Gadgets, Gizmos, and Apps for Sleep

An abundance of gadgets, gizmos, masks, apps, and more have flooded the marketplace with promises of delivering a better night’s sleep. Although the scientific evidence supporting many of these is mixed at best, we share a few in hopes of familiarizing you with the ways your patients may be monitoring their sleep . . . and some of the available data validating their use.

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  1. Smartphone Apps for Sleep
  2. Sleep applications have become extremely popular and are among the most downloaded offerings for both Apple and Android. How accurately do these apps measure sleep? In a study comparing one smartphone app claiming to monitor sleep with the gold standard of polysomnography, sleep-wake detection was fairly accurate; but other measures of sleep including sleep latency, efficiency, and staging showed no correlation.
  3. Although not yet FDA approved, stay tuned for an app under development for diagnosing sleep apnea
  4. For patients with insomnia, but without access to a provider trained in behavioral sleep medicine, the CBT-i Coach app is free for Android and Apple users
  5. Wearable Sleep Trackers
  6. Over 10% of Americans report using wearable devices to measure activity and sleep. These typically use accelerometers and microphones to detect movement and sound and operate via proprietary algorithms. One systematic review of the validity and reliability of consumer-wearable activity trackers found that they tend to overestimate total sleep time and sleep efficiency and underestimate time spent awake after falling asleep, as compared with formal sleep studies. There have been no studies comparing reliability between devices.
  7. Software to Block Blue Light
  8. The vast majority of Americans use some type of electronic devices within the hour before bedtime at least a few nights a week. Excessive light at night, and particularly that in the blue-green spectrum, has been shown to affect circadian timing and may reduce alertness the next morning. This free software, available for both Mac and PC, adjusts your computer’s display in accordance with your time zone:
  9. A Podcasts for Insomniacs
  10. Those struggling to fall asleep may find comfort in a podcast that markets itself as “A Lulling, Droning, Boring Bedtime Story to Distract Your Racing Mind.”
  11. Turning OFF your devices may be the best solution for good sleep (go camping)!
  12. A recent study showed that a weekend of camping without artificial lighting is one way to reset your biological clock to the light-dark cycles of nature:
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