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Can technology enhance the way we sleep?

Article-Can technology enhance the way we sleep?

Image courtesy Apple sleep-trends.jpg
Devices such as the Apple Watch help create bedtime schedules and offer a snapshot of sleep trends.

Sleep is essential for our well-being and is integral for supporting healthy brain function and maintaining physical health. It can help us cope with stress, promote clearer thinking and aid in recovering from illness. Lack of sleep can leave one feeling tired during the day, whether from insomnia, sleep apnoea, or other disorders related to the circadian rhythm and can negatively impact day-to-day life. It can also affect the ability to focus and stay alert, impact performance at work and influence social life.

According to Dr. Favas Thaivalappil, Consultant Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine, Head of Sleep Center, Healthpoint, Abu Dhabi, not only does a lack of sleep have significant implications for general health but so does the quality of sleep. This is true of people who wake up frequently during the night, resulting in tiredness the following day. Constant fatigue can also lead to high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, and other mental and psychological problems.

He explained: “Research into sleep and its effects on the human body is an ongoing study. What we know is that the human body has an internal biological clock, also known as the circadian cycle, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Circadian rhythms are natural processes that occur on a 24-hour cycle that predominantly react to light and darkness, creating changes in the body, brain, and behaviour. As part of that sleep cycle, the human body undergoes four stages of sleep (Non- REM: N1, N2, N3, and REM) that allow our bodies time to repair and revitalise itself. This includes recuperating from stressful daily events, energy conservation and the clearance of waste from the brain. When you are asleep, your brain works on consolidating memory, which is essential for learning new information and producing hormones to help the body grow and repair any damage. Lack of sleep has an adverse impact on general health and quality of life, from affecting concentration levels to poor memory or developing chronic health conditions, like cardiovascular disease.”

It’s important to understand the amount of sleep we need as individuals to function optimally. This varies from person to person, with most people needing around seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to function normally.

Dr. Favas Thaivalappil, Consultant Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine, Head of Sleep Center, Healthpoint, Abu Dhabi.jpg

Dr. Favas Thaivalappil

One approach which I have found helpful in improving my sleep patterns is through wearables. For instance, the Sleep app on the Apple Watch has helped me create bedtime schedules to meet my sleep goals. What’s interesting is that the device can estimate how much time one spends in each sleep stage—REM, Core, and Deep and when you might have woken up. It also gives information about heart rate and respiratory rate. Moreover, the Health app on the iPhone gives you a snapshot of your sleep trends for the day, week, month and six months.

Lack of quality sleep can also adversely impact immunity, making one more vulnerable to diseases and hindering the body’s natural ability to protect itself from infections.

Having all this data from wearables at hand can form a critical part of maintaining personal wellness and tracking changes that can be easy to miss. These long-term changes in health allow us to understand our bodies better, improve overall health and can help in discussing any changes with a doctor.

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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