Slumber in a hi-tech wonderland
Want cooler sheets, or lights and frequencies that encourage sleep? There’s a gadget for that, says Jessica Salter
We’re a nation obsessed with sleep: how much we’re getting, and how others are achieving that magical shuteye. A recent survey by the Somnex Sleep Show found that more than 30 per cent of us slept poorly most nights.
While lack of sleep used to be a sign of extreme productivity and efficiency – Margaret Thatcher, who got by on four hours a night, supposedly said that “sleep is for wimps” – a healthy night’s sleep is now a marker that you’re successful and in control. Tech executives such as Arianna Huffington prioritise sleep, both for themselves and their employees. Huffington’s offices contain hi-tech nap pods (as do Google and Facebook’s), while she recently hosted a competition for someone to experience the ultimate night’s sleep in her New York apartment.
A new block of serviced apartments in Shoreditch, London’s start-up capital, claims to have been designed to create the best night’s sleep. The Zed Rooms, by Cuckooz and using Simba mattresses, has four-poster beds that mimic the shape of a womb, background music to calm the nervous system, and scents that help you drift off. It even has a menu designed by Detox Kitchen to boost serotonin, melatonin and tryptophan, which help contribute to a good sleep.
But you don’t have to be a tech boss to turn your own bedroom into a slumber paradise; there are now hi-tech solutions available for all to try. Here are a few of the best.
SET THE TONE
“The perfect sleep environment should be just the right temperature – between 16 and 18C [61-65F],” says Lisa Artis, an adviser at the Sleep Council. “Feeling too hot or too cold in the night can lead to restless sleep and wakefulness.” To achieve the perfect temperature, try a smart thermostat from Nest (from £199; nest.com).
You also need darkness: in March, the American Journal of Epidemiology found that, if your bedroom has more than five “lux” of light, it increases your risk of depression (one lux is equivalent to the level of light that a candle shines from 3ft 3in away).
Blackout blinds or thick curtains are a must, but to create a more authentic feeling of a hotel turndown service, install electric blinds that you can control from your phone (somfy.co.uk). To maintain high production of melatonin (the body’s sleep hormone), invest in dimmable lights or low-lit bedside lights: try the Holi Sleep Companion bulb, which is based on clinical research and generates a specific wavelength to help you ease into sleep and wake up gently the next morning (£79; amazon.co.uk).
GET THE TECH
Phones, laptops and screens that emit bright light, which can disrupt melatonin, should be banned from the bedroom. “The blue light that emits from these devices messes around with your body’s circadian rhythms by suppressing the hormone melatonin in the brain, which is what we need to feel sleepy,” says Artis.
Research by the Sleep Council found that poor sleep was caused by watching television (38 per cent), checking emails (14 per cent) and using laptops or tablets in bed (12 per cent). Switch off your screens and turn to futuristic gadgets that are designed purely to help you sleep better. The Philip Stein sleep bracelet is based on the idea that natural frequencies help you slumber, as opposed to man-made frequencies, such as Wi-Fi, which interrupt the body’s balance; Madonna and Oprah are said to be fans.
Another example of sleep tech is the Somnuva, an audio system engineered to replicate a healthy sleep pattern using four specific frequencies throughout the night: deep sleep, easy sleep, fall asleep and power nap. It is also designed to wake you up at the perfect point in your sleep cycle to leave you feeling refreshed.
Want something weirder? The Somnox sleep robot is a moon-shaped pillow that you hug while it inflates and deflates, encouraging you to synchronise your breathing with the device in a slower, more regular pattern.
KIT OUT THE BED
And the technology doesn’t stop there; it even extends to your bed. A study by Loughborough University’s clinical sleep research unit found that old, uncomfortable beds were the second most common problem people reported when drifting off (after a snoring partner).
If you suffer from temperature changes at night, FreshBed climate-controlled beds allow you to set the bed temperature, while purified air is pumped in (which keeps sheets crisp and dry). The beds have been scientifically proven to deliver up to a 50 per cent improvement in sleep quality (price on application: freshbed.com).
All you need then is a mattress. The Better Sleep Council says consumers should think about replacing their mattress every five to seven years. The wildly popular brand Eve’s original mattress has what it describes as “open-cell technology”, which it claims makes it 30 times more breathable than conventional memory foam (from £349; evemattress.co.uk).
If you just need a topper, and want something hi-tech, try the Velloflex magnetic therapy mattress topper. It has a magnetic layer with 495 magnetic fields that supposedly boost blood flow, increasing the body’s capacity to heal and recover. The Fibromyalgia Association says that its members have had positive experiences from using Velloflex products. If you like it, you can get the matching pillow too (from £255 for the topper; velloflex.uk).
All that’s left is to dress the bed: Sheex sheets use high-performance fabrics that transfer body heat more effectively than traditional cotton (from $69/£55); sheex.com).
DRESS FOR THE OCCASION
Last but not least, think about your outfit. The pyjama brand Homebody uses its own “Modal-Sens” fabric that allows for climate control throughout the night, plus it’s all made in the UK (from £89; homebody.co.uk). To top off your nocturnal attire, you’ll need an eye mask: studies of hospital inpatients have shown that wearing an eye mask reduces the time taken to fall asleep, increases sleep duration and improves the quality of sleep. Try the Lumos sleep mask, which uses short light pulses to adjust your body clock while you sleep ($229, available in January; lumos.tech).
PERCHANCE TO DREAMA smart thermostat by Nest, right; FreshBed’s climatecontrolled bed, left;Sheex sheets, below; nightclothes by Homebody, bottom
PILLOW TALK The Somnox sleep robot, right; the Holi Sleep Companion light bulb, above; a FreshBed base, top
A serviced flat by Cuckooz that has a wombshaped bed to help you sleep