It’s an increasing problem, with two-thirds of us now unhappy with the quality of our sleep. Sleeplessness is killing our productivity too. According to a recent study, lack of sleep could be costing UK businesses as much as £453 million a year in lost efficiency and performance.
To combat this modern malaise, firms such as Uber and The Huffington Post have introduced ‘napping rooms’, while Google has installed a bank of MetroNaps EnergyPods ($13,000; metronaps.com), specialist ‘napping chairs’ complete with privacy visors and sound systems. Even luxury hotels are catering to power nappers: at the Conrad Manila for instance, guests can catch a few extra
Zs in the hotel’s oxygen-rich sleeping pods.
But whether it’s 40 winks or a full night’s rest, sleep is not simply a case of your body shutting down. There are two main types of sleep and both are critical to your mental and physical wellbeing. During deep ’slow-wave’ sleep the pituitary gland releases growth hormones to stimulate tissue and muscle repair. It’s the reason that professional athletes tend to sleep 10 to 12 hours, compared to the average person’s seven to eight hours.
If you want to improve the quality of your sleep, there’s plenty of technology that can help. The latest activity monitors (think Fitbit, Jawbone, etc) can track and ‘score’ your sleep. But the next generation of sleep gadgets promises to actively enhance the quality of your sleep—by hacking into your brain.
Ironically though, technology is also preventing us from sleeping soundly. Smartphones, laptops and tablets all have bright screens that are designed to simulate daylight, and research shows that using them before bedtime slows down the production of melatonin (the hormone that induces drowsiness). Apple is helping to combat this with its new ‘Night Shift’ feature. When engaged, it turns the gadget’s display to a warm orange color at sunset, preventing it from screwing with your body clock.
As you’d expect, NASA has been researching sleeplessness for decades, with the aim of helping astronauts get to sleep in space. You can benefit from its findings by downloading the Sleep Genius app ($4.99; sleepgenius.com). Based on successful NASA experiments, it uses scientifically composed music to engage the brain’s ‘neurosensory’ algorithms and gently prep you for sleep. It even has a ‘Power Nap’ mode.
Of course, fiddling with an app or strapping an electrode to your temple isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing evening. The most commonly reported reason for a poor night’s sleep is a stiff neck caused by inadequate pillows. But what if you’re struggling to find the perfect pillow? Well, you could always check into a Conrad Hotel or Resort, where you’ll find one of the world’s most extensive pillow menus. With fillings that range from plump duck down and memory foam, to organic buckwheat and even Japanese grasses, you’ll be nodding off in no time. Assuming, that is, you can resist ordering an espresso martini at the bar …