Sleep News

Sleep apps and wearable technology: What to keep your eye on

Check out this review of existing or soon-to-be-released personal sleep technology products that we think show some promise for the future of sleep health.


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While there’s much to be skeptical about in the burgeoning field of personal sleep technology, a few embedded systems, handheld devices, miscellaneous gadgets, mobile apps, and wearables show some promise, either in their current state or as they might evolve.

Here are 20 products (or product categories) that the curator of SleepyHeadCENTRAL will be watching with high expectations in the next year, hoping that they prove out their utility and value in the marketplace.

(To be honest, there is one I’m watching that I expect will fail… read below to find out more—The Curator)

SleepyHeadCENTRAL has received zero compensation (cash, product donations) from the manufacturers listed below in exchange for inclusion on this list.

The curator simply views this as a “watch list” and has not personally used any of the technology listed here and cannot personally verify any claims made by any of these product manufacturers.

For products that the SHC curator does endorse, check out “Does SHC use personal sleep technology?

Products and product categories on this list are ranked alphabetically.


#1
2Breathe
 could be a great solution for so many people suffering from insomnia. It incorporates “personalized therapeutic breathing exercises” with relaxation tones to guide breathing patterns using a phone app and respiratory belt.

Why the curator likes this: The number one method I used in the sleep lab for encouraging anxious patients back to sleep was a counted breathing practice. I also suspect this could be a useful device for people with generalized anxiety who need a “relief” session that can help them stabilize their stress response.



#2
Awoken is for people who are lucid dreamers (this includes SHC’s curator) as well as for those who want to become lucid dreamers.

From the website:

“Lucid dreaming is learning to know you are dreaming, while you are dreaming. Becoming aware that you are dreaming allows you to shape, influence and direct your dreams with clarity, instead of being uncritically controlled by them. …It is reported that lucid dreaming can also help to overcome nightmares, be used to rehearse success for real life scenarios and be used train creativity.”

Features of this mobile app include a dream journal, “dream cues” (low-frequency audio tones meant to supply lucid dreaming “triggers”), analysis tools, progress and stat reports, and continuous speech-to-text function to recite dreams the moment you awaken.

Why the curator likes this: I’m not certain that lucid dreaming is for everyone, but this looks like a useful tool for learning from this practice and even as a skeptic, I might still try this one out.


#3
Beddit
 is a comprehensive system using an embedded technology to track and record many aspects of your sleep health across the night, including quality and quantity of sleep, pulse and breathing rates, evidence of snoring, and room temperature. The software provides access to participating sleep physicians, delivers reports every 2 weeks, and can be integrated with Apple health and fitness apps.

Why the curator likes this: Many sleep tracking devices require a lot of work on your part to make them work; Beddit seems to promise a more “plug and play” approach. Just place the sensor pad under your mattress and done… so appealing to this former working mother who seriously does not need any more projects!


#4
Chronic Illness Management Apps.
 This is a category rather than a single product, and one that is growing by leaps and bounds. These mobile tools include symptom trackers, pain diaries, medication schedules, and mobile app integration with electronic medical records and/or physicians in addition to sleep and fitness tracking functions.

Why the curator likes these: Quality sleep is critical to the successful management of chronic illness. Living with cancer, diabetes, mood disorders, autoimmune disease, epilepsy, asthma, migraines, or other medical conditions requires comprehensive attention paid to many processes that must include sleep.

The best chronic illness management apps incorporate sleep tracker technology, not only as a stand-alone biological measure, but in concert with the array of other processes unique to one’s illness. To do so sheds instructive light on the way sleep affects symptoms, side effects, and disease progression.


#5
Digital Detox
 is just as it sounds: technology to wean you of your technology addiction. Ironic, but useful. This free Android app was inspired by Adbuster‘s Digital Detox Week. It disables your phone for periods of time that you specify.

Why the curator likes this: Y’all need to learn to put down your phones (or other electronic access points to the Internet) at night.

SleepyHeadCENTRAL, if it’s not already apparent, is all about practicing good sleep hygiene to protect that critical third of your life meant to be spent in that biological process known as sleep.

If you want to live healthy in the 21st century (physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally), you need to be able to break away from your device addition.


#6
F.lux was among the first to filter out blue spectrum light emissions on laptops. They have a quality forum for people to visit where they can learn more about the dangerous impact of blue spectrum light on circadian rhythms.

Why the curator likes this: They knew a long time ago that blue light was wrecking our sleep and eyesight. Well before Apple did. They offered a free, early fix for this unique 21st century problem. SHC considers this company one of the foremost influencers in personal-use sleep technology.


