As wearables have become more common, it's no surprise companies are expanding their wearable offerings. The latest trend? Smart headbands - wearable devices that reportedly help monitor and inform sleep patterns.
What are Smart Headbands?
Smart headbands are becoming more common among consumers and can reportedly monitor and improve sleep without being a nuisance to the user. Some of these headbands focus on monitoring a person as they sleep, while others are designed to reduce stress and maintain focus prior to falling asleep.
Sleep headbands track sleep patterns and/or provide a calming environment through guided meditation and sounds. The data collected from the headband is then available through the smart headband's app and can be used to analyze sleeping patterns.
There are currently two main types of sleep headbands on the market: ones worn throughout the night and those primarily worn before bed. Headbands such as the Philips SmartSleep Deep Sleep Headband 2 are designed to be worn throughout the night and claim to improve the user's quality of sleep by tracking their sleep cycles and brain activity and using sound to improve sleep quality. Headbands used before bed, such as the Muse S and the Urgonight, utilize meditation techniques, soundscapes and biofeedback to assist the user to fall asleep.
How Effective Are Sleep Headbands?
A recent NASA-funded study put the Philips SmartSleep Deep Sleep headband to the test at a few test sites, including UW-Madison. Researchers wanted to see if the headband could help astronauts sleep better and improve their cognitive performance. This particular headband uses sensors to detect when the user is in deep sleep and once deep sleep is achieved, quiet audio tones - or beeps - are triggered to help boost slow waves and improve the quality of sleep.
So how do these beeps actually work? In a recent interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Brady Riedner and Stephanie Jones, both assistant directors at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness, explained that, "The rhythm of the beeps is intended to sync up with the ‘slow waves' of the brain that happen during deep sleep. When the beeps from the headband sync up with the slow waves, it encourages the brain to produce more slow waves and sleep deeper."
While the results of the study show the headband works, more tests and studies will be needed to test the effectiveness of the technology, particularly in the older male population. Jones and Riedner both acknowledge that while the same technology used in the lab is now available to users at home, the technology is still very new and has not been proven to work on all populations yet.
This is Part Three of AAST's blog series Touching the Future of Sleep Technology. View Part One and Part Two.
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