Courtesy Urgotech; Courtesy Sleep Number
En español | As America ages, the demand for sleep technology is booming: The sleep-tech section at CES 2019, the consumer electronics trade show, was 22 percent bigger than in 2018. “People over 50 are our largest group of users and the most engaged,” says SleepScore Labs CEO Colin Lawlor, who counts himself among the demographic suddenly worried about the quality of their slumber as well as the linking of poor sleep to increased risk of conditions like dementia, obesity and hypertension.
To improve your odds, SleepScore’s free app uses sonar to measure your breathing and movement while dozing. “It’s like a bat using echolocation,” Lawlor says. The app then rates your sleep quality and recommends one of the more than 70 products curated by its experts, which vary from blue-light-filtering glasses (all the better for watching TV before bed without disrupting your natural melatonin production) to Snore Strips (which Lawlor says are effective for about 20 percent of those who try them; SleepScore can advise you if they’re for you). “This is all about understanding your sleep issues through science and technology instead of trial and error.”
But SleepScore is just one of several companies debuting slumber analyzers (see more below), which seem to be the biggest trend overall in sleep tech this year — not that a temperature-sensing, self-cooling pillow from Moona or a box-spring-replacing Rocking Bed, with a quiet motor that gently sways your bed to help to lull you to sleep, weren’t lots of fun to see.
With a scientific advisory board including the chiefs of Stanford’s Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine and the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Dreem similarly aims to make sleep more data-driven, but it goes one step further, responding in the moment to the information it obtains. Wear the headband to bed and its electroencephalography and other sensors monitor your breathing, pulse and movement. Its audio programs help you get to sleep (Dreem claims they helped people fall asleep a full 13 minutes faster, on average) and then lull you more easily into deeper slumber. When the device registers you’ve entered slow-wave deep sleep, it emits “pink noise,” designed to enhance this stage of sleep. Why is that part so important? “As you age, one of the first areas to degenerate is the prefrontal cortex,” says Michael Ballard, Dreem’s clinical sleep scientist, “so you get fewer slow waves, which improve memory consolidation and clean out beta-amyloid.” By helping you stay longer in this sleep stage and cleaning out such brain plaques, Ballard says, Dreem “could help stave off cognitive decline.”
Of those who product-tested the SmartSleep deep sleep headband for a year, “most noticed a change in their sleep for the better in the first two weeks,” claims Chris Wilhite, senior consumer marketing manager at Philips. The device monitors and reveals sleep patterns with a highly visual SleepMapper app and then, similar to the Dreem product, uses pink noise to enhance slow-wave sleep. From there, the company’s forthcoming SmartSleep Analyzer will recommend scientific solutions to your problems. One could be its new SmartSleep snoring relief band, worn across the chest, which senses when you’re on your back — a snoring trigger — and gently vibrates to make you roll onto your side without waking up.
The French start-up Urgotech’s electroencephalogram headband product, Urgonight, might sound like just another high tech sleep analyzer worn by night but — surprise! — you actually wear it during the day. The idea is to train your brain through neurofeedback to produce more “sleep-protecting” brainwaves like the ones found in deep sleep. “Fifteen minutes, three times a week for one to three months reeducates your brain,” says head of business development Carole-Anne Brugere.
The Sleep Number 360 smart bed similarly collects and responds to data about your sleep by way of its new feature, Responsive Air, which senses your movements and adjusts your half of the bed (the other is independently optimized for your partner) to compensate, either inflating or deflating six-inch air chambers. The bed also warms your feet. “It’s wonderful feeling toasty toes, and there’s science behind that,” says Pete Bils, Sleep Number vice president of sleep science and research. “Warm feet make you fall asleep faster.” While the bed now functions as a way to limit things like snoring, or achy joints, Bils says it could someday help identify age-related conditions such as sleep apnea. “Someday we’ll be able to possibly screen for arrhythmia, the onset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or cardiovascular events,” he says. For now, whether or not you buy his bed, Bils urges you not to sleep in this weekend. “If you change your sleep schedule by more than a half hour, you risk health issues,” he says. “Sleep is the anchor of your health.”