#7
Lumie Bodyclocks help people wake up in a way that isn’t jarring but natural. This dawn simulation lamp sits on your bedside and uses gradual sunrise-like brightening in the morning to awaken you. You get to set the pace at anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes.

It also includes programmable sound features, an alarm with a snooze, and features for sleep promotion at night, such as white noise and a dimmable display. You can even use it as a security option when you’re away from home.

Lumie is a British company, but its products are distributed in the US by Northern Light Technologies.

Why the curator likes this: These products evolved partly due to a need to defend against Seasonal Affective Disorder in northern climates. Lumie was the world’s first wake-up light, and the brand has been in existence since 1991. SHC considers this company one of the foremost influencers in light therapy technology.

 


#8
Nightingale Smart Home Sleep System
is the first technology meant to improve one’s sleep environment by controlling ambient noise, both external and internal, so you can sleep better. It’s basically a high-end sound machine, using dual units to immerse an entire room with a “comfortable, non-localized sound blanket.” It also has functions that take into consideration snoring and tinnitus.

Why the curator likes this: I may not use this in my own home, as I don’t experience a lot of sleep-disrupting noise.

The name of the product is a little misleading, too… it’s not a whole-house sleep system (which I imagine as a “smart system” where you program the technology from a control panel). It’s actually a plugged-in noise management device.

That said, this might be useful in a college dorm, a hotel room, or a napping space where noise might become a problem. I like the portable functionality best, as it’s more or less a pair of devices that are roughly the size and shape of a power outlet, and about the width of a cell phone.


#9
Pegasi Smart Sleep Glasses are eyewear you can use to correct imbalances in your circadian rhythms. Think of them as wearable light therapy you put on first thing in the morning to boost your serotonin and halt the release of melatonin in the morning.

Why the curator likes this: I am already a fan of light therapy, being a person who lives in the Pacific Northwest, where it’s dark and gloomy much of the year.

While I’m happy with my “happy light,” I do see value in a wearable device that provides the same application of therapy for those who may need to be active right out of bed in the morning (getting ready for their morning commute, helping prepare children for school, or doing early-morning tasks before work).


#10
Quell is a device that uses a technology known as transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) to provide pain relief. It is the only FDA-cleared nonprescription device that can be used to manage chronic pain at night while you sleep (although it can also be used during the day).

Why the curator likes this: Our society is hamstrung by a nation-wide opioid use epidemic. Opioids are not only addictive and dangerous, but they also create problems for those with sleep disorders (especially obstructive sleep apnea).

Meanwhile, pain continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to sleep. A personal device that can “quell” pain flare-ups during sleep is a brilliant and overdue idea.


#11
RayBaby is a no-contact baby monitoring device that’s chiefly used to track your infant’s breathing patterns while they sleep. It claims to track respiration rates to an accuracy of 98%. This device, which attaches to the crib rail, uses an ultrasound-like technology to track baby’s health; it sends customized sleep data and recommendations and can take videos and photos that are shareable to social media.

Why the curator is following this: I’m not convinced this will actually succeed. Baby monitors are not without their shortcomings.

Anyway, I have to wonder… Do new parents need to feed their obsession and paranoia by quantifying their baby’s sleep, or will this gadget just breed more anxiety?

Those with legitimate concerns about SIDS might find comfort here, but I predict RayBaby will mostly be used for Facebook-inspired moments.


#12
ResMed S+ appears to be the leader in noncontact comprehensive sleep tracking technology. The S+ combines a bedside sleep monitor, smartphone app and web-based app to track, analyze, and interpret sleeping patterns, then provides personalized feedback for ways you can improve your sleep.

Why the curator likes this: I appreciate the fact that this system integrates sleep hygiene tracking in its programming as well. It will provide data on light, noise, and temperature… three key aspects to one’s sleep space that are often overlooked as causes for poor sleep.

If they could eventually build in an air-quality sensor, that would make me like this product even more.


#13
Rythm Dreem Headband promises to be the first active wearable to actually monitor brainwave activity via built-in electroencephalogram sensors. It also uses non-invasive sound stimulation to influence the brainwaves that command our sleep cycles. The Paris-based manufacturer claims that wearing the headband can help users to remain in deeper sleep stages for longer periods of time.

Why the curator likes this: Most sleep tracking devices are passive and do not incorporate important forms of technology to confirm the presence of sleep and to identify the stages of sleep with any accuracy.

