Tag: sleep

Tech wants to solve our tech-related sleep problems

Technology is bad for sleep. It keeps us constantly exposed to an endless cycle of bad news, and the blue light emitted by smartphone and tablet displays suppresses our ability to produce melatonin. Combine that with the feelings of inadequacy generated by watching other people's picture-perfect lives on social media, and it's no surprise that we're all restless.

Sleep technology exists to solve this issue, and there were plenty of companies exhibiting new devices here at CES 2018. Many of them intend to tell you how well, or poorly, you have slept each night, in the hope you'll make better decisions the following day. But, as well as becoming more commonplace, sleep gadgets are going to become far more diverse, at least according to what we saw at the show.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers have tracked sleep for years, using the principles of actigraphy: Monitoring how you move as you sleep with algorithms used to calculate your cycles. The less you move, the thinking goes, the deeper your sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This week, companies like Nokia and Emfit both launched new underbed sensors that do the same job, but without a device on your wrist. The former will track your sleep duration and quality and offers a sleep-coaching function if you're having trouble nodding off. In addition, the Nokia Sleep sensor offers control of your smart home with IFTTT, triggering recipes as you begin to nod off.

Using sleep technology as an extension of the smart home seems to be the beachhead from which these companies plan to enter our homes. Sleepace exhibited a whole suite of connected home gear that'll automate your pad when it senses you're sleeping. Spend enough cash and your residence will turn off the TV and draw the blinds as soon as you climb into bed. When you're rousing the following morning, the system could gently turn on the lights and fire up the coffee machine.

SONY DSC

Wake-up lights were sleep technology well before sleep technology was a thing, using daylight simulation to trigger your natural circadian rhythm. It's probably best exemplified by Philips' Wake Up Light, and at CES 2018 competing products appeared from companies like Witti and Aromarest. The latter pulls double duty as a scent diffuser, much like Bescent's forthcoming night-time sleeping aid.

Other devices are attempting to appeal more to the marginal-gains crowd looking to get an edge on their bodies. Dreamlight, for instance, is an intelligent sleep mask that offers light therapy in the eye cups and sleep coaching. If you have taken a genetic test with 23andMe, you can even customize the sleep programs according to your DNA. Even to the point where, should your genetics indicate so, you can attempt to sleep like Leonardo DaVinci, who famously took 20-minute polyphasic sleep naps every four hours.

Sleep Number, which sells smart beds that cost upwards of a thousand dollars, claims that its SleepIQ platform is the "future of health and wellness." The company believes that its monitoring technology will soon be able to proactively spot and warn you of medical conditions ahead of time. For instance, its future beds may be able to identify symptoms such as an irregular heart rate or breathing pattern, look for signs of you being laid up with the flu and relay vital signs to medical professionals. Assuming, of course, that its users are comfortable with the sheer volume of data that is being collected against them.

SONY DSC

Then there are the more extreme interventions, like the recently launched bed from Magniflex, which will actually try to stop you snoring each night. Should its sensors detect your nostrils making the sound of falling rocks, the head of the bed will lift up by a couple of inches. That gentle motion should be enough to motivate your unconscious body to shift around, jolting you into stopping snoring.

There's also Somnox, a pricey sleep robot in the shape of a peanut, which you cuddle up to over night. The device is designed to simulate breathing as if you were snuggling up to a loved one or pet, playing soothing music to get you off to sleep. Although setting you back $550 to buy one might make you reconsider just how much you need to spend on getting some shut-eye.

Of course, the lingering issue over many of these products is if there is a genuine need for them at all. Professor Jean Tenge at San Diego State University believes there is a much simpler solution to solve our sleep-related woes: put down the phone. In an editorial at The Conversation, she explained that limiting smartphone use is the fastest way for us to enjoy more restful sleep. The rule of thumb is to avoid using your phone as an alarm clock, don't take it to bed and don't use it in the hour before you sleep. If we want to remain sane, our bedrooms need to be as analog an environment as possible. Not that the technology industry will tell you that, of course, because very few people get rich by not selling you things.

Additional photography: Nicole Lee and Chris Ip.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.


Somnox’s robotic pillow is designed to snuggle

We're all having trouble sleeping, and at least one group of researchers in the Netherlands believes it's because we're not cuddling enough. That's the thinking behind Somnox, a breathing robot that's designed to nestle in your arms and make you think that you've got a special friend over. At the same time, the unit will offer up soothing sounds, like a heartbeat, lullabies or nature sounds, depending on your preferences. And, it's entirely possible that you'll form an attachment to the giant grey McNugget.

The device is also stuffed full with sensors that, as yet, have yet to be activated, but it's thought that the system will eventually offer sleep tracking as well. When that information is crunched by the Somnox servers, it's plausible that you'll be given insights on how to sleep better than you would otherwise. And the thinking is that what everyone has been missing all these years is to cuddle up with a loved one or pet. Although finding a loved one might be cheaper, since the device has a retail price of $550 without any early backer discount. The company believes that while the initial price is high, it'll pale in comparison with the cost of sleepless nights.

The Somnox Smart Sleep Robot is currently available to pre-order on Indiegogo, with initial Kickstarter backers expected to receive their units in July, while Indiegogo purchases will be here in September.

