Technology for better sleep: smart apps and devices

A good, restful sleep has always been the condition for "feeling good and in shape". Ideally, we should be sleeping one third of our lives to benefit fully from the remaining two thirds. Today there is a renewed focus on this topic and its related disorders, because all over the world the daily stress and the increasingly frantic rhythms affect the quality and quantity of people's rest.

From the world of digital technology new functions, wearable devices and smart objects are coming, which can monitor our bodies while we sleep and - if necessary - set on or off alarm bells.

In this editorial, we are going to explore such new technologies, diving into the ways they can improve the quantity and quality of our slumber:

Digital sleep well-being and the "Wind Down" function

The all-new Android Pie operating system slowly changes the screen of the device, from coloured to grayscale, when it's time to go to bed. According to Google, this solution is much less stimulating and should reconcile sleep.

We've often heard of people checking their phones before bed and, without realising it, one or two hours have gone by Sameer Samat, vice president of product management at Google. 

This fall, first on Pixel 3 phones and then on other devices scheduled by the end of the year, the new features of Digital Wellbeing of Android P will release. These include: A new dashboard that shows how time is spent on the device; an app timer that allows you to set time limits for apps and grayscale the icon on the home screen when time is up; a new "Don't Disturb" mode that mutes all visual interruptions that appear on the screen; wind Down, a feature that turns on the Nightlight, the "Don't Disturb" and blurs the screen in grayscale before going to sleep.
Just set "Wind Down" when you want to go to bed and Android P will turn its interface into a grayscale palette that removes some of the distractions that can come from the device.

Wearables to combat insomnia

Apple has also introduced colour-changing modes at night, so that the phone's blue light does not interrupt the natural sleep cycle. Sleep monitoring has always been one of the most sought-after functions for Apple Watch, so much so that in 2017 the company acquired the Beddit iOS sleep-tracking platform.
However, in addition to the famous Cupertino smartwatch, other wearable devices not only offer some information on the hours of sleep, but also offer increasingly refined monitoring systems and give useful advice on how to improve the time of rest.

An example comes from the Australian Flinders University, where "Thim", a device that helps you fall into sleep, was born. It has the shape of a ring, so it is comfortable and easy to wear at night.

Its purpose is to re-teach you how to fall asleep. What does it mean? The device recognizes when you are asleep and, after three minutes of sleep, wakes you up. This process, at first glance a bit invasive, is repeated several times to accustom the body to fall asleep quickly, and so to learn to sleep more quickly. You can set the duration of the process, either lengthening or shortening it, though the developers recommend, at least in the early stages, to repeat the procedure at least for the first hour of sleep.

They recommend using it for at least seven consecutive nights. "Thim" also includes a "nap" mode. According to Leon Lack, this should last 10 minutes, the perfect time to recharge your energy in the middle of the day. Sleeping too much, or too little, leaves you feeling tired.

With a simple timer, "Thim" will help you rest in the right way.

Smart fabrics for a comfortable night's sleep

In the world of smart fabrics we can now find intelligent bedspreads for better sleep. The start-up company Eight (https://eightsleep.com/) - born in Italy under the name Luna - has invented a bedspread that can make the mattress smart. It has attracted the interest of investors such as Stanford University, Y Combinator and Jared Friedman.

Eight's product is a smart mattress cover that learns to adjust the temperature of the bed to the preferences of those who sleep there, even setting different temperatures on the two sides of a double bed. The smart bedspreads understands, among others, the quantity and quality of our sleep, our wake up time, the kind of heartbeat we have, how is our breathing and the bedroom’s humidity level, communicating the data via smartphone to try to improve our habits.

Eight’s mattress cover is able to integrate into a smart home, automating a series of boring processes that we carry out every night: it ensures that the alarm clock is set, that the lights are off and that the front door is locked. It will wake us up at the right time not to interrupt the precious cycles of sleep and will make us hot coffee prepared by the wireless machine as soon as we open our eyes.

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