Technology helping humankind sleep better at night


We’ve all heard the warnings. “Don’t look at your phone before bed, the blue and white light will disrupt your sleeping patterns… Don’t leave your Wi-Fi on overnight, the electromagnetic frequencies will cause chronic sleep disorders… Don’t watch television before falling asleep, it will overstimulate you…” Tech before bed is a big no no, right?

Wrong. There are ways that technology can help us sleep sounder, better and longer. In 2019, these technologies will only improve and multiply, giving people more opportunities than ever to get a good night’s kip. From beds that have the power to stop snoring to an alarm that monitors sleep cycles, sleep-affiliated technologies are a wonderful thing – yet their use has not yet become the norm in mainstream society. Is this because they are considered luxury items, reserved exclusively for those who crave extra-ordinary gadgets? Or has their marketing to date been insufficient?

Let’s be clear: the technologies available really are impressive.

You have the Emfit QS –  a sensor kept under a mattress at nights to monitor sleep in order to provide “comprehensive” feedback about a sleeper’s physical recovery, stress levels, and sleep quality. It’s one of thousands of similar sleep monitor products, each one capable of measuring your sleep movements, measuring brainwaves and analyzing sleeping patterns. Prices can vary hugely, from free iPhone or Android sleep tracking applications such as Sleep Cycle or Sleep Time, to $600 plus products such as a bedside EEG unit.

You also have biofeedback headbands that allow you to quantify how much you clench your teeth during the night to prevent teeth grinding, blackout blinds that keep you entrenched in darkness no matter what time of day, and contoured pillows that are custom made to each user’s body and preferred sleeping position, meaning better neck support as you dream the night away.

Don’t underestimate the power of mattress technology, either. From a mattress that regulates temperature through nanotechnology, to one that provide pressure relief or fewer disturbances from heat spikes, to a premium memory foam mattress capable of supporting your body no matter how you sleep, almost every kind of need is tailored to in today’s mattress market. For those consumers with a conscience, there are now mattresses that use fewer chemicals and synthetics and that demand less environmentally-harmful materials and processes in manufacturing, such as plant-based foams made from oils derived from soybeans and other vegetables, or mattresses made from organic materials such as organic cotton and wool. The options available are truly astounding – it’s no wonder the mattress market is set to reach $38 million by 2022.

And, if you really can’t help but flick through your phone in that final hour before bedtime, do it right. Using a blue-light filter on every screen you view at night can really have an impact, particularly if the filter is synched to turn on with sunset and off at sunrise. If you are going to continue your bad pre-bed habits, you might as well negate the potential impact of those habits.

At the heart of the matter lies the fact that we as a global populace are not getting our rest. While experts recommend between seven to nine hours per night, the average person is only tucking away roughly 6.8 hours a night. In 2016, it was found by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a whopping one third of adults in the US weren’t getting enough shut eye – and costing the country over 400 billion dollars each year as a result. The impacts upon human health can’t be overstated enough: not getting enough sleep can significantly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, cause weight gain , and make adults twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke. It’s costing us, socially and economically, big time.

Perhaps it is time we focused more of our attention on enhancing the way we sleep at night than we do monitoring the way we act during waking hours. Surely what we eat during the day can only go so far if we are failing to get the adequate amount of sleep at night? And no gym workout can compensate for a year’s worth of broken sleep. Perhaps leveraging the power of technology to optimize sleep will allow us to finally achieve our health goal.

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