Sleep is one of life's enigmas. We do it everyday, we know how bad it feels when we miss it, but we don't fully understand it. I asked three friends at the office about how they sleep, and heard three different answers. Part of the problem: everyone's sleep habits differ, so optimizing sleep patterns will never be as simple as counting out hour-and-a-half REM cycles.
Various sleep monitors have gone to market in the past few years hoping to solve this problem, but almost all of them (from Jawbone to Fitbit to Philips Actiwatch) use technology that monitors movement to gauge sleep. While that approach can provide semi-accurate data, it only monitors sleep. In other words, it can't directly help you sleep better.
Today a small company called Juvo Labs is opening a project on Indiegogo that might change sleep technology by turning your whole room into a sleep assistant. Here's how it works: you slip a fiber-optic pad under your mattress (Juvo will work with spring, foam, memory foam, and even some air mattresses, according to the company). Then you connect the pad to a square monitor that rests on your bedside table. Using technology that tracks bodily vibrations, the pad will monitor both your heart rate and breathing patterns to tell whether you're awake or asleep, and what stage of sleep you're in.
Juvo distinguishes itself from other sleep monitors in two big ways, though. First, Juvo will integrate with various smart-home tech like light bulbs ( and ), thermostats ( ), outlets ( ) and even other consumer health products ( , and others). Second, the monitor will offer advice based on your personal sleep patterns.
I like both of these additions to sleep technology. The integration has high potential: if Juvo can sense when I fall asleep and tell my lights and TV to switch off and my Nest to set my sleep temperature, that's one thing. But Juvo will integrate with, which opens a whole new realm of possibility. That means I could set up biological triggers in my apartment, like my door locking and my lights all shutting off when I fall asleep, or my lights brightening slowly as I'm beginning to wake up. Plus, Juvo can wake me up a little earlier or later to let me finish a REM cycle, so I don't wake up from deep sleep (a major contributor to morning grogginess).
Advice from Juvo could remove a lot of the anxiety people feel regarding sleep. It's no coincidence that so many online articles are constantly sharing theEspecially as people age, sleep becomes both more difficult and more important to keep consistent. Juvo will use your sleep data to personalize its advice to you, whether that means suggesting a nap if you've been missing REM sleep, advising changes to your exercise schedule if it's disrupting your pattern, or even recommending a visit to the doctor if your heartbeat or breathing patterns indicate potential health problems.
It's important to remember that crowdsourcing projects sometimes go south even when they achieve impressive funding goals. While the technology behind the pad is sound, I'm curious to see how well it works, especially in larger beds where partners sleep. And some of the integration could present serious problems. I don't want to wake up to midnight lights or blasts from my TV if the pad or monitor malfunction. The app is also currently under development, so almost no information about it is available, aside from its planned compatibility with both Android and iOS.
Besides these concerns -- which are typical of any technology before its release -- the creative solutions and technical savvy of Juvo Labs has me excited. Juvo is planned to be available globally for $200 (converted, that's about £130 and AU$280), but early contributors to the Indiegogo page will get it for about two-thirds of full price.