This product sounds like it might be on the right path, but we won’t know until it is released in later 2017, which is why I’m keeping an eye on it.


#14
Sleep Cycle Power Nap provides useful smartphone technology for those who want to make sure their naps truly are power naps. This simple app wakes you up before you fall into deeper sleep stages, which are harder to awaken from and which leave you feeling groggy when they’re interrupted. It uses technology from the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock app to gently awaken you so that you feel rested and refreshed.

Why the curator likes this: I’m not a big fan of their original app, but I think this app could be very useful for those who must nap during the day while still needing to keep to schedule. I’m a firm believer in short “caffeine” naps in the afternoon for those who need them (I certainly benefit from them) and this app could make these happen.


#15
Sleep Health App
is the free sleep tracking app offered by the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) which is part of a patient-led effort to use smartphones, IBM Watson, and the Apple Watch technology to advance clinical research on sleep and sleep disorders.

Not only does it provide passive sleep tracking features (a built-in sleep diary, a sleep schedule tracker, and sleep quality gauge), it also enters the user into a large cohort clinical sleep trial which measures how their sleep is associated with general health, other medical conditions, and daytime alertness and productivity.

This patient-led research app allows participants to be equal partners in both the monitoring and management of their symptoms. The data collected on their behalf helps to direct future research itself through participation in their community forum, Sleeptember.

Why the curator likes this: I won’t lie. I am a web consultant for the ASAA and participate as a moderator in the forum.

That said, the app is simple to use, free to download, and a super easy way to help participate in sleep science at the longitudinal level. The data you share (and you share only what you want to share) is extremely useful to researchers and could help in the development of therapies for all manner of sleep disorders.

Please sign up here and join me in helping to promote healthy sleep through research.


#16
Sleep Image offers two approaches: the Individual account helps consumers manage their sleep, upload sleep studies, and share data with their doctors, and the Corporate account is defined as “an FDA-cleared prescription-type medical solution” for licensed healthcare providers to download patient sleep data, screen for sleep disorders, and monitor therapy compliance and efficacy.

Why the curator likes this: More and better data integration and communication between patient and physician using privacy-protected technology could be a boon for sleep-focused telemedicine.

A natural extension of clinical sleep medicine, sleep-focused telemedicine makes it possible for people who live in remote areas, who have limited access to specialists, or who are homebound to get important sleep healthcare.

Mobile health (aka “mHealth”) could be an easy answer to many problems related to the disconnect between patient and doctor.


#17
SleepPhones make it possible for side sleepers to listen to music, sleep friendly tones, or spoken word to help them fall asleep.

Why the curator likes this: Without a comfortable way to listen privately, there is no point in using any sound-based sleep technology. I have tried tiny earbuds and other kinds of headsets but they hardware makes it impossible to sleep on one’s side.

The other beautiful thing about this wearable is that it can be used to block others’ snoring or most other ambient noise you cannot control in your sleep setting. A much nicer option to foam earplugs (and the general discomfort that they can also bring).


#18
Smart patches.
Though there aren’t a “thing” currently (at least as far as SHC can tell), the emergency of smart patches to monitor all kinds of health situations (activity, illness, in example) may very well lead to a category of “smart sleep patches” that can track your sleep and give you feedback. Smart patches were described in a report by CNBC Feb 14 as “evolutionary technology” with a huge potential market because they are easily wearable and inexpensive.

Why the curator likes these: In case you haven’t noticed, most sleep measuring gadgets are fairly pricy (unless they are free smartphone apps), which makes them accessible only to the affluent. Any effort to drive down the price of health tech products while providing legitimate and applicable data earns a thumbs-up in my book.


#19
Snorelab is precisely what it sounds like: an app that measures and charts the presence of snoring. Snoring is a prime indicator of upper airway resistance and sleep apnea and needs to be taken more seriously than we currently do

Why the curator likes this: Every set of bed partners who quibble over who snores the loudest should invest in this app to settle their disputes! It might even be useful for patients in sleep labs who refuse to believe they snore (and they are legion). This is the ultimate judge in the court of unchecked snoring.


#20
Withings Aura is an embedded sleep tracking system not unlike Beddit or ResMed S+, but it also includes a simulated dawn feature and sound option that could be beneficial for those who prefer a gentler way to awaken or audible relaxation features to fall asleep to.

Why the curator likes this: The light and sound capabilities of this system are what distinguish it from the rest of the systems out there. I can think of many people who either suffer from insomnia or from problems awakening in the morning who might really like this product.

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