This article may put you to sleep. That's on purpose.
Difficulty falling asleep is often blamed on our inability to rip ourselves away from computer screens and smartphones, and rightfully so. But sometimes the tech around us substitutes quite nicely for counting sheep, resulting in a restful night of sleep.
Sound sleep is vital to well-being, and it's especially relevant given the anxiety induced by the pandemic. Numerous apps and a wide range of tech gear, from pricey “smart beds” to sleep headphones that play soothing sounds, are designed to track your sleep or help you catch more z's — sometimes both.
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"The consumer sleep tech world is extremely dynamic and innovative right now,” says Jeff Mann, founder and editor of Sleep Gadgets, a website that covers and reviews sleep products.
Tech-savvy is not a barrier to entry, Mann adds. As long as someone “is comfortable with using a smartphone app, then most of the tech I'd describe as ‘age-agnostic,’" he says.
Some solutions suitable for older users address the environment — cooling temperatures or dimming lights at bedtime, for example. Others are about analyzing the length and quality of your slumber, sometimes boiled down to a “sleep score.”
Those scores may enlighten you about your sleep issues but can also be confusing, producing inconsistent or contradictory results, says Elaine Hanh Le, M.D., former chief medical officer for online publisher Healthline Media.
"I have multiple different apps. I've had many instances where I felt like I slept fine and then the data said, ‘disruptive sleep,'" says Le, who now works on health and wellness products on Amazon's Alexa Health team. She notes that a lot of tech-based sleep aids have not been validated in broad-based, peer-reviewed studies.
Still, the data you collect from monitoring your sleep can provide a beneficial starting point for talking to your doctor about insomnia, she says. Listed below are a few of the many sleep tech products out there, with the crucial disclaimer that not every solution is ideal for every insomniac.
Smart beds are equipped with sensors and other tech to capture data about how you sleep. They may also have features to help you sleep better, including automatic climate controls and mattresses that adjust firmness for each partner based on posture or how they toss and turn.
Sleep Number, one of the best-known brands, sends a “SleepIQ” score each morning to an app on your phone. The score factors in how long you were in bed, your movement, how many times you got up, and your heart and breathing rates. The more those signs indicate restful sleep the higher the score.
Don't sleep on this:
- "You can buy technology that does all that stuff and put it in your own bed,” says Mann, who likens smart beds to luxury cars. “But if you like that kind of thing and you've got the money, hey!"
Price: $1,000 to $5,100
Measure your sleep on any mattress
Withings, a French firm that produces health- and fitness-related electronics, makes a WiFi-connected mat you slip under your mattress to track and analyze your sleep patterns. You don't have to wear anything: Sensors inside the 25-inch long, 7.5-inch wide, fabric-covered pad measure your respiratory rate, heartbeat, body movement, even snoring and breathing disturbances, and transmit the data to Withings’ Health Mate app.