We're losing sleep over … sleep.
Blame it on job stress or the circadian-rhythm-wrecking blue light of cellphones and tablets, but studies show that nearly half of Americans don't sleep well and that significant percentages of us suffer from chronic insomnia and sleep apnea, and that causes us to turn to prescription sleep aids. This lack of overnight recovery creates stress, ruins productivity and batters your health.
The good news: Technology is creating lots of non-drug solutions to help you nod off, including smart beds, sleep-inducing scent dispensers and smart pajamas. These are some of the dreamiest innovations unveiled at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in La Vegas.
1. Smart pajamas
Five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady isn't just a great quarterback, he's also the inspiration behind these smart pajamas. According to Kevin Haley, UnderArmour president of innovation, Brady called him up one day and told him about an injury that healed up super fast after he rubbed a bioceramic gel on it. Haley got to thinking: "Why not cover your whole body with bioceramics by embedding it in clothing?" Two years later, Brady goes to sleep at night in UA's new Athlete Recovery Sleepwear made of bioceramic imprinted-fabric that purportedly cools off the body's infrared heat emissions to promote longer, sounder sleep. Shirts, shorts and pants, starting at about $80. UnderArmour.com
2. Smart breathing
Using a respiration sensor on a chest strap and an app, 2Breathe matches your breathing with tonal music that gradually slows down — bringing your breathing with it as it subconsciously mimics the beat. This "guided breathing" prolongs exhalation, lowers anxiety and ultimately puts you to sleep quicker. It shuts off 10 minutes after your slowed breathing rate indicates you've gone to dreamland. $180. 2Breathe.com
3. Smart aromas
The French know odor, as these Gallic dispensers prove with sleep-inducing scents diffused into the air over your bed. AromaCare uses aroma capsules made of organic blends of lavender, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, sweet orange and rosemary oils. Proponents say capsules can, among other things, promote sleep or a sense of calm, or serve as a fatigue fighter. Ten uses per capsule. $89. Extra capsules $10 each. Aroma-Care.com
Another newcomer to this category, the Sensorwake Oria, uses two complementary scents, each formulated at the Clinical Sleep Research Unit at England's Loughborough University: First, a relaxer made of powdered rose, peach and pear, with a hint of talc and musk; next, a fresh-laundry odor made of soap and sandalwood that takes you into deep, REM sleep. Capsules each last 60 days. $149. Sensorwake.com/oria
4. Smart music
Similar to Sleep Genius, one of the most popular sleep-music apps, ReNu from NuCalm uses relaxing binaural beats and neuro-acoustic sounds, developed by neuropathic physician Dr. Blake Holloway, to calm you down and put you into the theta brainwave state, where you lose track of time. Bluetooth headphones and an eye mask are included. This doesn't hit the market until summer, with an estimated retail price of $89. findyourcalm.com
5. Smart pillow
Laced with sensors that record body movements, sleep patterns and ambient noise, the Advansa 1 X21 connected pillow factors in the quality of the previous nights' sleep and offers personalized sleeping tips through a smartphone app. It also has a smart alarm function based on sleep cycles. cityzensciences.com
6. Tiny sleep tracker
Cramming a fitness tracker into a waterproof titanium ring, the Motiv tracks your activity, heart rate, steps, calories, distance and sleep. Synced to a smartphone app, it includes a strapless optical heart rate sensor and a tiny curved battery that lasts up to five days on a charge through a magnetic charging dock. Available in April. $199. MyMotiv.com
7. Whole-body magnetic resonance
If you reduce stress with activities like yoga and meditation, you improve sleep, enhance recovery and even heal faster. But the ultimate stress-reducer, according to the makers of the Magnesphere, is sitting inside its giant, 6-foot vertical loop and getting bombarded with whole-body magnetic resonance. That, they say, improves your heart-rate variability (HRV — a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems), which is seen by some studies as a key biomarker that indicates your ability to respond to stress. Of course, the New England Patriots have one. And they're not cheap: Home units are $3,050, and require an $80 a month subscription fee. magneceutical.com
8. Smart mattress
Placed under the mattress, the Emfit QS sensor measures heart and breathing rates, tells you if you were restless or calm, how much light, deep and REM sleep you got, and is one of the first to log your heart rate variability (HRV), a measure that reveals how well you recovered during the night. It's great for athletes trying to dial in their training and for regular folk optimizing their workouts. Deep sleep is when your body recovers; REM is when your mind recovers. Full recovery means you're ready to hit it hard again. Long-term HRV trends show the effectiveness of your exercise and lifestyle activities on your wellness. $299. Emfit.com
9. Smart electro-strap
Strapped on your upper calf just below the knee, an area richly clustered with sensory nerves, the electrostimulation band from Quell Relief triggers the brain to produce its own opiods to provide natural pain relief throughout the body. Dr. Shai Gozani, chief executive of Quell Relief, says that helps reduce sleep-wrecking chronic pain. The device can be set for an hour at bedtime or programmed to turn on when it senses high-frequency movement. It also can indicate when you're not sleeping well and measures sleep, activity, gait, pain, therapy usage. $249. quellrelief.com
10. Smart bed
Got cold feet? The new Sleep Number 360 solves that problem with foot-warming coils on each side of the bed. In addition, individual head sections automatically adjust to stop your snoring, pressure sensors in the mattress will change firmness (via internal air chambers) to keep you comfortable, and when you wake in the morning you get a report of how the bed changed for you as you slept, as well as a rating (a "SleepIQ" score) based on your overnight heart rate, breathing, and your tossing and turning. $4,000. SleepNumber.com/360