The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Michael Kummer.
We live in a constant rush. We’re always on the move, which can lead to a lack of awareness about our surroundings and even ourselves. On top of that, our brains are now trained to overthink, and our bodies expected to overdo. These bad habits take an enormous toll on many of us when it comes to shutting off our brains and going to sleep, but, what have we done so far to overcome these difficulties?
Guest blog by Robert J. Hudson
Robert is the Chief editor at Snore Nation and a proud father of two cool boys. A reformed snorer and a reformed workaholic stress monster on the mission to share his insider tips to restore that quality of sleep for you and your partner! SnoreNation is an online-guide dedicated to snoring, mild sleep apnea, and information about self-help remedies, treatments, and anti-snoring products.
Wrapped in an enigma for a long time, the mystery of sleep has been partially solved thanks to science in these last decades. We now know sleep is the period during which the brain performs a wide array of activities essential to our quality of life.
The steady stream of sleep research from scientists and academics has led to several technological endeavors hoping to apply this new knowledge. We now have a flourishing “sleep industry”–from smart beds and smart pillows to anti-snoring solutions such as mouthpieces, as well as sound and temperature management solutions– all of these getting people’s attention with the premise of a better, and adequate, night’s sleep.
With all these new gadgets flooding the market, it seems like a good idea to learn more about sleep and take a closer look at the top “tech sleep” solutions the world has to offer, as well as how efficient they are at putting together what we have discovered so far about sleep.
Sleep Disorder Stats
Having a miserable night’s sleep can have severe consequences in both the short and the long term. It can leave you feeling tired, fatigued, with trouble concentrating or even paying attention while awake during the day. You don’t want to drive back home with hours of sleep missing, putting you at a higher risk of a car wreck and other accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2016, more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. And it’s half of the adults over the age of 65 that suffer from some sleep disorder. In 2013, drowsy driving accounted for 800 deaths and 44,000 injuries on the roads.
Insomnia is the most common particular sleep disorder, with 30% of adults reporting short-term issues, and 10% reporting to suffer from chronic insomnia. And one of the leading causes of insomnia is sleep apnea that 20 million Americans suffer from, reports the American Sleep Apnea Association. It is the most common cause of snoring, which in turn produces more disorders and problems with the sleeping habits of an entire household.
What are the causes of poor sleep?
Your ability to sleep well at night is determined by more than just how tired you are. There are several factors involved, with some of them causing minor disturbances in your sleep if they are altered. A lot of times they’re minor factors that can be remedied with self-care, aids, and other techniques, while others may require you to seek medical attention. For a better understanding, we can split them into three main categories: medical causes, psycho-physiological causes, and environmental causes.
1. Medical Causes
There are common conditions often associated with sleep problems including heartburn, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, kidney disease, neurological disorders such as restless legs syndrome or delayed sleep phase disorder, respiratory problems like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and thyroid disease.
Additionally, a significant number of prescription and over-the-counter medications used to treat these and other health problems can impair sleep quality and quantity. These conditions often require for you to be seen by a medical provider for a better treatment approach related to a sleep disorder.
2. Psycho-physiological Causes
About 70% of the times, psycho-physiological issues are the cause of poor sleep. Most people encase these problems under the term “insomnia,” though there are numerous forms of insomnia, and being able to identify the different types and which one you are dealing with, if any, can be helpful in treatment.
Psycho-physiological sleep issues are believed to appear due to the disproportion of the three central systems that control sleep:
- Sleep drive – how tired you are when you need to go to bed.
- Circadian rhythm – or the biological clock that tells us when it is time to be awake and asleep.
- Acute stress response – often known as the fight-or-flight response, is the system that prepares us to confront danger. If we encounter danger, this system will prevent us from falling asleep. It becomes a problem when without any real menace being present, it triggers an alert status, especially when our stress level is elevated.
These type of sleep problems are particularly prevalent in patients with any level of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They could also appear if we disrupt our body’s regular activity by drinking caffeine or alcohol, having a large dinner a few hours before bedtime or taking an out of the ordinary long nap during the day.
3. Environmental Causes
These include different kinds of distractions in the setting we are trying to sleep in – sound, light, bed comfort, temperature, and too much stimulation before bedtime are the main ones.
