It seems that the new frontier for managing and improving our health is sleep. Everyone is talking about how important it is.
Co-founder and Editor of the Huffington Post, Ariana Huffington, has even written a book about it entitled "The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night At A Time" in which she asserts that only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.
"Goop Clean Beauty" contains a whole chapter on sleeping soundly and the effect of a lack of sleep on our hormones (clue, it can make us fatter) and I recently reviewed "Breathe Better, Sleep Better" by Anandi The Sleep Guru which offers ways to bring your being back into balance and regain your sleep by breathing better.
Those of us approaching menopause or suffering from stress and anxiety may find that our sleep is one of the first things to suffer.
So what if there were a gadget which monitored both the quality and duration of our sleep - and offered ways to improve it?
Even better, what if there were a gadget you didn't have to wear? I don't know about you but wearing a fitness tracker in bed has always seemed a bit odd to me.
The S+ by RedMed is the world’s first non-contact, fully comprehensive sleep tracking system, which features patent-protected SleepSensor technology. It makes it possible to track, analyse and improve sleep at home without a wristband, electrodes or mattress strips.
“Sleep is arguably the most important thing we do in our day. It’s easy to underestimate the impact that lack of it can have on our overall wellbeing.” said Dr. Guy Meadows, Clinical Director at The Sleep School and author of "The Sleep Book – How to sleep well every night." “We know lack of sleep can be harmful to our physical and mental health, yet we are doing very little to help improve our sleep. With its unique features, the S+ is the perfect present for those looking to improve not only the quantity but also the quality of their sleep.”
The S+ by ResMed comprises a device that sits beside the bed, a cloud-hosted Sleep Mentor system, and a free mobile app (Apple iOS and Android).
Its features include:
*highly calibrated respiratory and bio-motion sensor to measure and analyse sleep stages
*recording of the movements caused by the expansion and relaxation of the chest with breathing, and overall body movements such as position changes, arm twitches and shrugs
*delivery of sleep scores and sleep charts to a connected phone or tablet,
*personalised feedback and suggestions to help users improve their sleep.
The S+ also has a range of features to help improve sleep:
There's Relax to Sleep which provides a choice of soothing sounds that synchronise with breathing patterns to help with the process of falling asleep at bedtime.
Then there's Mind Clear allows users to record a voice message or type a text note to help clear their mind when trying to settle to sleep.
And Smart Alarm allows users to set a window of time for the S+ to naturally wake them when they are in light sleep, enabling them to wake feeling more refreshed.
At first I wondered if this gadget was going to be a gimmick but one week on and I'm hooked.
For a start you wake each morning to a sleep score which rates the night of sleep you've just had. Set-up couldn't be simpler - simply download the app, answer some basic questions and then sync your phone wirelessly with the main unit (which you place on your bedside table).
The S+ has a series of lights which indicate what the unit is doing. For example, there's a green light to indicate that the unit and your phone are connected and a red light to indicate that they're not - simple!
I am happy to report that once you start the app working as you go to sleep the light goes out completely.
As someone who has to cover those annoying red standby lights on TVs in hotel bedrooms because they keep me awake, I was very happy to find no such problem with this gadget. (High maintenance - me?).
There's also a second port in the main plug adaptor for you to charge your phone at the same time which is very useful. I have found this very handy as the kids have always commandeered the charging cables for their iPads.
The app will also show you your breathing pattern in real time which is fascinating. I have no idea how the S+ does this but it's great.
The S+ will also give you noise and light levels in your room.
You need to start up the app before going to sleep and you will be asked about your caffeine and alcohol consumption for that day, how stressed you were and how much exercise you've done. (Too much, too little, extremely and when the heck do I have the time - are strangely not admissible answers).
You then have the option to clear your mind using Mind Clear. Simply tap and record a helpful note or text to yourself. You can also use this if you wake up in the middle of the night and remember that you need to do something important like buy lightbulbs or rearrange your crockery in order of size.
It's a very useful function for us bloggers too!
Once you have answered the questions, simply tap to start the app (which very sweetly bids you good night) and drift off.
Once you awake, simple hit the app button to switch off and look at your sleep score (this becomes a bit addictive).
You'll know how much light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep you had, plus how recharged your body and mind are.
Through the day, the S+ also does some subtle nagging my mother would be proud of - viz sending messages about the effect of too much caffeine on sleep. I haven't had a message about alcohol or lack of exercise yet but I suspect it's only a matter of time.
If you want to relax during the day, the unit also has a range of peaceful sounds (for example the sound of the ocean) which you can play via the app. These are designed for you to breathe in time to which has an automatically calming effect. An extra benefit for a Tinnitus sufferer like me is that focusing on your breath takes your mind off your Tinnitus. And, as you might expect, sleep is something that Tinnitus sufferers really struggle with.
The S+ is a brilliant system which allows you to explore the quality of sleep you are getting and to make some informed decisions to improve it.
There's a difference between knowing you're not getting enough sleep and seeing that you didn't even get 7 hours for the past three nights. Equally, we all know that too much caffeine affects our sleep but confessing to 6+ cups every day does make you wonder whether you should try camomile tea or decaf (the devil's brew) instead.
The contactless aspect of the S+ is, to me, its major advantage over fitness trackers. The unit sits in a metal frame but you can remove it and place just the white box on your bedside table. You do have to make sure that the unit is positioned correctly and near enough your head to pick up your breathing but the accompanying instructions make it a doddle to work out.
I loved the app which is complemented by the website Mysplus.com, where you can log in and see all your graphs and statistics full size with more data and advice about improving your sleep hygiene.
I discovered that I was actually sleeping better than I thought I was but nowhere near as well as I could if I took more exercise and drank less caffeine. Obvious but sometimes you need to see it in front of you and to have the gentle push to do something about it.
The S+ is available at £129.95 from Amazon and John Lewis - the price of a top of the range fitness tracker. If sleep is your main health niggle, then I think it is a worthwhile investment.
For more information about S+ by ResMed, visit http://splus.resmed.com/ and follow @FixMySleep on Twitter.