W. Christopher Winter, M.D. is a member of the Men’s Health Advisory Board.
If New York City is the city that never sleeps, Las Vegas is vying to become the city that helps you sleep: The annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) this year brought together the most innovative and promising sleep technology from around the world. While largely in its infancy, this tech sector is growing exceptionally fast and promises to help us find the rest we desperately crave.
Looking over the landscape of this exploding product category, it has become increasingly difficult to separate products that truly solve sleep issues from the products that are largely noise. So last week, I once again I traveled to Las Vegas to look at the 4500 companies exhibiting their products over 2 million square feet of exhibit space. Of the countless devices I tested and investigated, here are my top 10 SleepTech products and how I envision they might improve your sleep:
W Christopher Winter, MD
While the wrist-worn sleep monitor might be old news, Withings continues to push the limits of what these devices can do while maintaining a stylish platform that looks more like a vintage watch than a generic fitness wristband (Can I wear this plastic thing to dinner?) The face still features an analog time display and analog step display as well as a cleverly hidden screen for receiving texts and other notifications. The new device will also contain a built-in ECG feature capable of giving an on the spot ECG reading and potentially detecting dangerous arrhythmias. Coupled with its smart scale, brand new blood pressure cuff, and smart sleep sensor, Withings is quickly becoming the one-stop shop for sleep and health monitoring, as all of this data is effortlessly sent to your smartphone via their Healthmate app. Available this spring.
With the World Health Organization declaring shift work a potential carcinogen, the race is on to help people acclimate better to changing work schedules and jetlag. Light therapy (used to treat seasonal affective disorder for years) is the standard of care for many of these problems. While LED technology has made these treatments better and more affordable, PocketSky truly makes light therapy easy, elegant, compact and fashionable. The device, which collapses to about the size of a ballpoint pen, is worn like glasses when you need it most, and it delivers blue light to the user to help facilitate wakefulness and circadian alignment. This is a must for people who struggle to feel energetic when they wake up in the dark—once the product has launched (TBD).
If you are going to purchase the PocketSky to help enhance your exposure to blue/green wavelengths of light, it makes sense to have a pair of Swanwick “Swannies” available. These pieces of eyewear help block wakefulness-promoting wavelengths of light from ever reaching your brain and are a must for people who need to be on their computers in the evening. The industrial look of other blue blockers make the wearer look like they just got back from the firing range or the metal-working factory. These glasses will help protect your sleep and make you feel like Bono at the same time. ($69-$129)
I crave silence on an airplane and prefer a traditional ear-covering headphone to an ear bud. While headphones deliver the quiet listening environment I prefer, they can also become uncomfortable, even painful when worn to sleep or for long periods of time (e.g. a long flight). Kokoon may have solved this issue: Their product oozes comfort the minute you put it on. In addition to its exceptional sound quality and noise cancelling technology, the company’s app offers a slate of relaxation programs to listen to while the person next to you on the flight is struggling to choose between pretzels or cookies. ($344)
When it comes to sleep quality, light often grabs the headlines. Recently however, temperature has been shown to play as great (or even greater) of a role in regulating sleep. Unfortunately, regulating our temperature can be fairly hard to do, and expensive when we try (cooling your bedroom to 65o when you live in Florida is not cheap!). Enter the Ooler. The Ooler is placed over the mattress like a mattress pad. Within the pad are lots of little latex tubes that bring water that has been cooled or heated to the user. Not only can the bed be set to a specific temperature, but the temperature can be changed at various points during the night. Need a cold bed, but want it to warm up before you get up? No problem, just set it up with the smartphone app. ($599 single; $1299 double)
One of the most common complaints of patients who struggle to sleep is that they cannot turn their mind off. The Muse 2 is a lightweight monitor that can measure the electrical activity of your brain and convert it into the sound of the ocean (or desert, or rainforest, or even a city park). As you settle your mind, the sound of your chosen soundscape changes in real-time to allow you to practice and improve this skill. Unlike the slightly larger predecessor (the Original Muse), the Muse 2 allows you to also work towards controlling your heart rate, breathing, and body movement. ($249)
Sleep masks took a big leap forward at CES with offerings from several companies. These masks offer customizable internal light programs (Illumi; $99, soundoasis.com, and Dreamlight; $29-$299) to help you fall asleep faster (red light) and wake up more refreshed (blue light) no matter what schedule you work or transatlantic flight you choose. The Dreamlight also offers a variable temperature setting which really turns up the luxe factor (and is completely functional without a smartphone which is nice when your phone dies on the plane). The Hüpnos ($125; hupnos.com) is a must for the snoring traveler as it initially vibrates to get you to stop snoring, and if that doesn’t work, has a built-in (and completely hidden) device to increase expiratory pressure and reduce your snoring. All masks have built in features allowing you to track your sleep.
We have a joke about the athletes with whom we work. Because they are always losing fitness trackers or simply refuse to wear sleep monitors, the only way to monitor their sleep is to put the sensors in their underwear. Well, Skiin has put them there (and in golf shirts and other athletic apparel). That’s not even the best part. The fabric has no uncomfortable or bulky sensors because the fabric is the sensor! A potential game changer in sleep, athletic and even health monitoring. Not on the market yet.
The Somnox sleep robot promises to revolutionize the way we sleep. The small infant-sized device literally breathes in and out during the night to help the user (cuddler) slow his own breathing. That coupled with the intelligent sounds it makes will have you sleeping better in no time (without the nighttime feedings and messy diapers to change). ($599)
BONUS: LAMBORGHINI MASSAGE CHAIR
When all else fails, you could pay $30K for the Lamborghini massage chair (instead of a real car). It’s such a relaxing experience that you may not have trouble dealing with the fact that you now have no way to drive to work.