How can I sleep better with technology and what devices help with sleep?

William Adams
 min read

Nowadays, you can sleep better with technology thanks to a range of devices that can help with sleep.

How can I sleep better with technology and what devices help with sleep?

Numerous activity trackers (smartwear) and smartphone applications exist to monitor your sleep.

These can give you an insight in how much sleep you’re getting and the quality of that sleep, when you go to bed, when you get up, etc.

Other smart devices such as lamps and smart speakers can assist you to create a bedtime routine by changing the atmosphere in the bedroom so it’s more conducive to falling asleep.

Conversely, you can program a smart watch or smart speaker to wake you up automatically after having slept 8 hours for example.

How can I sleep better with technology? Introduction

Today’s objects offered to improve sleep help users understand their personal sleep. These gadgets help them improve their sleep and optimize their performance during the day.

Some even mention a possible improvement of sleep disorders based on these algorithms.

In the range of trackers, many objects promise to record your body movements, breathing, heart rate, or surrounding sounds.

The user daily receives an index of their sleep quality, based on the identification of light and deep sleep periods, combined with the recorded phases of wakefulness during the night.

The app then offers to follow a coaching program with personalized advice according to the profile and data collected on the user.

How to sleep better with technology: What devices help with sleep?

Let’s review these major sleep monitoring devices:

  • connected objects
  • applications

It can be summarized as follows:

The applications

There are applications on smartphones or connected watches that use the sensors in the device. Sleep improvement is, in this case, part of a more global health improvement offer.

Sleep apps try to make the best use of these sensors to detect sleep cycles and specific sleep disorders like apnea. They then propose ways to improve it.

Connected objects

There are also new connected objects precisely developed for sleep:

  • headsets
  • lamps
  • pillows, etc.

Their design, sensors, and algorithms are dedicated only to sleep. This makes their promise of improved sleep even more dedicated.

Home automation

There are also options with home automation, also known as smart homes.

The promise lies in the overall sleep environment, mainly by tracking and manipulating brightness.

There are so many devices flooding the market today that it seems impossible to do a detailed review.

In any case, all these applications have been developed on a scientific basis but rarely tested for their effectiveness.

The challenge of the recorded signal

Connected devices use the miniaturization of technology and, therefore, different sensors to record valuable physiological data.

Once recorded, the data is analyzed by algorithms. These “decision trees” are based on the device’s computing power.

They are supposed to contain the best possible decision trees. They’re designed according to published medical data with even, for the most advanced, a progressive, personalized adaptation thanks to artificial intelligence.

These learning algorithms can give the user the most appropriate instructions to change their behavior.

But if you want this to work, the basis of the system is the recorded signal’s quality. The recordings should also represent what it’s supposed to measure. This should be regardless of the algorithms used secondarily.

In sleep laboratories, this aspect is the most important one. Researchers work hard to obtain a good quality signal that will guarantee a good analysis and, therefore, a good diagnosis.

Without these high-quality signals, even the best doctor will have trouble making a proper diagnosis, and so will the best algorithm.

So how do you analyze the effectiveness of connected objects to help fight sleep disorders? The first criterion is the quality of the recorded signal.

When considering how to sleep better with technology, it’s important to realize that if the recorded physiological data does not match reality, then no doctor or app can give helpful, correct advice.

How (bad) is the quality of the recorded physiological data?

Activity trackers

Activity trackers, more commonly called smartwatches, are by far the most represented on the market. A number of them have specialized in improving sleep patterns.

Few studies have evaluated the validity and insight of these devices. And those published are difficult to compare because of significant methodological references.

Overall, it can be said that these sensors cannot determine the different stages of sleep. In some cases, they may underestimate or overestimate sleep time.

For example, the time it takes to fall asleep or the time of awakenings in the middle of the night.

Some studies, whose purpose was medical, sometimes dramatically underestimated sleep time, making their use worthless. So in their current state, these tools must be used with consideration.

They are a rough indicator instead of a diagnostic tool that correctly translates sleep physiology.

However, they aren’t pure evil. It seems that these sensors are more reliable in recording daily physical activity.

Phone applications

Many phone applications have been developed to improve our nights. In this case, these sensors in phones are used:

  • accelerometer
  • microphone
  • camera
  • possibly heart rate recorder

But they share the same issue as smartwatches. Few studies have been performed, and most of them have shown:

  • poor details for wakefulness
  • an uncertain correlation between sleep time, sleep latency, and sleep stage (compared to polysomnography)
  • overestimation of total sleep time or sleep efficiency

So just like smartwatches, the lack of reliability in gathering physiological data makes any advice from these applications hard to validate.

How can I sleep better with technology? Conclusion

Unfortunately, the promise of improved sleep quality through better analysis of our physiological signals is still far from being fulfilled.

This is mainly caused by poor sensor reliability and a lack of hindsight and studies on this type of management.

For example, some studies are rather negative about the promise of certain apps to wake you up during the best period in your sleep cycle.

There is also a problem with apps that you have to set just before going to bed. They need to use your smartphone screen just before going to bed.

And this simple act can have an effect on falling asleep.

There’s an epidemic of reduced sleep time going on, striking the world population with its harmful consequences for health.

For this reason, it’s even more important that we take an interest in our sleep patterns. Connected objects are an excellent option to consider when you’re looking for a solution to sleep better with technology.

These devices give fair estimates of our total sleep time and insight into our sleep/wake (circadian) rhythms. However, they cannot be used to diagnose any sleep disorder.

Also, it would not be reasonable to change behavior based solely on what one of these gadgets has advocated.

The problem is that there are too many models. Therefore, it would be necessary to regulate the connected sleep market.

For example, by developing with government authorities (FDA in the United States) quality and certification labels to identify devices that provide an accurate medical service.

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About William Adams

I’m an engineer and a happy plus-size individual myself. I love to blog online if I can have a positive impact on the lives of others. I help other plus-size people with in-depth product guides to make shopping for products and services less stressful in their busy lives. Read More