By Wayne Caswell
As reported in this NBC Nightly News episode, more and more companies are realizing how sleep affects their bottom line, and they’re starting to pay employees to sleep better.
I’m thrilled at the heightened awareness and the new sleep incentives, because sleep is important to our health, safety, and performance. Research has confirmed that good sleep improves many of the attributes associated with peek productivity at work, as well as in school and sports. These include: alertness, attention, behavior, concentration, creativity, decision-making, emotions, energy, focus, goal-setting, judgment, and more. But I have two concerns with the effectiveness of these financial incentives. First is measurement accuracy, and next is how to actually affect real change beyond just the incentive.
It’s been widely reported that a wearable device, like a Fitbit, that measures motion is hardly more accurate than a sleep diary kept manually. While reported results from accelerometers help raise awareness and certainly offer some benefits, the accuracy isn’t anything close to the gold standard of measuring sleep quality. That would be the overnight sleep lab study, which monitors many biomarkers including brainwave activity using a multi-lead electroencephalogram (EEG).
While the sleep lab studies can help diagnose causes of sleep disturbances such as obstructive sleep apnea, they’re pretty expensive and interfere with sleep quality during the study itself. That’s because the patient is connected by so many wires and must try to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings. The future, however, looks bright for monitoring sleep at home. New sensors for sound (to detect snoring), breathing, pulse, heart rate variability, body temperature, and more, are being combined with more advanced software algorithms to analyze sleep quality.
The Eight Sleep mattress cover is an example of such a product, and I hope to soon test the early model I ordered online through KickStarter. Besides including all of these new sensor types, what makes Eight especially interesting is that it connects wirelessly to smart devices, and no effort is needed. There’s no need to charge-up a wearable device or apply patch. Just crawl into bed and fall asleep. Theoretically, Eight will monitor sleep stages and quality far better than any consumer product available today. If it works as advertised, I can envision companies buying Eight for each of their employees, and potentially their family members too.
Affecting Real Change in Sleep Duration and Quality
Actually improving sleep quality is not as easy as it first looks, because each individual is different. Many factors affect sleep, including behavior issues (bad sleep habits & hygiene), the environment (light, sound or temperature distractions), stress & insomnia, pain, breathing efficiency, nutrition & exercise, neurotransmitter imbalances, and even genetics. That’s why Intelligent Sleep starts with a personal assessment and consultation to decide what products, treatments, or recommendations can deliver the best results for the least cost and effort. Then, like personal trainers for sleep and brain health, our coaching process is designed to measure the effectiveness of each intervention and adjust accordingly.
About the Author
Wayne Caswell is helping develop our vision of Population Sleep Wellness, leads our Smart Bedroom initiative, and manages our web & social media content. He’s an IBM-trained technologist, market strategist, futurist, consumer advocate and founder & editor of Modern Health Talk. Before retiring from IBM, Wayne introduced the company to the Digital Home market and helped lead wireless and sensor product development and strategy as a Market Segment Manager.