New Delhi: Sleep deprivation, snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome are some of the top sleep-related issues. While improving lifestyle, better eating habits and medication can help, there has been a lot of R&D on sleep technology. A new line of products such as smart beds, pillows, blankets, etc. are said to help people sleep better.
Among smart beds, Sleep Number 360 is quite popular in the US. It uses a proprietary Responsive Air tech to sense a user's posture and movement, and then automatically adjusts the firmness and support for greater comfort. It can also tilt the head side of the bed upwards if it “hears” the user snore and switches on the foot warmer if the user's legs are cold. It has built-in sensors called Sleep IQ to monitor the user's heart rate, breathing, movement and sleep quality. It is available in the US for $999.
Then there is the Sunrise smart pillow, which is slightly curved in the middle to provide more ergonomic support. The pillow has LED lights built into the sides that gradually brighten to simulate a natural wake-up process. It can also monitor the sleep quality, read out e-books and has a built-in alarm. Then there are anti-snoring pillows, which monitor breathing and gently turn the head to the side if the user starts snoring.
“Turning of the head to the side increases the gap between the tongue and throat, which stops the vibration of the soft tissues in the upper airways and reduces the snoring sound as well as allows better breathing,” said Dr Sandeep Nayar, director and head of Centre for Chest and Respiratory Diseases at BLK Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi.
Another interesting innovation in sleep-tech is smart night pyjamas such as Restore. Developed by sleepwear company Lunya, Restore is made of cotton and Celliant, a synthetic fibre made from polyethylene terephthalate, with optically active particles embedded into the core. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2017. It can absorb and convert body heat into infrared energy and then recycle that energy back into the body for sound sleep. It can also increase oxygen levels to help relax the muscles.
Experts are keyed up with this new tech, but are also sceptical about its potential side effects. Dr Nayar is excited to see how technology can help people sleep comfortably, but rues that it is still early days and doctors need to have more experience with such products to analyse their benefits and side effects after prolonged use before recommending them to anyone.
“While those related to improving obstructive sleep apnea can be of use as they can lead to significant improvement in quality of life. However, these devices need to show improvement in sleep parameters in polysomnography before they can be prescribed to patients,” advises Dr Puneet Khanna, senior consultant and head of Respiratory Medicine Intervention Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi.
Products such as electric blankets, which keep you warm during cold nights and are great for soothing aching joints, are easily available these days, but the more advanced options are expensive and available in select markets.
Also, there are not many studies that show their benefits. Dr Khanna says that most of them are not proved to be of any real benefit to qualify as useful, but he is not writing them off completely. With more advanced technology, they can be of use in future, he adds.
Wearables to enhance your sleep
• Philips SmartSleep headband: $399
This foam-based headband can tell when the user is in deep sleep, and plays a low tune to enhance the phase
• Re-Timer Light Therapy glasses 2nd gen: $149
Its frame emits a UV-free green light that mimics the effect of sunlight to reset a person's body clock
• Spire Heath Tag: $49
Band-Aid-sized waterproof tags that can be stuck on clothes, and can track breathing, sleep patterns and the heart rate