Chris Ip contributed to this report.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

Source: Kickstarter, Indiegogo


Dreamlight’s smart eye mask is designed to help you sleep

For everyone but the journalists covering the show, CES is all about catching up on, and improving the quality of, your sleep. One company with an eye on getting you well-rested is Dreamlight, which is building an eye-mask that, so its founder claims, will help you get some more shut-eye.

The chunky foam eye mask wraps around your head and is secured by velcro, with special inserts to ensure no light can peek in around your nose. Inside, however, are flexible circuits that house a quartet of speakers, infra-red sensors, an optical heart-rate monitor and LED panels in front of your eyes. It's comfortable, and the darkness that the eyemask offers is certainly better than the shades you can buy from a corner store.

The LED panels are for the sleep program, and will gently blast you with 15 minutes of orange light in order to stimulate melatonin production. After that point, you'll be shut off from the outside world with the eyemask that'll keep you in a dreamlike state until you set a wake-up time.

When it's time for the new day to begin, the mask will blast increasingly-light green hues toward your eyelids, which is more apparently invigorating than the traditional blue. In addition, the device can play a number of sounds, from your own tunes through to white noise.

Of course, the presence of both the optical heart-rate monitor and the accelerometers and gyroscopes in the eyemask means that it can also track your sleep. Using the companion app, you can learn how long you rested the night before, and find out the quality of the shut-eye you received.

The company has partnered with 23andMe, and apparently can craft custom sleep profiles that are tailored to your genetic makeup. One such profile is "Da Vinci's Sleep," and should you have the requisite profile, the company claims you can train your brain to require less sleep and still be productive. In addition, Dreamlight will offer up a six-day jetlag plan to help you get over that special fatigue you feel when you've traveled across several timezones.

Battery-life wise, founder WIll Wu believes that the eyemask will last for up to four nights on a charge, depending on use. If you use the built-in headphones to stream music from your smartphone, for instance, then you can expect that figure to fall.

Dreamlight is preparing to launch on Indiegogo later this month, with prices expected to begin at $100, although there's no word on when you can expect delivery.

Nicole Lee contributed to this report.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.


Spire’s health tracker sticks on clothes and never needs charging

Wearable fitness monitors promise a lot but research shows that nearly a third are abandoned in junk drawers because they're too fiddly, require too much maintenance or users are simply forgetting to put them on. Health monitoring company Spire thinks it's found the answer to these woes with the Spire Health Tag, the smallest ever fitness tracker that doesn't need to be charged and never has to be taken off.

The tag -- available in packs of three, eight or 15 -- simply sticks onto the clothes you wear most often. It's waterproof, so running it through the laundry is no problem, and its battery will last nearly two years. Just stick it on your gear and get on with your life. It measures all the usual metrics to provide personalized, real-time guidance for sleep and daily activity. For example, instead of simply telling you how many calories you burned at the gym, it'll tell you how much quicker you'll fall asleep as a result of that workout. And it monitors stress levels, thanks to respiratory sensors that measure breathing.

The tags are so discrete no-one will know you're wearing them, which is great for people looking to work on their fitness without fanfare. Of course, this could be a downside for the people who enjoy bringing up their metrics at every possible opportunity (you know who you are). Prices range from $99 for a three-pack to $299 for a 15-pack.


FDA clears implant that treats severe sleep apnea

Sleep apnea (where your brain doesn't properly send breathing signals while resting) is horrible enough by itself, but the solutions to it can be scary: you may have to take medication, rely on ungainly breathing machines or opt for invasive surgery. You might have a gentler treatment going forward, though. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved an implantable device, Respicardia's Remede System, that fights more serious cases of sleep apnea.

The hardware amounts to a battery pack (slipped under your skin in the upper chest) and wires that enter the blood vessels near the nerve that stimulates your breathing. If you stop breathing normally in mid-sleep, Remede stimulates that nerve to move your diaphragm and keep you breathing. Think of it as an on-demand jumpstart for your respiratory system.

This isn't a surefire fix. While there's evidence that Remede works, only about half of study subjects saw the hoped-for dramatic reduction in breathing problems. Also, it can't be used for obstructive sleep apnea (where the upper airway is blocked), people with active infections or those who need MRI scans. An implant is better than having to wear bulky equipment to bed, however, and even a modest improvement could add years to your life.

Source: FDA


The always-cold pillow is no longer a fever dream

The cold side of the pillow is one of life's oddly satisfying phenomena. But no sooner have you felt its gratifying chill caress your cheek than it vanishes. The cold side of the pillow could be more than just a pleasant sensation for your conscious mind, though. It's pretty well known that your body dumps heat as you drift off to sleep and your core temperature follows a rough nightly cycle, much like brain activity, hormone levels, breathing patterns and so on. There are various studies that suggest you can game the system, cool yourself down and minimize those restless nights. That's the intent behind the Moona smart pillow pad: A temperature-regulating pad that keeps the cold side of the pillow cold, indefinitely.

