The new year has dawned, and with it, new year resolutions. From hitting the gym to learning Japanese, January is a month where people challenge themselves. But what if the most worthwhile challenge is to spend a little longer asleep? A celebration that starts with staying up past midnight is hardly the most conducive to getting enough shut-eye – but that is exactly the resolution worth making.
Leading fitness and wearables companies are creating the technology to find the perfect, deep sleep.
Sleeping beauty, sleeping better
Sleep impacts almost every part of a person’s being, from mood to weight to autoimmune response – the last being especially relevant in recent years. Good quality sleep boosts the immune system, to the point that people who sleep for less than six hours a night are four times more likely to develop a cold when exposed to a cold virus. In fact, research has even shown that those who slept less in the weeks after getting a vaccine had fewer antibodies than those who slept well. And the effects are not just short-term: the amount and quality of sleep is now being clinically linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
However, there is a fine balance, and spending too much time asleep can undo these advantages, and in fact, be indicative of a host of health problems. How to be sure, then, that a night of sleep falls between these boundaries for the perfect rest? It is, naturally, hard to document what you are not conscious for.
This is where technology steps in. Whether you are an insomniac, a lie-in aficionado, or simply have no idea how you sleep, new technology is now on the market, so you no longer have to stack your own zzz’s.
An app created by SleepScore Labs uses smartphone microphone and speaker capabilities to track and measure a person’s breathing rate and body movement throughout the night then, based on their sleep data, provides personalized advice and recommendations for improving sleep. It even matches sleep profiles to thousands of others and gives advice based on what was useful to those sleepers. The app is also capable of recognising other measures: breathing rate, body temperature; this form of tracking could go beyond good sleep, to help track and catch other diseases and negative changes in wellness.
For a technology that gives sleep tight a whole new meaning, by resting against the skin to measure sleep biology night after night, the Circular Ring, launched at CES 2022, analyzes the wearer’s bio-signals during sleep to help keep track of its efficiency. By combining red light with infrared light, it can monitor blood oxygenation and heart rate to a clinical grade.
Like sleep, maintaining a precise balance of oxygen-saturated blood is vital to overall health. Too much or too little can be damaging; a normal reading is typically between 94 and 100 percent. This is a valuable metric to monitor, as it is closely related to a lot of respiratory conditions (shortness of breath, asthma, sleep apnea, and more). Monitoring blood oxygen levels can help with many things, from detection and prevention of various illnesses to determining if treatments are working, to allowing the adventurous climber to acclimatize to high altitudes. With this ring, users can learn what parameters impact their sleep and how it correlates with their days.
Replacing vicious cycles with sleep cycles
A leading cause of sleep loss is back pain. Conversely, a common result of sleep loss is back pain. This can create a vicious cycle of sleep loss and increasing pain, along with the associated health risks. As back, neck or shoulder pain will affect 80% of adults in their lifetime, this factor is not to be ignored. Back pain is most commonly caused by poor seated posture, particularly in an age of desk jobs.
Taking sleep support outside of the bedroom could be the most effective way to ensure sweet dreams, and something as simple as a t-shirt can make that happen. Posture360 have developed an everyday shirt ergonomically designed to gently pull back the shoulders of the wearer, giving subtle reminders to sit up straight. As all chairs are not created equal, the smart shirt can be calibrated specifically with a chair in mind, be it the office or a long drive.
Putting the power in powernap
It can’t be ignored that sometimes the biggest barrier to sleep is the loved one snoozing just one foot over, whether they insist on keeping the room icy cold or snore up a storm every night.
Sleep Number’s new bed, introduced at CES 2022, has the solution. The bed will actively manage body temperature on each side of the bed, cooling or heating to maintain an ideal microclimate for each person. It is also capable of automatically sensing snoring and will gently raise the head of the bed to temporarily alleviate moderate snoring, waiving the need for the disgruntled partner to awaken the snorer.
In addition to these features, the bed has personalized adjustments for comfort, spinal support, and multi-sensor technology that can monitor overall health and wellness – including potential sleep barriers and future health risks.
The future of the forty winks
As the world of technology shifts further on its axis towards smart sensors and wearable solutions, our experience of healthcare is changing.
Amy McDonough, senior vice president and general manager of FitBit Health Solutions, one of the most recognisable wearables companies in the world, says that in the next 10 years for the digital health space, new technology will not replace doctors in the medical field, but instead will ‘help better connect data and the providers to ultimately help healthcare work better.’ Smart watches are one of the earliest and most recognised wearable fitness technologies, now moving beyond pulse and step measurements to more comprehensive health analyses, including sleep monitoring. The leading companies are listed and discussed by IDTechEx expert analysts in their wearable technology section.
Wearables and new digital health solutions have changed the way health care is delivered and can continue to do so. By providing consumers with a way to not only receive care remotely but also take control of their care and personalise it, these technologies can encourage the continuation of treatment and, perhaps even more importantly, can be a preventative measure.
Could any of this technology change your life? Perhaps you should sleep on it.
The IDTechEx report ‘Wearable Technology Forecasts 2021-2031‘ analyses technology designed not only for consumers to measure the quality of their own sleep, but also for professional medical applications, sportswear, and more, looking at design, efficacy, and future markets, predicting that the industry will be worth over $138bn by 2025.
IDTechEx’s team of expert analysts track emerging technologies over time, building extensive personal networks within the industry of study and supporting customers using these connections. Any report purchase comes with a minimum of 30 minutes ‘analyst time’, with customers also having the option to subscribe on an annual basis to IDTechEx’s research by topic.