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Using Technology to Understand Sleeping Habits

*Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice. Seek the guidance of a physician if you have any questions.*

In current times, technological advances combined with the evolution of sleep medicine has given virtually everyone in the world the ability to monitor their sleep. Sleep is a critical component of everyone’s daily routine, which is why some job positions that require little to no sleep for days at a time are fascinating to most people. You are probably wondering, “what job requires a person to stay up for days at a time?”

The United States Navy Seals are notorious for functioning off of little to no sleep for days at a time, which is why those who make it through the training are considered elite. Navy Seals endure “Navy Seal Hell Week,” a five-and-a-half day stretch in which candidates sleep four hours but run more than 200 miles. According to ABC News, “Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL, said he survived for three days on no sleep before the hallucinations started to set in.” Ironically, their sleepless nights provide many the opportunity to get a good night of sleep, but many will not take it.  A recent study found that 40 % of Americans will get less than the recommended amount of sleep. Without quality sleep, the brain’s pathways cannot facilitate learning, create new memories, or remove toxins from the body.

Medical Equipment and Technology in Sleep Centers

According to the Institute of Medicine, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder. Those who have trouble sleeping for long periods are typically referred to as a sleep specialist by their primary physician. The specialist may ask the patient to undergo a sleep study to understand better what happens during their sleep cycles.

A sleep study is formally called polysomnography and uses a form of monitoring called electroencephalography (EEG). Electrodes are attached to the patient’s scalp to record their brain wave activity. The electroencephalograph records brain wave activity from various parts of the brain and places them on a chart. Another type of monitoring used in sleep studies is continuous electro-oculography (EOG), which records eye movement. The eye movement recordings are used to determine when a patient through a stage of sleep called rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. A sleep study incorporates the latest in technology to analyze the following:

  • Brain waves
  • Eye movements
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing pattern
  • Blood oxygen level
  • Body position
  • Chest and abdominal movement
  • Limb movement
  • Snoring and other noise you may make as you sleep

Tracking Sleep Through Smart Technology

Millions of people invest in smartphone apps, bedside monitors, and wearable technology to collect and analyze data about their sleep.  Smart technology is also inclusive of bracelets, smartwatches, and headbands. These technological devices record sounds and movement during sleep, journal hours slept, monitor heart rate and respiration.  In most cases, data from wearable devices can be synced to a smartphone or tablet.  Some apps and devices make white noise, while others produce light that helps melatonin production and use gentle vibrations to help us sleep and wake. The list below is composed of some of the most popular and useful devices for tracking sleep and getting quality sleep.

  • Fitbit is a wearable device. All wrist-based Fitbit devices automatically detect sleep if worn to bed. The company recommends wearing the Fitbit a little snug while sleeping and discourage wearing the device in a clip or pendant accessory. There are several types of Fitbits; some may not track heart rate, but even they track sleep patterns in the Fitbit app. Sleep patterns encompass time spent awake, restless, and asleep. Restless sleep indicates that there was movement while resting, like tossing and turning. If the device detects excessive movement—so much that restful sleep is not possible—the device records time spent awake. Fitbit analyzed over 10.5 billion nights of logged sleep to develop the app.
  • Kokoon Relax headphones may seem counterintuitive because they require one to sleep on their back, and one must get accustomed to the headphone’s weight. But, once a person gets past those two things, there are plenty of relaxing experiences to choose from on the app, like breathing techniques. The app has white noise tracks and other relaxing sounds like ocean waves and rainfall, helping the body relax. The app can also record sleep tracking data and recommend the best audio based on your answers to specific questions.
  • SNOO Smart Baby Bassinet is one of the most innovative designs the celebrities like Beyonce, Mila Kunis, and Natali Portman are praising because it helps newborn babies sleep peacefully. The bassinet has white noise and will rock the baby back and forth and speed up if they start crying. The company claims that the bassinet will soothe the baby back to calmness in 30 seconds or less. This brand has picked up numerous awards and has been involved in medical studies into infant sleep.
  • Sound Sleep Pillow may look like an ordinary pillow, but it is packed with the latest technology. Any smart device can be plugged into the pillow, which will play the selected device’s sounds. One unique characteristic of the sound sleep pillow is that the only person who can hear the audio is the person with their head on the pillow. So, it does not disturb anyone else in the bed because they cannot hear anything. This pillow has a 5-watt Bluetooth speaker, which can last up to 8 hours on a single charge. It comes with an app that can analyze your sleep and snoring patterns.
  • Bodyclock LUXE 750D is a unique alarm clock that mimics sunlight’s color to fade out at night to help one doze off gently. It also has a feature that brightens the room like the sun in the morning to wake up a person. This alarm clock has various pleasing sounds like birdsong or café chats in the background that can rouse a person more gently than a blaring noise.

Technology has altered sleep medicine in so many ways by providing useful tools that track sleep patterns. These devices also make it easy for ordinary people to keep up with how and when they sleep. The other gadgets that help make one comfortable when sleeping to increase sleep quality are excellent investments.

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