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Thought Leader Live Healthy, Atlanta!

The Most Important Room in Our Home for Better Health

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By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Tech that tracks your health is increasingly popular and sophisticated. Last week, tech blogs were atwitter over a new device created by San Francisco based company Hello that promises to track every aspect of your sleep. The device, a smartly designed sphere, is called Sense. It is a sleep tracker capable of monitoring ambient light, temperature and humidity, particulate matter in the air, noise and your movements. In the morning, an accompanying app provides you with a report that details your sleep and rates it with a “Sleep Score.” It’s not on the market yet, but interest is high. After debuting on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Sense raised $120,000 in a few hours – mostly thanks to more than 4,000 $99 pledges that functioned as a pre-order for the product.

In the promotional video for Sense, Hello co-founder James Proud says, “Nobody’s even thinking about the most important room of our lives and how it impacts us.” Well, while no company may have created a sensor as all-inclusive as Sense, I have to disagree that no one is thinking about it.

Sleep is the subject of a great deal of research. Even so, we’re still not sure why we need sleep, but it doesn’t take a degree to know that sleep matters. (There will be more on this and the fascinating research on the physiology of the brain during sleep, in next week’s column.) Sleep is restorative, both emotionally and physically. I’ve written before about the importance of sleep and tips for getting a solid night’s rest. A slew of studies exist touting the benefits of sleep and the detriment to health when sleep doesn’t come easy. One factor that keeps us from a good night’s sleep is an emotion many of us find hard to control: stress.

When we don’t get enough sleep, our stress levels can rise. But when we’re stressed, it’s hard to fall asleep and difficult to get the restful, deep sleep our bodies need. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We’re not built for modern-day stress. Stress hormones are a cocktail that help us deal with danger – quite helpful when you’re in a fight-or-flight scenario, less so when you’re worried about a wedding, your job or a fight with your partner. Our stress hormones don’t automatically lower when we fall asleep, and instead keep working on our brains, urging us to wake up and face the problem. (Check out this NPR article, but don’t let it stress you out!)

If stress is interfering with your sleep, start integrating healthy bedtime habits into your routine. It’s easier said than done, I know. Take the TV out of your bedroom. Kick out all the tech, in fact. (The light from screens keeps your brain on “daytime” mode.) Start an evening wind-down after dinner. Read, do some stretching, take a crack at a crossword. Find an activity that relaxes you. Keep a routine, going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time every morning. Finally, reserve the bed for sleeping! Don’t carry in a laptop and crank out one more email. Your bed should signify – and be – a restful place.

Teasing out the effect of sleep on our bodies and the myriad effects of sleep on our health is fascinating. Come back next week for another look at sleep! 

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