By Gary M. Kaye, Chief Content Officer
At IFA, the big European consumer electronics show in Berlin, it was clear that technology is waking up to sleep. Two of the major players in consumer electronics, Samsung and Philips, both introduced significant sleep related products. Several smaller firms also showed off products that promise to either help us sleep, or help us wake up happier, while monitoring our sleep quality. So what’s the big deal about sleep? Estimates vary, but as of 2013 Americans were spending more than 32 billion dollars each year to get a good night’s sleep. But according to the National Sleep Foundation we are failing miserably. In a 2013 study, the NSF concludes that the majority of Americans say they do not get a good night’s sleep. And there’s increasing evidence linking insufficient sleep with a host of diseases from diabetes to high blood pressure, and even cancer.
At IFA, Samsung introduced its SleepSense system. At its heart is a thin disk that slips under your pillow and works with a smartphone app. The disk can connect with a variety of devices, including those my by SmartThings, a company Samsung acquired as a step forward in its creation of an Internet of Things ecosystem. If you fall asleep in front of your connected television, the SleepSense system will turn it off. It can start your coffee pot or turn on your lights when you wake up. It will do an analysis of your night’s sleep, including the number of hours of that most restful, or REM, sleep, that determines how ready you might be to face the day. Samsung says it has been working with Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. Christos Mantzoros ”to provide personalized professional tips on improving your sleep quality, covering your lifestyle, nutrition and exercise.” SleepSense was actually created by an Israeli firm, EarlySense, which specializes in remote patient monitoring solutions. So far no pricing has been announced, but Samsung sources indicate it will probably hit the market for about $250.
Philips Electronics had a big presence at IFA. While the brand is certainly known in the U.S., primarily for lighting and personal care items (Norelco razors, Sonicare toothbrushes), it is a huge player in Europe. Philips showed a number of products that will help you sleep, including its Hue lighting system, which allows you to wirelessly control your home lighting and alter the color to help you wake up, help you read, or soothe the way to sleep. But the big sleep news from Philips is its DreamFamily System, primarily aimed at those who suffer from sleep apnea. Anywhere from 18 – 22 million Americans are estimated to suffer from this sleep disorder, which disrupts sleep cycles and can even lead to death. The Philips Dream Family consists of three elements; the DreamStation, which is basically a CPAP machine, used to force air into the airways (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure). There is also an available humidifier attachment. The second element is called DreamWear, which is a very lightweight and comfortable CPAP mask. It is designed not to leave marks, and to allow conversation while it’s being worn. The third element in the system is the DreamMapper application which tracks your sleep and provides recommendations for steps you can take for better sleep. Philips has yet to announce U.S. pricing or availability for the system.
A third sleep monitoring system that we saw at IFA is Sleepace from Chinese based Shenzhen Medica Technology Development. This system also consists of three elements. The RestOn smart sleep monitor is a strap and sensor that slides under your sheet and monitors your sleep patterns. It can communicate directly with a smartphone app, or with the Nox, a small canister-like device that emits soothing sounds and light. It monitors your sleep and also the environment in your bedroom for things like temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, as well as ambient noise and light. And of course, the smartphone app puts it all together for you. The RestOn strap and sensor are already available on Amazon for about $150. The entire Nox Smart Sleep System is expected to be available on Amazon this month for about $280.
Withings, which makes a number of wireless health related devices including scales, trackers, and blood pressure monitors, has introduced the Aura Total Sleep System. The system begins with a Connected Alarm Clock which has a wake-up light and a sound system (which can be programmed with Spotify). You can add the REM sleep tracker that goes under your pillow to follow your sleep patterns. And of course you can monitor it all with an app for either iOS or Android. Price for the whole package is roughly $300.
And finally, Jaybird, which makes wrist worn fitness trackers, includes sleep monitoring in the Jaybird Reign. It links to a smartphone app (either iOS or Android) that tracks the number of hours you sleep and the quality of your sleep. Price is $182.14 at Amazon.com.
The bottom line is that with the development of all these new sleep related technologies, the chances are we’ll be spending even more billions to get a good night’s sleep. But if these technologies really do help, we should be able to have a more restful, healthy sleep, without the side effects of the sleeping pills that millions of us already take.