Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Tracking Sleep with the S+ By Resmed

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The idea of tracking our sleep using an electronic device that knows when you're in light, deep and REM sleep and is ready in the morning with suggestions on how you can get a better night's sleep the next day might sound futuristic. 

But it's here. 

We are finding out that sleep is more and more important for our health - and it may just be our lack of it (shift work, electronic lighting after dark, TV, mobile phones and computers at night) that we're now thinking could contribute to some of our health problems. Visit the pharmacy and you'll find sleeping aids from pills to lavender-scented shower gels that aim to help us get a better night's sleep. A quick browse online and you'll find blue-light blocking orange wraparound glasses that you're supposed to put on after sunset, to trick the body into releasing sleep hormones while you're scrolling through Facebook at 11pm. 

It seems that we all want a better night's sleep. 

Enter the S+. 

Yep, that's the S+ on my bedside table
The S+ is a small machine - not much taller, including its stand, than a largeish mobile phone, that sits on your bedside table and monitors your sleep by constantly tracking your breathing patterns. It pairs quickly to your mobile phone via an app that you download from the app store. And then you answer a few questions about your day - number of caffeinated drinks, how stressed you were - and then switch off your lights and off you go to sleep. In the morning it's ready with an analysis on your sleep patterns and even detects how many times you woke up. 

On first use, it can be a bit distracting. The first night I was so excited, I woke up quite a bit wondering what the S+ was actually doing, as it sat silently keeping its watchful eye on the bedside table next to me. No wonder then, that the S+ told me I'd only clocked in with a mediocre 5 hours sleep and a record 11 disturbances in  the first night. Come on, I was excited.

The second night I was more relaxed, and forced myself to forget about the S+. It does become like second nature once you start filling out the questions each night and leaving it to track your sleep. I continued for 2 weeks, tracking away while I snoozed next to it. The S+ recommended different ways I could improve my sleep, and even monitored the temperature and light levels in my room. 

I found out two main things about my sleep that I'd never have known if I hadn't used the S+. 

The first is that I suffer from a lot of disturbances in a typical night, sometimes waking up anywhere between 7 and 15 times. If you'd asked me when I woke up, I'd have guessed I'd maybe wake once or twice. Our dog sleeps in the room with us, and my husband sometimes returns from shift work in the early hours so this could have been why. 

Secondly, I seem to struggle a bit with deep sleep. Whereas REM sleep cleans the mind and helps the brain recharge, deep sleep is associated with healing the body. During deep sleep, I learned (thanks to the S+) that in deep sleep, the brain releases growth hormones that help fix and mend the body after its long day. I'm on the case to get that sorted. 

The makers of S+ are keen to point out that it's not a medical device. But it aims to monitor and then suggest ways you might be able to achieve a better night's sleep with it's mentoring advice. I love the charts that help you analyse exactly where you clocked in REM, deep and light sleep - and the way it educates you about sleep and what happens in each stage. There's also an option called Mind Clear, where you can log important thoughts you get as you're settling to sleep, so you can forget about them until the morning. And a Relax Daytime mode that helps you match soothing sounds to your breathing, helping you to relax and therefore feel less stressy at bedtime. It has an alarm function too, so you can set it to wake you up gently rather than stunning yourself awake with the piercing ring of the average alarm clock. 

A screenshot of some of the sleep analysis given by the S+


I'll be honest. I'm a geek who studied psychology. I love learning about the human body and the mind. I love finding out about sleep. 

I love the S+. 

Although it's not a medical device, it's troubleshooted two (probably connected) reasons that I'm not getting quality sleep and waking up in the morning not feeling 100%. It's opened a window into a part of my 24 hours that's completely unknown territory, at least for me. It's taught me a lot about sleep that I didn't know before. 

Now my whole family want to try it out. 

You just need to force yourself to forget it's there. 

Want to find out more about the S+? 

It's available on Amazon in the UK and I'm told will soon be available at John Lewis. Visit the S+ by Resmed website for more details. You can also follow @fixmysleep on Twitter for updates. 

Disclosure: I received a demo version of the S+ to try out for this review. 

Tried the S+? Leave a comment and let me know how you got on...