The science of sleep
Regardless of current health and fitness levels, we all need a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. Sleep is vitally important. Whilst asleep the brain’s pineal gland releases melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake circadian rhythm and is also a powerful antioxidant. It plays a key role in how we wake up feeling refreshed, recharged and recovered. Quality sleep however can be hard to come by in the modern age. Caffeine, work stress, personal stress, over stimulation as well as noise and light interference can all get in the way of quality sleep. Responding to this, health and fitness companies have come up with a number of sleep tech innovations to help us monitor and maintain better sleep.
The Lumie Bodyclock Elite 300, also called the dawn simulator, wakes you gradually with increasing natural light. This is a signal for your body to ease production of sleep hormones (e.g. melatonin) and increase those that help you get up and go (e.g. cortisol). Wake-up lights help to keep your sleep cycle on track, boosting mood, energy and productivity levels all day.
The Nightholder is a smartphone stand designed to reflect radiation waves away from the body as you sleep. Many of us use phones as alarm clocks which charge by the bedside overnight. As scientific studies have revealed RF radiation can disrupt the pineal glands production of melatonin. The stainless steel cylinder of the Nightholder reflects 75% of this radiation away.
The Sleep Infuser intertwines healthy sleep-pattern algorithms – a carefully-designed pattern of low pulses – with natural soundscapes to teach and coax the brain into the brainwave patterns of healthy sleep. The Sleep Infuser looks like a clock radio, is easy to operate and allows users to customize the cycles and time – anywhere from a full night’s sleep to a quick power nap.
Watches and phones have traditionally found a resting place on night stand. So for wearable fitness tech and mobile app developers this has provided a natural avenue of opportunity by providing users with a range of sleep monitoring tools. The Basis Health Tracker and online personal dashboard are designed to help people easily incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines. The multi-sensor Basis band and free web service provides a comprehensive picture of health and a simple way to help people adopt and maintain improvements in activity and sleep. Unlike other devices, the Basis band continuously measures motion, perspiration and skin temperature, as well as capturing heart rate patterns throughout the day and night. This physiological data is then uploaded to a secure cloud-based service where Basis’ proprietary algorithms provide key activity and sleep metrics including steps taken, caloric burn, sleep quality and resting heart rate. Basis’ sophisticated sensors can automatically detect periods of activity and sleep eliminating the need to manually switch modes, as well as recognize when habits are achieved each day.
One of the numerous biometrics of the recently launched Argus App by Azumio is sleep monitoring. By syncing via Bluetooth with a number of affordable fitness watches including the Lifetrak Move C300, Argus is able to employ its complex algorithms to cross reference and compare the relationships between sleep, diet and exercise. Within a single bracelet the hugely popular FitBit Flex tracks quality of sleep (# of hours, how many times you wake up, sleep efficiency index) and uses a silent alarm that vibrates to wake you up gently. It also syncs this information with the FitBit dashboard that can be used in conjunction with all other FitBit devices to monitor and compare all aspect of health and wellness.
Technology vs sleep
Whilst these technological innovations can help to improve sleep, it worth remembering that a great number of people within the health community agree that one of the biggest disruptions to sleep is technology itself. Whilst our ancient ancestors spent their hours from dusk till dawn sheltering in dark caves, we now stay up awake in noisy street light illuminated cities, working, watching TV or using smart phones, computers and game systems till the early hours. In order to achieve quality sleep it is vital not only to switch off, but also allow time to do so. And by switch off, that is in both the mental and physical sense. Avoid getting over stimulated before bed and allow for thoughts and ideas to be brushed aside until the next morning. Ensure that your sleeping environment is cool and well ventilated and also to switch off wi-fi routers, 3G, and turn off or obscure as many lights as possible until you are in, or as close as possible to, complete darkness and silence (rather like a cave).