Building a Smarter Bedroom
Walk into any office, and it’s not hard to spot who’s had a rough night of sleep. They’re most likely guzzling coffee at their desk, or dabbing on concealer to hide a bad case of raccoon eyes. But sleep deprivation is a real problem. Studies show that not getting enough rest not only leads to impaired cognitive skills, but also health risks like diabetes, depression, and weight gain or loss. And according to the Center for Disease Control, more than a third of American adults don’t manage to get the recommended seven hours of shut eye per night.
While our smartphones and their blue light get blamed for keeping us awake, there’s also a lot of tech out there intended to have the opposite effect. Of course, most of us won’t be buying $20,000 smart mattresses anytime soon, but you don’t have to spend a lot to get a better night’s rest.
Track Your Sleep
In addition to heart rate and steps, sleep is an increasingly popular metric among current fitness trackers. Now, these trackers don’t actually do anything to help you sleep. But gaining insight into your sleeping patterns is the first step toward identifying problems and fixing them.
The Garmin vivosport and Fitbit Alta HR, for instance, both track sleep stages like light, deep, and awake. Fitbit’s Sleep Stages feature even offers a detailed breakdown of your night, as well as a rolling 30-day average and benchmarks comparing you with other Fitbit users of your age and gender. In general, you’ll want to opt for a tracker with continuous heart rate monitoring for the most accurate results. Accelerometer-only trackers tend to paint a more general picture.
Smartwatches are also capable of sleep tracking, but they tend to have shorter battery lives, which makes them less likely to be used overnight. While you can download apps to turn your Apple Watch Series 3 into a sleep tracker, its 24-to-48-hour battery life means you might want to be charging it instead.
The thing about wrist-based trackers is that you may not find them comfortable to sleep with. If you don’t like sleeping with something on your wrist, you might want to check out a less intrusive option, like the Motiv Ring.
Once Upon a Smart Mattress
If the wearable life doesn’t appeal to you, you can go all in with smart bedding. Throw out your old springbox mattress and upgrade to a high-tech smart bed like the SleepNumber 360, the Eight Sleep Smart Mattress, or the Magni Smartech. But what do these smart mattresses offer over their traditional counterparts?
For starters, they have sensors that can measure your movement, respiration, and heart rate. They can even pick up sound to detect when you’re snoring. Then, depending on your sleep patterns and preferences, they can adjust firmness or softness, or even elevate your head (to stop snoring). The SleepNumber 360 can also warm your feet, and the Eight Sleep can warm up either side of the bed. The Magni Smartech even features full-body massage and chromatherapy (color therapy) lights.
Top Tech for Better Sleep
The other component is a companion app, where you can view your sleep data and score judging the quality of your rest. Like fitness trackers, this information itself doesn’t help you sleep better, but can help you determine what is and isn’t working. Do you sleep worse on the days you drink coffee in the afternoon? Try cutting it out for a week and see if the quality of your sleep improves.
The big catch with smart mattresses is that they cost a pretty penny. The SleepNumber 360 starts off at around $2,800, while the Magni Smartech shocked even jaded CES 2018 showgoers with its $20,000 price. The Eight Sleep Smart Mattress is the most affordable, but not a bargain at $950.
If you’re not much of a high roller, there are more reasonable options that work with your existing mattress. The $99 Nokia Sleep—an updated version of the Withings Aura—is a thin pad that goes under your mattress. It tracks metrics like heart rate, movement, and respiration, and plugs into Nokia’s ecosystem of health products. Similarly, the SleepScore Max is a no-contact sensor that sits on your nightstand. It tracks your sleep, the environmental temperature, and ambient light.
If noisy neighbors are your biggest problem, the Nightingale is a smart white noise sleep system you can integrate into your existing smart home setup via If This Then That (IFTTT). The Dreem is a futuristic headband that measures your brainwaves and uses bone conduction to play therapeutic sounds to help you drift off.
Smart pillows are mostly focused on playing white noise. You might also consider a pillow insert, like the Smart Nora. It contains a pump that inflates when a bedside companion device hears snoring.
And if waking up is your issue, try a smart alarm clock. There are plenty on the market, but you can also use an Amazon Echo Spot to not only wake you up in the morning, but also to control smart devices throughout your home.
Setting the Mood
Tech can also help you make sure that your bedroom is a place where you want to, well, sleep. Try using smart bulbs for lighting that’s more conducive to rest. Most color or ambient white bulbs will let you create a bedtime (or wake-up) routine. Since blue tones keep you up, you can adjust your lights to a warmer, yellower tone past a certain time. Likewise, you can program a gradual fade-in to intense blue-tone lighting that mimics natural daylight to slowly wake you up in the morning.
The Aromarest is a diffuser, Bluetooth speaker, and smart light all in one. Yes, a lot of sleep tech seems to be more conceptual than proven science. But hey, if it works for you, that’s all that matters.
If all these solutions sound like too much effort or investment, you can rest assured there are countless mobile apps aimed at helping you sleep. They tend fall into one of three categories: tracker, smart alarm, and white noise.
SleepCycle for iOS costs a mere $1, and uses your iPhone’s accelerometer and microphone to track your sleep. All you have to do is plug it in and place it under your pillow. There are also plenty of Android counterparts, including the excellent (and free) Sleepbot.
For smart alarms, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of Alarmy (Sleep if U Can), available for both Android and iOS. If used properly (no cheating), there is no defeating it other than to delete it from your phone. The gist is that the app requires you to take a geo-specific photo, shake it furiously, or solve a math puzzle in order to turn it off. You can’t turn down the volume, you can’t hit snooze, and rebooting does nothing.
White noise apps are a dime a dozen, and for some people, a little white noise is all they need.
All in all, sleeping smarter doesn’t have to be rocket science. No matter your budget, there’s plenty sleep tech available to help you get a better night’s rest.