Tech focused on sleep is flooding the market but does any of it work?

At this years Consumer Electronics Show, fake beds abound.Companies from across the globe are clamoring to give attendeesa chance to kick off their shoes and test out the latest in sleep technology. Its hard to get too cozy with thousands of tech fanatics millingaround the exhibit floor but manufacturers are doing their darndest.

Theyre showcasing snooze-inducing headphones and smart pillowcases, beds with built-in foot warmers, and belts that track every toss and turn. There are smart alarm clocks designed to make it as pleasant as possible to drag yourself out of bed on a Monday morning. Theres even an app that can record your snoring and everything you say in your sleep.

All of this is supposed to make you sleep better.Butits not clear what youre supposed to do with all the data these products generate.

Theres an inherent problem because the consumer world has come up with all these ways to monitor your body signals, but the clinical world didnt come up with a way to answer all the questions it brings about, said Michael Breus, a psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders.

Heres a look at the gadgets hitting the sleep tech market and the evidence behind them:

Buckle in before bed?

Sleep trackers are growing more high-tech. Take2breathe, a smart device thatyoure supposed to strap aroundyour waist before bed. The $180 device can sense your breathingand play tones to help you fall asleep, and it shuts off automatically when it senses youre snoozing. Its tied to an app that fills you in bright and early every morning on how you slept.

Or, at least,it shoves a bunch of data points at you.

You got 18 percent REM sleep and 24 percent light sleep. So what? said Breus, who also appears regularly as a sleep expert on The Dr. Oz Show.

Clinicians in sleep medicine are asking the same question.

Such devices may have a role in giving us some idea about how the nights sleep was, but I am not sure if consumers can directly interpret the results, said Dr. Gholam Motamedi, a neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center who has studied sleep medicine.

There is limited evidence that wearable trackers can encourage users to get more sleep each night. One recent study of 565 drug company employees who used activity trackers for a year found that while users didnt get morephysical activity, theywere sleeping an average of 30 minutes longer each night bythe end of the year.

People didnt realize how little they were sleeping, and it wasnt until it was in front of them and aggregated that they realized, said Laura Pugliese, deputy director of innovation research at the New York-based Healthcare Innovation & Technology Lab and one of the studys authors.

Even so, Pugliese agreed that theres slim science behindmuch of the consumer sleep technology on the market. Theres not as much evidence of how they can really benefit people or if they can really benefit people, she said.

The makers of Beddit a $149 bed sensor that tracks heart rate, breathing, and snoring aim to boost the utility of their data byconnecting it to electronic health records. The goal: give doctors a way to keep tabs on their patients sleep over time.

The Beddit app gives consumers advice about tweaking their sleep routine to get a better nights rest. Itll also flag if a user has signs of sleep apnea and suggest they check in with a clinician.

Smart mattresses and snore-proof pillows

Users who dont want to sport a clunky bracelet or strap a seatbelt around their waist have another option to keep tabs on their snoozing: smart beds.

The Sleep Number 360smart bed, for instance,is designed to sense shifts in the body and continually adjust the mattress pads temperature and positioning throughout the night. Like the companys other mattresses, it can adjust each side independently to accommodate two sleepers. The company even claims it can detect your partners snoring and gently raise his or herside of the bedto quiet them.The goal, as Sleep Number puts it: help consumers get their much needed vitamin Z.

Breus, the Dr. Oz Show psychologist, said products like smart beds that are in constant, direct contact with a user tend to be more accurate than apps like Sleep Cycle, which uses a phones accelerometer to measure changes in movement on the bed.

Honestly, I cant count the number of people who hear what I do and grab their phone and whip out their Sleep Cycle and say, Tell me what this means, Breur said. And I say, No, I cant, because its not very accurate.

The mattress world is also making a push tohelp users regulate their own body temperature during sleep. To take one example, the Kryo Sleep Performance System is a water-based cooling mattress pad thats controlled by an app.

Experts say temperature does play an important role in sleep its a key factor in regulating our circadian rhythm, the biological clock that helps maintain our sleeping and waking cycle. There is an established association between core body temperature and sleep, said Motamedi, the neurologist.

But theres no published data to support another claim from Kryo: that the $299 cooling mattress pad can improve deep sleep by as much as 20 percent.

And if smart mattresses arent enough? Get ready for smart pillows.

Sleepace is currently developing a product called the Sleep Dot, a teeny-tiny tracker that sticks to the corner of a pillowcase. It aims to track body movement, sleep cycles, and wake-ups during the night. An early competitor:Zeeq, a smart pillow that plays music, tracks your movement and breathing, and can even rattle an alarm if you start to snore.

How do you measure up?

Experts agree that to make sleep products more effective, consumer tech companies have to give users a way to make their personal data matter.

The trend that is hopefully going to grow is people trying to [put] this biomedical data into a platform that has some sort of lasting and ongoing effect, said Stan Kachnowski, a digital health researcher who also works at the Healthcare Innovation & Technology Lab.

That might mean giving personalized adviceonthe best time to lie down or wake up. Or it might mean letting users match their habits up against their peers. Maybe your data is compared to somebody thats your same gender and age, Breus suggested.

Personalized feedback is essential, he said, to make sleep tracking worthwhile.

I think thats where we really need to go, he said, and were not there yet.

This article originally published at STAT here

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