According to the National Sleep Foundation and the associated Sleep.org, the science of sleep is a relatively new arena of research. Groggy no more, the emerging research is now wide-awake with provocative, insightful and informative data.
I don’t sleep well. Anything over 5 hours is rare for me. Most mornings I’m up by 4:00 a.m. That’s great for quiet time and getting a head start on the day’s work, but bad for my brain and body. Until recently, I didn’t know just how bad.
Imagine my shock when I saw this headline: “Lack of Sleep as Bad as Smoking.” Yikes!
Nancy H. Rothstein fancies herself The Sleep Ambassador. Her website tagline says it all: Sleep Well. Live Well. Rothstein provides consultation, training, courses and more on sleep. The fact that we have a cottage industry emerging on something as basic as sleep is so interesting—maybe even a little depressing.
Of course, we all have different sleep needs, but suffice it to say that we likely aren’t getting enough shut-eye. The scholars say so too. The Harvard Medical School notes that 1 in 4 workers has insomnia. So if your work friends seem to be slurping more and more caffeine, it’s likely because they’re having less and less circadian success.
Like so many of our modern challenges, there seems to be a technology that promises hope. One has to be a bit skeptical. Too much screen time is part of the problem, after all. Heather Hatfield, writing for WebMD.com, says it plainly: “The No. 1 way to get better sleep: Turn off the technology…”
But, maybe there are some tech tools that we can power on for learning to power down.
Into the sleepy-eyed maelstrom of sleep deprivation comes the calming promise of sleep tracking resources. From the relatively subtle to the ridiculously sublime, there’s an array of options. Let’s browse a few of them together (assuming we can stay awake).
We’ve all grown accustomed to seeing the ubiquitous wrist-adorning fitness trackers. Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple Watch and their competitors all want to wrap their charms around you. They promise so much. Do they deliver?
NoSleeplessNights.com ranked the top 10 sleep trackers of 2016. Number one of that list was the Fitbit Blaze (which is ironic when you think of the smoking analogy that we’ve heard from the medical community, but I digress).
What gets you a #1 rating among snooze tracking? Build quality was important to the reviewers, as was accuracy and ease of use. The ability to track various stages of sleep was vital, as well as also being a fully-functioning smart watch and fitness tracker. Just a couple of negatives were listed for the Blaze: no GPS and lack of waterproofing. The Jawbone UP3 was neck-and-neck in the ratings, providing great battery life, a trendy bracelet design and tremendous accuracy.
But what if you want to take your sleep game to a whole new level, moving it off your wrist and into a permanent place your bedroom?
For those wanting more than subtle sleep tech, there are the more imposing options, some looking more like sublime art than smart tech. Among these are Sense, Beddit and the nocturnal name king: Withings Aura Smart Sleep System. You might just go to sleep counting the number of words in the name. Sorry, sheep!
You’ll have to explore the details of each of these, but the gist is this: like your car, your phone and your watch, your bed is about to get a high-tech makeover. There are monitoring systems built into some beds, and there are add-ons that can transform your mattress into a space-age sleep tracking magic carpet ride. The Withings device, for example, looks like something from the future. And, some reviewers argue it needs a time traveler to explain how to use it. Others swear by the Beddit device, it’s ease of use and robust app.
As with so much other tech, it will depend on just how invested you are in the details. Some will want easy; others will want extravagant. You’ll need to explore what level of tech you’re willing to digest.
From caves to savannas, from piles of straw to palatial suites, humans have been finding ways to sleep easy for eons. The promise of modern technology was that there would be less work and more freedom for rest and relaxation. That promise has largely gone unfulfilled. Perhaps this new wave of technology will help us get back to a better rhythm of rest. And, yes, of course, I do know that’s what they said about waterbeds too!
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.