With sleep technology facing a rapid evolution, how can new innovations help us to provide care for patients struggling to get the rest that they need?
Sleep is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. On a day to day basis, how well and how long we slept the night before is the single most important variable dictating how we feel. However, with more and more adults across the globe reportedly only getting an average of 6.9 hours sleep per night compared to the recommended 7-91, we need to consider how, as healthcare professionals, we can help to encourage better sleep habits.
Slow Wave Sleep, also known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep is of particular interest. Slow wave sleep plays a pivotal role in the optimization of memory consolidation and is believed to be mediated by synaptic downscaling during sleep2. In fact, many of the beneficial effects of sleep on the restoration of brain function are thought to be mediated primarily by slow waves in NREM sleep3. So why aren’t people getting the rest that they need?
When the day affects the night
Often, it’s not that people don’t recognize the impact that sleep has on their overall health – for many, life simply gets in the way. According to the Philips Global Sleep Survey, only 46% of global adults say they follow a regular set schedule for bedtime4, which can result in irregular and often inadequate sleep duration. This can create a disruptive cycle of mental and physical effects, including fatigue, moodiness or irritability, feeling unmotivated and experiencing a lack of concentration.
Equally, pre-existing medical conditions play a contributing role for many who experience sleep disruption. Sleep deprivation and disorders are becoming more and more prevalent worldwide - according to the global sleep survey, over 60% of adults have a medical condition that impacts their rest5, and more than 100 million people worldwide suffer from sleep apnea, 80% of whom remain undiagnosed. Overall, the global prevalence of difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep is predicted to be around 30%.6 In addition, the aging process can have an impact on sleep, with individuals above age 50 demonstrating steadily declining quantities of slow wave sleep7.
Inadequate sleep can have an immediate impact on our wellbeing unlike exercise or diet. Philips annual sleep survey shows that, despite knowing sleep is important to overall health, people are still struggling to address it in the same way they would exercise or nutrition. The more we understand how sleep impacts everything we do, the better we can adjust our lifestyle and find solutions that help us get better sleep.
Waking up to new technology
Consumer sleep technology has faced a rapid evolution over the last few years, and we are seeing huge growth in innovations for both hospital and home care. We now understand a lot more about the biology of sleep and the pathophysiology of the various sleep disorders. Thus we have novel and better ways now to treat many of the sleep disorders, and are learning ways to enhance sleep even when there is no fundamental problem, for example by enhancing slow wave sleep.
Emerging technologies range from mattresses that can sense movements throughout the night to Wi-Fi enabled pillows that connect with smart home devices, plus technologies such as Philips Smart Sleep, which uses auditory stimulation to enhance slow-wave sleep for better quality rest for those who do not get enough sleep due to lifestyle.
Innovations are also allowing more effective diagnosis of conditions such as sleep apnea, through sophisticated, disposable devices that can diagnose and quantify the severity of the disorder. Technology and science are now also guiding us to a much better understanding of the causes of sleep apnea and the different treatments that are needed to address the different phenotypes of apnea patients. Using machine learning techniques, the phenotypic traits can be derived from standard sleep testing, which should make it easier to personalize care for patients.
The good news is that people all over the world recognize the need to improve their sleep – over 75% of adults have tried to improve their sleep through music, science and more8 – and will likely be receptive to emerging technologies that can help them to achieve better sleep.
On the track to better rest
While sleep is a topic that’s relevant year-round, discussions are particularly high on the agenda of sleep experts and consumers alike on World Sleep Day, acknowledged every year on March 16. World Sleep Day aims to celebrate sleep and highlight the evolution of sleep care through new innovations and personalized treatment.
The ongoing evolution and development of sleep technology is already helping to save lives through better prevention, treatment and aftercare. With sleep technology taking more prominence in mainstream care and consumers becoming increasingly engaged in their care, the benefits are equally becoming more noticeable. However, sleep clinicians have not all openly endorsed all of the monitoring and new technology that is evolving, but they will need to do so.
There is much ahead. The ways that we monitor sleep are rapidly changing, and this will likely lead to new ways to define sleep and sleep stages, with new methods to enhance sleep and to address frank sleep disorders quickly following. But all that being said, we will not eliminate the need for sleep – sleep is a vital biological process and we must respect that.
6 M. LeBlanc, S. Beaulieu-Bonneau, C. Mérette, J. Savard, H. Ivers, and C. M. Morin, “Psychological and health-related quality of life factors associated with insomnia in a population-based sample,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 157–166, 2007.
Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization. From interviews with industry giants to how-to guides and features powered by Philips data, our goal is to deliver interesting, educational and entertaining content to empower and inspire all those who work in healthcare or related industries.
Dr. David White, Chief Medical Officer with Philips Sleep & Respiratory Care, serves as a Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. His principle research interest has been the pathophysiology of disorders of breathing during sleep about which he has published over 200 original papers.