A good night of sleep just makes everything better. Yet getting the recommended 7-8 hours of solid, peaceful slumber on a regular basis these days seems next to impossible.
One recent survey says the average person has 10 sleepless nights per month. That means most of us spend about about a third of our lives sleep-walking like bleary-eyed zombies. On paper, that number seems ridiculously high. But anecdotally, it gels.
We’re tired. Our friends are tired. None of us gets enough sleep anymore. We take forever to drift off, then wake up with minds racing and can’t get back to sleep. We talk about it. We worry about it. It keeps us up at night.
Why do we want to sleep more?
The state of sleep – or rather lack of it – is well documented. Adults between the ages of 18 and 60 are supposed to get seven-to-eight hours of sleep a night. People who are younger, and older, need more.
A new Harvard Medical School study – one of the most comprehensive ever done on sleep over the course of 11-years and with more than a million people – shows that a persistent lack of quality sleep can cut years off of your life.
Conversely, the study also shows that these five good sleep hygiene habits can add years to your life expectancy – as much as five years for men, and nearly 2.5 for women.
Can technology improve sleep?
I’ve had trouble sleeping most of my life. Stress, hormones, lack of work-life balance, and too many gadgets too close to bedtime make it all worse.
Ironically, I’ve tested hundreds of devices and apps that promise to help, from a $7,000 mattress that literally rocks you to sleep, to a free podcast that bores you into a near-coma-like-lull. Some work really well.
Here’s a look at very latest tech tools and trends that aim to help improve our sleep habits. .
What does the Oura ring do?
Late summer, I covered the Oura ring which has been called “a sleep lab on your finger,” and several other top picks including apps like Calm, Headspace, and intelligent alarm Hatch Restore ($130). Those are all still great choices, but let’s look at some of the newer sleep-tech players in the space.
Amazon Halo Rise ($140)
The Halo Rise is a bedside sleep tracker and smart alarm that works quietly from your nightstand. It uses radar technology to study your movement and breathing patterns to assess your sleep. A wake-up light simulates sunrise and a smart alarm senses the ideal sleep stage for making sure you wake up feeling well-rested.
I know what you’re thinking… an Amazon device… in my bedroom? Creepy. But the company told me it’s designed with privacy in mind, there’s no microphone or camera, and you can delete data it tracks on the app. So there’s that.
What I like most about it is that it tracks sleep metrics without anything strapped to my body, and it seems almost as accurate as my Fitbit 3 or Oura ring. (I haven’t done a sleep tracker smackdown with my Watch 8 – yet. That might show more discrepancies.) I like that it accounts for temperature, humidity, and light distractions.
Does Halo Rise require a subscription?
The biggest con that after an initial six months of Halo app membership, you’ll have to pay $4 a month. I hate that. While the companion app delivers all the personalized data and insights – and tons of other fantastic info to help you sleep better, stay active, eat well, and live a healthier life overall – the additional $4 a month might be enough to keep people some people up at night.
Morphee Zen Pebble ($80)
The Zen is a handheld device shaped like a smooth, flat stone that delivers 72 different audio sessions to help you relax and meditate.
Pros of this smaller unit include using it anytime, anywhere. It comes with wired headphones and it really does help slow racing thoughts and ease into more relaxation.
Cons? You have to listen with the wired headphones. Morphee says this is deliberate in making its devices Bluetooth-and-WiFi-free.
Moonbird is another palm-size breathing coach, but this one is cylindrical shaped and connects to an app on your smartphone to track various mindful metrics such as your heart rate and the time between beats (HRV).
Any time you need to chill, you grab the little device, put your thumb on the sensor, and either go through one of the programmed breathing exercises or pick your own.
Moonbird also gently expands and contracts for you to match your breathing to when you inhale and exhale.
It’s awkward shape aside, it delivers on its promise.
The biggest con is its price.
High-tech, high-priced space-age AI mattress
For those with the cash to spare, the Bryte Balance Smart Bed ($6,300 for Queen, $7,000 for King size) is worth a look.
I first tried this mattress at the Cavallo Point Lodge near San Francisco in 2021. The Lodge is one of 14 luxury hotels across the country that feature Bryte beds as a mainstay of the growing sleep tourism trend.
The mattress connects to a tablet next to the bed and can be paired to an app on your smartphone – which is what you’ll do if you buy one for your house.
You can program it to sense when you need a softer or firmer base, right down to specific areas of your body.
For instance, I often sleep on my side and wake up with an achy hip that forces me roll over onto my other side. This frustrating flip-flop routine wakes me up a few times every night. The Bryte bed sensed when it needed to soften up the area under my hip bone, and gently rock me to a new position, without waking me up.
It also sensed temperature drops and spikes, and for once, I didn’t wake up all sweaty and hot at 3 a.m., then too chilly to crawl out of the covers at 6 a.m.
Apparently, the newer Balance model the company sells for home use does not include adjustable temperature control, which is a serious bummer.
Still, each mattress has 90 individual coil-like cushions that can sense, shift, and relieve body pressure throughout the night. The coils roll like a gentle, top-to-bottom wave while the tablet plays soothing “sleep inducing sounds,” spa-like music that synched with the mattress movement and really did rock me right to slumberland.
You can program both sides of the mattress so that you and your partner can have different experiences. In the morning, the bed gently vibrates you awake, and the app provides sleep statistics that include how much time you spend in various stages of sleep. It also makes suggestions based on the AI it gathers along the way.
I haven’t tried two of the other top-rated smart mattresses myself, but hundreds of other testers, including USA Today’s sister site Reviewed, rave about these two:
How much does Eight Sleep Cost?
Eight Sleeps’ Pod 3 mattress ($3,195 for Queen, $3595 for King size) adjusts temperatures, wakes you with a gentle vibration, and pairs with a smartphone app to track your sleep metrics.
The Sleep Number 360 p6 Smart Bed ($2,800 for Queen, $3,400 for King size) also get high tester marks, especially among couples who need two different beds in one. This one lets you adjust each side to your preferred firmness, and auto-adjusts during the night with its built-in air chambers, and also pairs with an app to track sleep. The main caveat with this mattress is that you’ll need to spend at least $550 more to get a branded base to support this tech.
Do blue light blocking glasses do anything?
Blue-light blocking glasses can help can stop techs’ azure hue from keeping you up at night. Blue light that we normally get from the sun during the daytime energizes us and helps regulate our bodies natural circadian rhythm. Too much blue light – from our phones, tablets, computers, video games, and more – messes with our natural wake and sleep cycles.
In a study published last year, researchers looked at 50 pairs of blue-light blocking glasses and concluded that orange and red lenses come out on top.
Red lenses tend to block the most light that messes with our sleep, but the orange ones are easier to wear for long periods of time.
How much does it cost to get blue light glasses?
Top picks here include Swanwick’s Classic Night Swannies ($89) for the fashionista who wants to look cool while protecting their eyes from blue light. For less expensive, but still not embarrassing to wear in public, check out the Element Lux2 Blue Light aviators at Amazon ($40).
If you don’t care that they look like something your 90-year old grandfather might wear home from getting his eyes dilated, the $13 Uvex Skyper blue light blocking computer glasses work well too.
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.