Is the sleep-tech industry asleep at the data wheel?

Between 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder and let’s face it, people are tired of being tired. The pandemic only exacerbated the issue as sleep challenges became even more prevalent than before due to the mass anxiety that came with the upheaval. In a survey of 13,000 adults in 13 countries, 70 percent said they had experienced one or more new sleep challenges since the beginning of COVID-19, in what researchers dubbed coronasomnia.

As sleep issues rise, consumers increasingly look to technology to fix their problems within the $15 billion sleep tech market that’s expected to grow steadily in the upcoming years. And as sleep tech matures and becomes more sophisticated, it is experiencing a major transformation. But as with any hype, especially one involving consumer health, it’s important to look beyond fancy marketing techniques to determine the impact and efficacy of these technologies.

The shortcoming of sleep tech

As with any emerging technology, it is important to understand its shortcomings so that systems and processes continue to evolve. For example, over the past decade consumers have had more access than ever to data on their sleep, however, the struggle is what to do with all this data. Instead of empowering the customer with only relevant information about their sleep, most sleep-tech solutions overload them as they try to make use of and understand it. 

Therefore, it’s critical for sleep technologists to have a practical use for the data collected. For instance, if a sleep monitor can tell people whether or not they are sleeping well, it should also offer recommendations on how to improve sleep. Offering practical tips instead of just informing consumers of their issues can help them reach the desired effect of better sleep. About 40 percent of users abandon sleep-wearables because they don’t have the desired effect.

According to a 2017 research by Rush University Medical Center, inaccurate and confusing sleep data might be misleading and potentially hinder people’s sleep cycle. Wearable users have a tendency to become so focused on getting the “perfect sleep”, that it becomes obsessive, and can often result in losing sleep. For example, if a person sees from their wearable that they had 20 percent of deep sleep on a given night, they might feel worried they are not getting enough deep sleep, even though such a number is well within the acceptable range.

In order to help people sleep better and sell products that actually work, companies should invest in research and focus part of their budget on scientific research teams to validate the product’s effectiveness. In order to better serve their consumers, sleep businesses should be able to substantiate their claims with concrete facts and hard data.   

Practical solutions

Running clinical trials with hospitals and medical facilities is one approach to determine whether the product indeed achieves the desired results. These clinical studies can and should compare the outcomes of digital sleep solutions to the traditional standard of care to demonstrate that the outcomes are similar.

In addition to being backed by clinical research, sleep solutions can also offer integrations into a wider digital health ecosystem, as suggested by McKinsey. For example, opening an option where patients can share their sleep data with doctors or healthcare providers in order to provide one ecosystem, can be a very helpful tool to improve users’ sleep. 

By streamlining validated sleep data, care providers would be able to access all the patients’ information and offer the proper care and treatment. Data that is collected by the sleep solution can be used to support more traditional treatment.

To conclude, the sleep tech industry has tremendous potential to grow and expand. Helping people sleep better can not only improve health but the overall quality of life. However, being a sleep tech company comes with a responsibility to the consumer that the product actually helps. By focusing on scientifically-backed techniques with practical uses for the consumer, sleep tech can deliver on its promise and significantly help people improve their lives. 

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