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Beyond counting sheep: how sleep tech can help you hit the hay

Posted by Samantha Browning on 6th December 2018

From lavender pillow sprays to blackout blinds, when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, I’ve tried every lotion, potion and notion in the book. And it seems I’m not alone; it’s a regular topic of conversation among my friends and colleagues, where we have ‘tired-offs’ reminiscent of the Monty Python “We were so poor” sketch to see who had the least sleep the night before.

Whether it’s the stresses of modern lives or that beautiful blue beckon of our screens, there’s a lot that can interfere with getting some shut-eye.

Googling the phrase ‘how to fall asleep’ brings up over 135,000,000 results, which is ironic, because it’s no secret that ever-present technology and gadgets are one of the main culprits for preventing a good quality snooze. In fact, tech in the bedroom is scientifically proven to have a huge, negative impact on the length and quality of people’s sleep.

However, recently there has been a wave of techy products coming to market that are designed to do the exact opposite and help encourage better sleep habits. So, is there a place for technology in helping people to get 40 winks?

Sweet dreams

Sleep is a precious commodity and, as with every aspect of modern life, data is getting in on the act. We already use fitness trackers to keep an eye on the amount of activity we’re doing (or not doing) in a day, but wearable devices, such as the Bellabeat Leaf, now also allow you to track your sleep automatically.

Wearers receive useful information about the quality and quantity of the previous night’s kip — particularly useful for those “that’s nothing, I only slept for 1.4 minutes last night…” conversations.

If you’re keen on other wearable options, the SmartSleep headband from Philipscan can be worn while you sleep to detect your brain wave activity. It works by playing white noise patterns through small speakers to help you continue sleeping during periods of slow-wave sleep. These customisable audio tones are meant to enhance the depth and duration of your slow-wave sleep to take you to the land of nod in no time.

Caught napping

If you want the benefits of getting to sleep without having to wear a device, there are some alternatives. For example, the Zeeq pillow can detect snoring, play music and track sleep at the same time as being (apparently) very comfortable. One for the Christmas lists!

Another techy sleep tracking product, the Nokia Sleep, claims to help users achieve 12 extra minutes of sleep a night. The device can be discreetly placed beneath your mattress to detect movement and monitor for snoring. As well as delivering a breakdown of the user’s sleep, the device also assigns your night a ‘sleep score’, allowing you to investigate ways to improve the quality of your own, personal ‘sleep health’.

If you struggle to sleep due to being too hot or too cold, there’s even a SmartDuvet on the market, which comes complete with climate control. The temperature can be regulated on either side of the bed using an app and some clever cooling/heating technology, meaning no more battles over the blankets each night.

But the thing that makes the SmartDuvet really cool (pun completely intended) is the fact that it’s attached to a control box that acts like a mechanised air pump, filling your duvet with air to slowly roll it to the top of the bed when you get out. Yes, you read that right… it makes itself. So, you can save yourself some vital minutes in the morning to squeeze in some extra Zs.

It may seem ironic that more technology is being cited as a solution to a bad night’s sleep, but, with the sleep-health industry valued at between $30 and $40 billion, it may be a case of ‘you snooze, you win’ for those tech companies already investing in it.

As a growing market, I can’t guess at the tech innovations the future will hold for poor sleepers the world over. But with all these options already available, I guess I’ll have to sleep on it…

Samantha Browning

With two and a half years of experience in technology PR gained at a London-based agency, Sammy joined Wildfire in November 2016 and brings with her invaluable knowledge of the consumer and B2B tech landscape and the wider media industry. Whilst gaining her degree from The University of Kent in English & American Literature and French, Sammy spent a year abroad living and studying in France. She continues her love of writing, books and the French language in both her professional and personal life. Sammy is a big fan of food, films, travelling and dogs. She loves planning holidays and would be very happy to hear of any recommendations!