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Smart ways to catch some Zs: sleep tech that helps us nod off – and wake up refreshed

Hongkongers are sleep-deprived, according to a recent study, and this could be detrimental to health. But with the help of the latest hi-tech gadgets, achieving optimal rest is no longer just a dream

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 9:34am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 October, 2017, 9:34am

Sitting is as bad for you as smoking. Eat less meat; drink more water.

Among the health messages clogging our airwaves, lack of sleep is the new bad guy. Skipping the zzzzzzs on a regular basis is being blamed for a range of problems, including weight gain, relationship stress, and poor performance at work.

According to results from a study released by Intuit Research last year, Hongkongers are only getting on average 6.5 hours of shut eye each night, when 8 to 8.5 hours is recommended.

Sleep-deprived and internet-mad, Hongkongers place last in healthy living survey of Asia

Yet, sleep doesn’t come naturally to many, for a variety of reasons. And while digital devices are oft cited as a culprit – even keeping a phone on the bedside table is regarded as a no-no, as the blue light emitted messes with our body clock – technology can also help us to drift off into the land of nod.

If there’s one piece of sleep tech kit everyone could use, it’s surely the upcoming Neuroon Open, the latest version of the smart sleep mask Neuroon invented by Inteliclinic, a Polish-American start-up, which quickly sold out after its first release. Like its predecessor, Neuroon Open is a mask like those used in air travel, but fitted with biometric sensor system that analyses and optimises the user’s sleep. The technology simulates the light of a slowly-breaking dawn so that, at any time predetermined by mobile app, you wake up the natural way. The sleep tracker also eliminates morning grogginess by waking you at the optimal moment.

Perhaps the best advantage of this gadget is that you can also use it for a quick power nap to overcome that mid-afternoon slump, or to sleep on a long-haul flight. It also features a Jet Lag Blocker: simply preset the time zone of the destination in the mobile app, and the mask fine-tunes the appropriate therapy and makes recommendations to help the user optimise their circadian rhythm while travelling. For the best results users should start the therapy several days before travelling.

If you don’t feel like wearing a mask, various daylight simulators on the market promise to help you wake up gently. One of the newest is the Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750D, launched in August, a version upgraded with a radio, Bluetooth, and a low-blue light so it is non-stimulating at bedtime and mimics the colours of a real sunrise and sunset. Users can select from 20-plus wake-up and sleep sounds including white noise and also enjoy high-quality audio.

The British company also released a children’s light this year. The Lumie Bedbug is designed to promote a calm bedtime and good night’s sleep for babies and young ones because it uses low-blue light LEDs that are non-alerting at bedtime. Unlike standard lighting, says the company, Bedbug’s light does not suppress the sleep hormone melatonin because it includes only negligible amounts of the blue part of the light spectrum that is known to be stimulating.

To keep things getting too steamy in the bedroom, FreshBed, a system by Dutch inventor Barry van Doornewaard, features several patented technologies that purify the air you’re breathing, and keep the temperature under the duvet just right. Van Doornewaard was in Hong Kong in September to introduce the system, installed at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong’s new Entertainment Suite. “A silent unit inside the bed’s base filters air from the bedroom through a Hepa filter, then quietly delivers it to your body through an ergonomic mattress,” he explained. “The thermostat inside the unit constantly checks the air flow and maintains it at the temperature you prefer.”

The combination of climate technology and active ventilation also regulates the relative humidity level, keeping it below 50 per cent to maintain a fresh, clean and allergy-friendly bed. The company also claims that its FreshBed system can deliver up to a 50 per cent improvement in sleep quality.

Meanwhile, the Sleep Number 360 smart bed promises the holy grail of shared slumber. Powered by SleepIQ technology – the latest in biometric sleep tracking – this bed intuitively senses and automatically adjusts comfort to keep both partners sleeping soundly all night. Its features include snore detection: for example, if someone is snoring on their back, the base automatically raises the snorer’s head seven degrees to help temporarily relieve the symptoms. It also includes foot-warming (research apparently shows that people fall asleep faster when their feet are warmed), and intuitively understands a sleeper’s bedtime routine, nudging them gently awake with a smart alarm feature.

But no matter how cosy your bed, fitness and wellness coach Andrew Cox, director of training at Joint Dynamics, a multidisciplinary gym and therapy studio in Central, advises resisting weekend sleep-ins, as this throws out a body clock already adjusting to a new routine.