As people in developed nations increasingly obsess over the quality of their 40 winks, technology companies are cashing in with so-called “sleep tech” – gadgets to stop wearers snoring or collect data on their sleep cycles.
At Berlin’s IFA – Europe’s largest annual electronics trade fair – a major trend towards sleep advice is readily visible among the stands.
Most wearable devices like smartwatches or fitness tracking bracelets now include a mode that will track their owner’s sleep cycles and wake them at the optimal moment.
Long-suffering partners of snorers can seek relief from technology, too, with earbuds from startup QuietOn – founded by two former Nokia engineers – generating white noise to drown out unwelcome nasal outbursts.
Other firms bet on the right lighting to smooth the path into wakefulness, adding bright white lamps to alarm clocks so that even in the dark winter months, users are gently coaxed awake rather than bombarded with harsh sounds.
Dutch firm Philips has gone still further with a soft headband called SmartSleep, which includes a white noise generator that aims to deepen sleep.
Sensors placed around the wearer’s skull connect to a smartphone app that evaluates data and offers advice on how to improve sleep cycles.
Also on offer from Philips: DreamWear oxygen masks, decidedly more medical-looking devices designed for sleep apnea sufferers.
But with increasing numbers of patients taking a closer interest in their unconscious hours, doctors can be sceptical about the health or wellbeing benefits many of the devices and apps claim.
Professionals have even coined a new word, “orthosomnia”, to describe the condition of being obsessed with the quality of one’s sleep – patterned after “orthorexia”, an obsession with eating foods one considers healthy.