at chest level, the Nokia Sleep can supposedly distinguish the user’s movements and vital signs from anyone else sharing the bed.

Those who don’t want to use bracelets or pads to keep tabs on their snoozing can choose from a plethora of other options. The iX21 smartpillow from German company ADVANSA incorporates sensors which monitor the user’s sleep cycles.

“Sensor data is sent to a smartphone app which then offers ‘personalised coaching’ on how to improve sleep quality,” said Etienne Fradin-Beaugerie, a technical leader overseeing the iX21 Smart pillow project. “An intelligent wake-up system also rouses the user at the best possible time within their sleep cycle.”

Levels of “Vitamin Z”

A growing range of sleep tech now boasts active sleep management as well as passive monitoring. Sleep Number’s 360 smart bed, which is equipped with an array of pressure sensors, adapts to the user’s every move, automatically modifying the contours and firmness of the bed during the night, while an adjustable base inclines the head upwards if snoring is detected. There are automated foot warmers and under-bed lights, while each night over 4 million biometric data points are sent to an app for analysis.

Sleep Number’s 360 smart bed is equipped with an array of pressure sensors. (Courtesy of Sleep Number)

“In the near future we envision that such analysis will allow the identification of flu and other diseases, and enable remote medical monitoring outside of hospitals,” explained Pete Bils, Sleep Number’s Vice President of Sleep Science and Research.

Studies suggest that deep (or slow wave) sleep plays a key role in determining how alert and focused the human brain is. The SmartSleep headband from Philips uses two sensors to detect periods of deep sleep, then plays fixed frequency tones to extend their duration.

“We use advanced algorithms, developed with leading sleep experts and neurologists, to generate these audio tones,” said John Frank, CEO of Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care. “In trials 70 percent of chronically sleep-deprived users who tried SmartSleep for just two weeks reported feeling less tired during the day.”

The Dreem headband emits subtle sounds into the user’s inner ear to boost deep sleep. (Courtesy of Dreem)

The Philips device will be competing with the Dreem headband from San Francisco-based startup Rythm, which uses electroencephalography electrodes and an in-built computer to monitor and analyze brain activity. The device then emits subtle, precise sounds directly into the user’s inner ear to boost deep sleep. The company claims that Dreem can enhance deep sleep quality by 32% and leave users feeling 88% more rested and alert when they wake up.

A Rest Revolution

The influence of smart gadgetry on human sleep is likely to continue its upward trend. Many experts predict that advances in artificial intelligence, technology, biology and neurology will one day enable us to “sleep hack”, enhancing our rest time to boost wellbeing and productivity. And as the role of such digital devices increases, so sleep will become an increasingly personal, micro-managed affair.

 


About the Author

Daniel Allen is a writer and a photographer. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including CNN, BBC, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Discovery Channel.

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