There are few things that technology can’t enhance these days, ranging from transforming the simple to the sublime with cooking to raising the bar to dizzying heights with entertainment. It’s hard to imagine an industry, a pastime or a part of life that can’t be made a little better with tech, but on the other hand there are certain things that seem hard to imagine a way to enrich them.

Basic acts like walking - oh, wait there are fitness apps that can help that. I mean, simple things like listening to music – oh, yeah, various services and formats to adhere to. Well, how about sleep? You’re not even conscious during it, so surely there isn’t, say, an entire industry dedicated to improving sleep with technology? But of course there is. We’re not talking about being able to buy an android that dreams of electric sheep, but gadgets and specialised equipment for aiding sleep.

Phone in bed

Sleep Tech is Set to Boom

Forecasted to be an $80 billion industry by the year 2020, sleep technology involves the likes of sleep aids, solutions to insomnia and smarter means to wake up. This isn’t to imply that the entire industry revolves around comfortable pillows and louder alarm clocks, not at all, as there are now technological marvels such as ‘sound blankets’ that essentially remove exterior noise from a room and beds that adapt in real time to become more comfortable.

Of course, as is the case with any budding industry, there are stark opinions on how viable sleep tech is. Some are excited by the possibilities and applications of the myriad forms of tech, whereas others are more dubious of the applications. It’s not quite as worrying as contrasting utter bliss with total panic, as few believe sleep tech will lead to something akin to Skynet, but there are subtle concerns along the lines of data protection, as well as general practicality.

Case in point, one of those who are erring on the side of caution is Michael Breus, a psychologist who specialises in sleep disorders, who noted that a lot of sleep tech passively collects data. Whether it’s an app that records how much you snore or talk in your sleep or it’s an alarm clock that responds to how many times you hit snooze, there are few real world applications for this information.

In his own words Breus said: “There’s an inherent problem because the consumer world has come up with all these ways to monitor your body signals, but the clinical world hasn’t come up with a way to answer all the questions this brings about” which is essentially the psychological way of saying ‘water, water everywhere; but not a drop to drink”. There might be a wealth of data being produced but, as it stands, there’s little you can do with this information.

Sleeping person

Does Sleep Tech Create a Placebo Effect?

Then there are those that advocate the mentality that sleep tech is exciting and a promising new industry. Gratefully for the sake of remaining unbiased, there are plenty of people who aren’t directly involved with the industry that feel this way, such as David Cloud, the CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. For those not in the know, the NSF is a charitable, educational and scientific non-profit based foundation which, among other things, has conducted an annual sleep based poll, known as Sleep in America, for over 25 years.

Cloud seems to be a man of science, one who sticks to stats and studies to see how sleep tech has performed. The results have shown inclinations of the placebo effect more than anything concrete though, with 60% of sleep tech owners stating that they’re simply more aware of their sleep patterns and 51% saying that they sleep better knowing that ‘technology is helping them’. Even if you look at it just as granting piece of mind it does seem like it helps in one way or another, and Cloud himself thinks that regardless of results it’s important for people to be more aware of their own sleeping habits and patterns.

At the end of the day it seems like the sleep tech industry is still essentially in its infancy, with real world applications larger than simply being able to get out of bed on a Monday morning still out of reach. But hey, that could be all that people want at this stage, as although they’re not re-inventing the bed there are still innovative apps, items and technological solutions that ease your circadian rhythm in and out of the morning and the night. In my humble opinion, anything that replaces any of those god awful iPhone alarm tones with the soothing sounds of my favourite songs is a step in the right direction.

What are your thoughts on the sleep tech industry? Do you have any essentials for getting to sleep, whether it’s high or low tech? Let us know via Facebook, tag us on Instagram or give us a tweet on Twitter.

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