Peep: While You Sleep — Tracking Wellness Scientifically

Tracking changes in behavior and sleep can lead to increased REM cycles and therefore increased well-being.

In a world which we no longer see as flat, we’ve set our sights on a new frontier, the universe that lies within ourselves. During our exploration of the observable world, science helped to quantify and explain what we saw. As we turn the looking glass inwards, modern explorers are faced with the obstacle of finding metrics and tools to examine feelings and explain the intangibles of the human experience.

Society is wielding the tools of science and technology to improve our understanding of Wellness. For groups like Quantified Self, coupling apps and observational programs have created a census of their day to day lives, offering up a wealth of information for self improvement. Many members quickly change problems into solutions by answering the bottom line question : ‘if you don’t feel better, what’s the point?’

Recently we presented ‘Health and Wellness’ trends in Amsterdam and discussed future directions across several categories. A favorite example from this research is Mappiness, which gives a baseline of one’s emotional state. There is a veritable toolbox of services that highlight factors that influence emotions, some help you even while you sleep. Plagued by sporadic lengths of sleep and grogginess, one of our analysts put himself under the microscope to determine how recent developments could help. We learned how, in the mysterious laboratory of the boudoir, bedding, mattresses, apps and multifunctional design are becoming popular aids.

By tracking sleep patterns for a ten day period via Sleep cycle, which uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to show tossing and turning in the night and its inverse link to deep sleep REM cycles, a binary of good sleep was created. Any ‘touchy-feely’ emotional tracking one might expect is replaced by a performance aspect. There is an almost mechanistic approach to ratcheting up how effective my sleep could be. Day one, going to sleep early enough to get a full eight hours. Day two, no TV an hour before going to bed. Day three, taking a cold shower before going to bed (lower temperatures help initiate REM sleep quicker). Every daily behavioral tweaks increased REM cycles. These focused improvements mimic coaching tactics for high octane athletes, incrementally inching one closer to an all time personal best.

A recent NY Times article examines a range of products that provide consumers with performance sleep options: Performance sheets from basketball coaches, sponsored by NFL players, that ‘look like a bed and fit like a sneaker.’ music compilations that hit the beats-per-minute sweet spot for sleep, infusing ‘nanotechnology’ to herbal scented pillow cases, turning the pillow into a ‘vehicle for well-being.’ We are all driven to perform at our best and being well rested is an integral part of that. Tracking and behavioral changes helped our analyst find an equation that increased number of REM cycles and their quality; key to overall well-being. With all these new options that help understand emotional states and monitor performance metrics, will health insurance companies, gyms or bosses be tempted to step in to help achieve optimum performance?


By Maria Vrachnos and Wesley Robison

Photo: CBS San Francisco

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