New technology may help insomniacs get some sleep

 

Ain’t technology great? Well, yes and no.

Technology puts so much of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. If you had an Encyclopedia Britannica growing up, or had to learn the Dewey Decimal System to research term papers in the school library, you surely appreciate the convenience of Google.

On the other hand, you may have witnessed scenes like students at a high school football game all looking at their phones. They’re all at the game. Who could they be texting? Or talking to on social media? Their parents? All of them at the same time? I think not.

And then there’s watching your screens (TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone) in bed. If you have trouble sleeping, those screens could be the culprit.  The blue light they emit suppresses melatonin production, the hormone that helps us sleep. In effect, the blue light from our screens can trick our brains into thinking we should stay awake.

However, researchers at Washington State University and the University of Washington have embarked on a three-year project using technology to try and better understand the problems of insomniacs. They’re testing -- you guessed it -- a smartphone app that can measure sleep patterns, tell you how you’re doing, and coach you on how to improve your sleep.

According to a post last month on the website Sleep Better.org, chronic insomnia is defined as disrupted sleep occurring at least three nights a week for more than three months. It costs the U.S. economy $63 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs associated with workplace errors and accidents, according to the site.

The new technology being tested, known as S+ (I’d guess the S is for sleep), uses a non-contact sensor that can sit on your nightstand. It measures the quality, quantity and timing of sleep. Information is transmitted to your smart device in the form of sleep scores and charts, plus suggestions for improving sleep.

The S+ technology has proven useful in previous studies of healthy sleepers and those with obstructive sleep apnea.

“We will investigate to what extent this technology can accurately measure insomniacs’ sleep patterns over days and weeks and provide tailored improvements in their sleep,” said Devon Grant, principal investigator of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. “This could help expand cost-effective therapy options available to this undertreated population.”

Technology can be a mind-numbing addiction robbing us of friends and sleep, if used improperly. But it can just as easily keep us in touch with one another and solve many of our daily (and nightly) challenges, if used wisely.

Sleep is not an afterthought. It is a necessity. If you’re not sleeping well due to a medical condition, make an appointment to see your doctor.  

If you’re not sleeping well because your mattress is old or uncomfortable, see us at Mattress Warehouse. Walk-ins are welcome. Find a nearby store at mattresswarehouse.com.

Steve Plantz