Dew Gibbons + Partners


Want to dream with electric sheep? How sleep tech aims to fix the global Sleep Crisis


Sleep, blessed, amazing, wonderful sleep. Oh how we love thee. Sleep’s not only enjoyable, but not getting enough of it damages your wellbeing: physical health (heart disease, diabetesdementia and more); mental health and cognitive function, and even the attractiveness of your appearance (beauty sleep is a real thing!). The need to sleep is wired directly into our genes. However, the UK is massively sleep deprived. According to the Sleep Council’s latest Great British Bedtime Report 2017 a whopping 74% of adults sleep less than 7 hours per night compared to the recommended 8 hours. Costing tens of billions to the UK economy as well as impacting people’s wellbeing.

Sadly, me included.

From gadget usage (time spent tapping away or ‘blue’ light inhibiting production of the sleep hormone melatonin), stress, irregular exercise, too much caffeine or alcohol or plain long hours, it’s all leading to a chronic lack of quantity and quality of sleep. Even in our pretty healthy Studio, a quick straw poll revealed nine of the 17 people asked said they hadn’t had enough sleep the previous night. And, eight said they’d not had good quality sleep.

And of the seven people that answered both questions in the negative? Six were parents with early rising kids…something I am all too familiar with!

Unsurprisingly, a whole slew of different industries are jumping on the sleep improvement bandwagon, something we wrote about in our 2015 Open Eye on Wellness. I literally dream of having a special Mindful Sleep night at the luxury Corinthia hotel. I avidly use the This Works Sleep range (which does work). But like many people I’m keen to avoid taking pills, because even though effective, leave you feeling groggy in the morning.

Enter the world of sleep technology. For the second year running at Consumer Electronics Show 2018, there was a SleepTech Marketplace with everything from sleep trackers and wearables to smart bedrooms that create the optimum conditions for sleeping.

Think easy to use devices that go in, on or under a mattress, such as Sleep Number, Nokia, EarlySense, Emfit, or Samsung SleepSense. These sense breathing, and other physiological signs and analyse to offer advice on how to make sleep improvements.

Other gadgets, work to get you to sleep, remain asleep, or improve its quality. The Somnox Sleep cuddly soft robot uses "breathing regulation, smart sounds and the power of affection". The Rocking Bed rocks your entire mattress to soothe you and Kryo cools it down entirely to get you to REM sleep. Room gadgets feature. AromaRest uses fragrance and light therapy and Somnuva uses sound stimulation to “re-train the brain to follow healthy and restorative deep sleep stages to”. Wearables include the Yves Behar-designed headband Dreem and Philips SmartSleep that both use sound to induce and enhance sleep and smart black out mask Dreamlight that use coloured lights to lull and wake you from sleep.

All very exciting and more practical (sadly) than staying at The Corinthia for the duration. But while these devices sound great, the evidence is still pretty patchy and all pretty pricy, so what else in the meantime?

One thing that’s getting real traction is ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) - the delicious tingling feeling you get on your head that moves down through your spine into your limbs when you listen to quiet high definition soft sounds like whispering voices and pages turning. ASMR induces mild euphoria, relaxation and with it, you’ve guessed it, sleep. It’s huge on YouTube, with more than 5 million ASMR videos and rising. Given that it’s cheap and accessible, it’s no wonder that health companies like AXA PPP healthcare are seeing it as a great way to improve people’s health. They’ve even collaborated with ASMRtist WhispersRed to create their own track, to help people get and stay asleep. Some of us have been trying it out in the Studio and it definitely works. The only downside being that front or side sleepers will need to get sleep earphones to make it work.

It’s also a real sign that healthcare businesses are coming to realise that there can be more holistic solutions to wellbeing without first resorting to medication. Something we highlighted in our 10 Uncomfortable Truths for Drug Store News. And certainly, if they don’t do it, all the technology (and beauty and leisure) businesses will. My sleep headphones are already on order…