There are a number of temperature-regulating products pitched as sleep aids you can buy already. These range from simple mattress toppers that improve air circulation under the covers to cooling gel inserts for pillows. There are fans designed to slide in between your mattress and duvet, and elaborate mattress covers that pump air or water through a network of channels to create a microclimate under your sheets. From what I can see, though, there's nothing quite like the Moona pad.

For one, it's the only "active" device targeting the pillow area exclusively, and also the only such sleep aid with smart functionality. The main bulk of the product is a memory foam pad you slip into your pillowcase, which is tethered to a barrel-shaped hub destined for your bedside table. This cools and heats water, sending it down the tether and pumping it through a mesh of water pockets in the pad. The hub also has sensors that monitor room temperature, humidity and ambient light level.

The pad itself has a built-in sleep tracker, not just so users can observe that information, but also to educate the machine learning side of things. Naturally, you control Moona by way of mobile app, setting up a personalized temperature cycle: How cool you want the pillow when you're trying to get to sleep, the setting you want during the majority of the night, and the waking temperature.

According to the creators of Moona, you wanna keeps things pretty cool during the night and warm things up in the morning. The change in sensation as the pillow pad begins to heat up is said to rouse you naturally, in the same way sunrise alarm clocks do. Within the app, you can set your bedtime and what time you want to wake up and let Moona adjust the temperature profile automatically. There's also a nap feature that'll do exactly the same thing, but condense the temperature changes into, say, a 20-minute window.

The sleep tracking element of the device adds another layer to this. When you first load up the Moona app, it'll ask you questions about your sleeping habits. Over the first ten days of use, it'll hit you with follow-up queries and continue to adjust your temperature arc. From then on, it'll look at your sleep score (having tracked your sleep quality over time), and keep tweaking the temperatures and timings as it tries to find the right sequence for you. You can still adjust the settings manually, of course. You may want the pillow pad to get extra-cold in the summer to wake you up in the morning instead of heating up, for example.

How effective these promised machine learning smarts perform over time, I couldn't tell you. I did try the pad out briefly, however, and it was glorious. The sustained sensation of the refreshing, cold side of the pillow touching my cheek was extremely pleasant. It's like eating a delicious chocolate cake but not becoming desensitized to the flavor, where every bite is like the first. The hub part is effectively silent, too, though you can hear the hum of the water pumping around the pad when your ear's pressed against it.

The low monotonous drone could be an issue for some, but it felt like relaxing, white noise to me. After roughly five minutes of laying down, awkwardly asking one of the device's creators questions from a horizontal position, I had to rise on account of feeling groggy enough that I could nap right there, mid-briefing. One of the main issues for the Moona team, in my opinion, is asking someone to keep this in their bedroom. The thing has been designed to be as inoffensive as possible, but the hub, the pad and the tether won't blend into your bedroom decor quite like decorative cushions and candles.

Then there's the fact that it's quite a niche device for a very specific use case. In the same way air purifiers can be a hard sell because most people don't care so much about what they can't see, I don't imagine people buying this just to see if it helps them get a better night's sleep. And all of this is important, because the Moona team is taking to Kickstarter today to raise $50,000 to help launch the product. Early bird pricing starts at $219 -- $399 being the final RRP.

With Moona basically being production-ready, the hope is to ship units to backers by next summer. But with all crowdfunding projects, you have to remember that it might not get funded, there could be manufacturing delays, and numerous other things could go wrong from now until launch, so proceed at your own risk.

Source: Moona (Kickstarter)


MIT uses radio waves and AI to more accurately study sleep

Sleep tracking has moved to the bedroom, with apps, peripherals and wearables that use movement or your device's microphone to figure out when you're sleeping or awake. Those with sleep disorders, however, are still stuck with large, disruptive arrays of physical sensors for sleep studies. Now, however, researchers at MIT have started using radio signals and artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze patients' sleep stages without physical sensors and they're reporting a high rate of accuracy. This could help people with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and epilepsy, all of whom can have sleep disruptions that are hard to detect. Eventually, it may help all of us.

While the MIT system is in its infancy now, it's easy to imagine a near future with home-based sleep monitoring using radio frequencies (RF). "Imagine if your Wi-Fi router knows when you are dreaming, and can monitor whether you are having enough deep sleep, which is necessary for memory consolidation," said study leader Dina Katabi in a statement. "Our vision is developing health sensors that will disappear into the background and capture physiological signals and important health metrics, without asking the user to change her behavior in any way."

While other systems use radio signals to monitor sleep, this is the first study that claims a high rate of accuracy (80 percent) as measured against EEG recordings. The RF signals gather some irrelevant information when tracking sleep, so the MIT team had to come up with new algorithms to help separate out the important data. The new sleep monitoring system uses deep neural networks and unique, MIT-written AI algorithms to analyze the data to translate the raw information to valuable sleep data. The team plans to use this new technique to study how Parkinson's affects sleep next.

The researchers plan to present their research at the International Conference on Machine Learning on August 9. The current sleep monitor builds on previous radio-based systems the team has created that use low-power RF signals to detect and analyze emotions via vital signs like pulse and respiration. They've also used RF to measure walking speed, which can help doctors predict cognitive decline, falls and some cardiac or pulmonary diseases.

Source: MIT