SOS: Can technology save our sleep?

"Body as Media" by Steve Jervetson (2010). (CC BY 2.0)

Much has been said about the way in which technology has disrupted our sleep patterns. However, the flip side of that lamentation is the new evangelism tied to consumer sleep technology (CST) devoted to enhancing our sleep in some way. If you went to the Consumer Electronics Show, you can testify to the presence of a brand-new technology wing given over to products that are designed to track and improve sleep. This month at SHC, the subject of CST gets a closer look. Focal points will include the kinds of CST (mobile apps, computer software, wearable monitors, and furniture and appliances) as well as questions about functionality, the science behind these new technologies, and ethics.

Kinds of consumer sleep technology (CST)

Mobile apps

These are the programs you download to your portable devices that serve some sleep-related goal.

Computer software

These are tools and programs you install on your computer to help with some aspect of sleep.

Wearable monitors

As the name suggests, these are gadgets you wear somewhere on the body to measure certain pre-set metrics.

Furniture and appliances

Beds, pillows, clocks, lights, fans, and other kinds of household objects that are built with sleep in mind.

Is this thing on? Questions about functionality and utility

SHC hopes to answer some questions about how these products work, how reliable they are in doing their purported functions, and whether the goals of these forms of CST have any practical application.

The science behind consumer sleep technologies

How do these things work, anyway? SHC aims to explain the science behind these tools in layman’s terms.

Rules of engagement: How to be a cautious consumer

The application of any sort of technology has an ethical component. What is to be gained in using it? What is put at risk? Because these are direct-to-consumer products that anyone can purchase, being a discerning shopper demands answers to questions about the value of any of these technologies, as well as their potential down sides.

About Tamara Kaye Sellman (621 Articles)

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