Tech wants to solve our tech-related sleep problems

Technology is bad for sleep. It keeps us constantly exposed to an endless cycle of bad news, and the blue light emitted by smartphone and tablet displays suppresses our ability to produce melatonin. Combine that with the feelings of inadequacy generated by watching other people’s picture-perfect lives on social media, and it’s no surprise that we’re all restless.

Sleep technology exists to solve this issue, and there were plenty of companies exhibiting new devices here at CES 2018. Many of them intend to tell you how well, or poorly, you have slept each night, in the hope you’ll make better decisions the following day. But, as well as becoming more commonplace, sleep gadgets are going to become far more diverse, at least according to what we saw at the show.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers have tracked sleep for years, using the principles of actigraphy: Monitoring how you move as you sleep with algorithms used to calculate your cycles. The less you move, the thinking goes, the deeper your sleep.

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This week, companies like Nokia and Emfit both launched new underbed sensors that do the same job, but without a device on your wrist. The former will track your sleep duration and quality and offers a sleep-coaching function if you’re having trouble nodding off. In addition, the Nokia Sleep sensor offers control of your smart home with IFTTT, triggering recipes as you begin to nod off.

Using sleep technology as an extension of the smart home seems to be the beachhead from which these companies plan to enter our homes. Sleepace exhibited a whole suite of connected home gear that’ll automate your pad when it senses you’re sleeping. Spend enough cash and your residence will turn off the TV and draw the blinds as soon as you climb into bed. When you’re rousing the following morning, the system could gently turn on the lights and fire up the coffee machine.

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Wake-up lights were sleep technology well before sleep technology was a thing, using daylight simulation to trigger your natural circadian rhythm. It’s probably best exemplified by Philips’ Wake Up Light, and at CES 2018 competing products appeared from companies like Witti and Aromarest. The latter pulls double duty as a scent diffuser, much like Bescent’s forthcoming night-time sleeping aid.

Other devices are attempting to appeal more to the marginal-gains crowd looking to get an edge on their bodies. Dreamlight, for instance, is an intelligent sleep mask that offers light therapy in the eye cups and sleep coaching. If you have taken a genetic test with 23andMe, you can even customize the sleep programs according to your DNA. Even to the point where, should your genetics indicate so, you can attempt to sleep like Leonardo DaVinci, who famously took 20-minute polyphasic sleep naps every four hours.

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