In an Israeli study of eighth- and ninth-grade students, researchers found that those teenagers with excessive electronic media habits experienced daytime sleep-related problems. Students with TVs in their bedrooms went to bed later in the night and slept less than those without televisions. Now imagine the sleep patterns of those who not only have a TV in their bedrooms but also go to bed scrolling down the screens on their smartphones.
Environmental noise is another crucial factor when it comes to affecting sleep-wake behavior and sleep quality. Intermittent sounds are more disturbing than continuous noise. High sound levels when asleep—whether from traffic, barking dogs, neighbors, or disturbances in your own home—can decrease your sleep intensity, causing you to wake more often at night, and can even raise your stress hormone—cortisol—secretion.
Our top picks
There are technological solutions to everyday causes of sleep deprivation, and below is a review of our top picks.
NuCalm claims to be a patented neuroscience technology designed to naturally relax your mind and body within minutes, without stuffing your body with drugs. It makes use of biochemistry, physics, and neurophysiology to achieve relaxation quickly.
NuCalm uses a four-step system to alleviate your sleep disorder. First, it makes you chose a topical cream or dietary supplement. Then it asks you for a microcurrent stimulation on the midbrain, meant to hinder the body’s natural stress response. It promises you won’t feel a thing. The third step is a neuroacoustic software app that uses a mix of music and data tracking to help brain wave function.
Finally, the fourth step is an eye mask. A light-blocking eye mask to help you disconnect from the rest of the world and enjoy a deeper relaxation experience.
Muse is a neuro-headset using electroencephalography (EEG) system that helps you obtain good states of concentration and relaxation. The accompanying Muse app, using real-time brainwave data measures states of mind and mind-wandering. It delivers information through audio feedback to aid users to enhance their ability to maintain focus, as part of meditation practice or cognitive training.
Muse will take a snapshot of your brain in a natural state, using it as a reference to provide feedback about your meditation in real time by rendering your brain signals into wind sounds. When your mind is calm, you will listen to calm and settled winds. When your mind is active and wandering, the winds will pick up and blow.
After a session, you will be able to track your performance thanks to graphs and charts and keep a record of your progression over time and earn points to unlock new features.
SleepPhones claim to be “the world’s most comfortable headphones for sleeping” and seems like they deliver what they promise. These headphones, are made of a soft headband with thin removable speakers to play any variety of sound, music, audiobooks, meditation, white noise, or radio. The outstanding feature is compatibility; it can be plugged with any audio device, thanks to its standard 3.5mm (1/8 inch) headphone jack.
SleepPhones are entirely padded with nothing sticking into the ears and are comfortable to wear all night long even for side sleepers. Lightweight, washable, hypoallergenic, and RoHS/CE compliant with the highest standards for electronics and batteries—in case you were concerned about safety.
The Somnox robot is a fuzzy, bean-curved-shaped robot that simulates human breathing to aid the person holding it fall asleep. Carefully made for you to cuddle and spoon with it during the night feeling soothed to sleep.
If you hold the Somnox Sleep Robot, you will automatically synchronize your breathing to that of the sleeping robot. Synchronizing your breathing pattern to that of Somnox, you will reach a steady and calmer breathing rhythm. This deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body because it will give a message to your brain with the command to loosen your body.
The Somnox Sleep Robot comes with a personal application, for Android and iOS. You can choose the sounds and breathing exercises that best meet your needs.
Somnox Sleep Robot is not on the market yet; however, their estimated deliveries start in October 2018.
Aromarest focuses on three major aspects of our environment when it comes to sleeping time. Sight, Sound, and Scent. It offers simulated sunrise and sunset modes with adjustable color LEDs hidden within a stylish screen. Additionally, it has two aromatherapy-diffusing bays. One can be used at night-with a scent such as lavender to help you relax; the other can be used with an invigorating scent and vivify the senses each morning.
It also combines a high-fidelity speaker. Creating an omnidirectional output that fills the room without sounding too close. You can use music from your phone, or a selection of sounds built into the app, including ocean sounds, rain, white noise, and alarm wake up tones.
Aromarest is not available yet but accepting pre-orders to deliver in the fall of 2018 according to their website.
Hopefully, we’ve simplified your options when it comes to the new tech meant to improve your sleep and therefore, your daily life. The science behind sleep is still relatively young, with discoveries and innovations being made every year. The best thing we can do to sleep better is always to be aware of your routine, how it changes and what new information is out there in the world of sleep science and its technology.