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Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Philips, SleepTracker & Zeo: Give The Gift Of A Wake-up Call

Missing sleep can impact your health and your performance. Thankfully, there's plenty of technology that can help. We review three of them.

Wake up, sunshine. 2011 will be the year of . . . social, mobile, tablets, the consumerization of IT, more spending, big software, big data, faster data, predictive data, real-time data, zzzzzzzzz. WAKE UP!! Good times are back and you need your beauty rest, top of your game and all of that. New Year's resolution: Get more sleep. Get better sleep. Lie down (but don't lay down). I'm going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, people slept. Now they don't. In fact, one third of the world says it doesn't get a good night's sleep.

It's become a badge of courage to have pulled an all-nighter, or burned the midnight oil, or fallen asleep at the office, or taken the red-eye to New York. Philips, which makes a variety of consumer products, also happens to have a Center for Health and Well Being. Its annual study of 23 countries puts the United States in the top three of poor sleepers (outlasted only by the Taiwanese and the blasted French).

According the center's director, Kate Hartley, many countries pin poor sleep to things like heat (Turkey) and worry (India and Belgium). China and Taiwan simply say they stay up late and wake up early (nothing about getting up in the middle of the night to pee or pirate software). In the U.S., lack of sleep is mostly tied to stress, especially for women; men report sleeping better, by far. Almost universally women say children keep them up at night, but that problem is magnified in Germany and Spain; kids are naturally unruly there, I guess. But Spain reports itself out-sleeping every other country studied, with roughly 75% of those surveyed saying they slept just fine.

In almost every country, women are kept awake by snoring partners; only in China was it the other way around, which may well be a subject of a future column. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, people over 55 said they slept better than those under 55.

But here's the kicker: 57% of people in the U.S. said that lack of sleep affected their physical health. 48% said it impacted their mental health. It affects home life (46%), job life (43%), relationships (41%) and involvement in the community (34%). In other words, our so-called badge of pride, our rub-the-eyes, triple-espresso, let's-power-through is making us lousy at pretty much anything that's important. While we think it's making us more productive, it may in fact be making us less so. And there is ample scientific evidence that it is making us physically unhealthy -- which is to say, obese, diabetic, and more prone to heart disease and cancer.


Technology You Can Sleep With

Luckily we live in a digital age, where technology often comes to the rescue. And it has again where sleep is concerned. It can't shut your children up, or stop your slob of a partner from snoring (some people swear by tasers . . . for the snorers, I mean), or take away the stress in your life, but it can help (the technology, I mean, not the tasers.

One small thing first: Like most anything else regarding health, better sleep requires discipline and, at the risk of sounding preachy, a modicum of clean living. Technology can't fix that either. Getting better sleep is a factor of getting more sleep. Many elements impact that, and technology can open your eyes (figuratively) to the ones under your control.

My favorite product, by far, is the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach. You can read an in depth review, and some suggestions about the things that affect sleep here. I use Zeo every day, and at the very least the data it produces has become a predictor of how much energy I will have during the day. At most, it provides insights into techniques I can use to sleep better. Some people are using it to enhance alternate sleeping patterns; some to control the shape of their dreams.

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