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The technology of sleep: Can gadgets help?

Stanford’s Jamie Zeitzer discusses sleep science and new slumber-related gadgets with Ira Flatow on a Science Friday podcast.

Sleep – so precious, but for many, so elusive.

These days, we can choose from a myriad of gadgets -- apps, headsets, even a plush robot – to track and improve our nightly Zzz's.

But does the technology actually help?

Stanford’s Jamie Zeitzer, PhD, says don’t get your hopes up too high, at least not yet.

In a recent episode of Science Friday, Zeitzer joined journalist Angela Chen of The Verge and host Ira Flatow to discuss sleep science and new slumber-related products showcased at the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Zeitzer, an associate professor with the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, told them,

There’s a lot of theory, but most of the devices that track sleep don’t actually give particularly useful feedback about your sleep and how to change it. It’s one of the major things that are lacking amongst these different kinds of apps and devices. And in terms of the apps that kind of adjust sleep using sound or -- you like the rain falling -- again, different people are going to respond to different things. And right now it’s kind of a crapshoot in terms of what works.

With more and more people monitoring their sleep, it could be illuminating to combine data across individuals and devices, Zeitzer said. However, finding a way to measure and record sleep quality continues to be a challenge, he said, adding:

How do we say that someone got a good amount of sleep or not? Right now, we’re limited to, really, just how people say they slept and what that relates to.

Previously: Flashing light at night could help beat jet lag, Stanford study says and Sleep deprived suffer performance loss, according to new study
Photo by Ty Carlson

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