Technology Is Taking Over Our Sleep...And It's A Good Thing

March 2016


Last week, reports said that a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study had found that more than a third of Americans say they are not getting an adequate amount of sleep, putting themselves at risk of obesity, heart disease and other issues. A 2011 survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) showed that 87% of respondents reported having problems sleeping, and the CDC has identified insufficient sleep as a public health problem. Over 40 million Americans report that poor sleep or lack of sleep has affected their activities at least once in the previous week.

Sleep technology companies have taken notice of both the research and consumers’ heightened awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep and healthy sleep habits. In fact, the global market for sleep aids has become a booming area in tech, and is expected to reach $76.7 billion in 2019. Growth has been fueled by positive feedback from consumers who use these devices. In a survey conducted by the NSF and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), 60% of sleep technology owners reported being more aware of their sleeping patterns, while 51% said their sleeping had improved and 49% reported feeling healthier as a result. “It’s a misconception that you need to have a sleep disorder to benefit from sleep technology,” said David Cloud, CEO of NSF. However, with 70% of sleep tech users under the age of 45, most consumers have still not adopted it, leaving significant room for growth.

Technology has become an increasingly prevalent way for consumers to tackle this issue—and to get the instant feedback they now expect in every aspect of their lives. The rapid adoption of smartphones has contributed greatly to sleep tech market growth, and the market has expanded beyond apps to include fitness trackers, designated wearables and even smart alarm clocks.

Smartphone apps such as Sleep Time and Sleep Cycle use the motion sensors in a phone to track sleep and wake you up during your lightest sleep phase. You just place their phone on your bed to use the app. Many fitness trackers and smartwatches have incorporated sleep technology in a similar way, including the Fitbit, Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S2. But there are many more independent and specialized devices devoted to helping you catch some Z’s.

Cheero’s Sleepion integrates auditory, visual and olfactory senses to help you fall and stay asleep. The device imitates moonlight; produces soft, natural sounds; and diffuses soothing scents to create an immersive environment to promote sleep. The Beddit Sleep Tracker is a thin strip, only as thick as two pieces of paper, which sits on top of your mattress to track the quality of your sleep through your movements. iFit will soon offer a similar product that slides under your mattress to track your respiratory patterns, heart rate and sleep efficiency.

Aura, a connected alarm clock and accompanying app from Withings, goes far beyond the standard bedside timepiece. It incorporates a lamp, speaker and optional sleep sensor to record and improve sleep environment. In the morning, Aura simulates a sunrise, gradually increasing blue light and sound to gently wake you. This method represses the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, so you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day instead of groggy and weighed down. At night, the lamp produces an orange light, which has the opposite effect, promoting the production of melatonin and helping you fall asleep faster. In addition to creating an optimal sleep environment, Aura can track room temperature, light and sound levels to help you improve your sleep even further. An optional sleep sensor that slides under your mattress can track your sleep cycle variation and wake you at the optimal time in the cycle. And, of course, these devices are accompanied by apps, so you can keep track of how you are snoozing on your smartphone.

As with most trending areas in technology, startups are taking on the big guys in the sleep technology space. Casper, an e-commerce company, is selling an innovative foam mattress, and recently raised $55 million in a funding round. All it takes is a few clicks online and, a few days later, the mattress shows up on your doorstep in a surprisingly small box. Another company, Helix Sleep, provides a similar offering, but its product, unlike Casper’s, is customizable. Customers fill out a questionnaire to help them create a mattress customized for their sleeping needs and preferences; they can choose among firmness, cooling and different customization options on each side of the mattress. Meanwhile, established mattress retailer Sleep Number has created a smart bed aptly called the “it bed.” With built-in biometric sensors, the bed quantifies your sleep, provides insights and makes suggestions for improving your slumber through its accompanying app.

Sleep technology is in the early stages of consumer adoption, but with all the options and benefits it provides, it is sure to become the norm instead of the exception in the next few years. According to the NSF and CEA survey, price and comfort are the biggest reasons consumers are not purchasing sleep technology. Currently, consumers’ most trusted source of sleep tech information is online consumer reviews or recommendations from friends and family who have already tried out sleep devices. Given the nascent market and narrow consumer adoption thus far, sleep technology is likely to trend over the next few years, especially among tech-savvy and health-conscious millennials—but also among the “silvers,” who are already driving 11.3% annual growth in sales of products that treat sleep apnea.


This article was written by Deborah Weinswig from Forbes. This reprint is supplied by BNY Mellon under license from NewsCred, Inc.  

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