I’ve been a fan of the composer Max Richter for some time now. I was particularly fascinated in his piece Sleep – which suggests new ways for music and consciousness to interact, ‘a personal lullaby for a frenetic world…, a manifesto for a slower pace of existence’. It’s a piece that is designed to be listened to at night. In fact, designed for people to fall asleep to while listening.
Max added to this idea by performing the whole piece (8 hours!) to various audiences around the world as they fell asleep. Audience members watched from beds instead of chairs.
It’s a fascinating concept – the idea that we can absorb something as we fall asleep or even while we sleep. It brings to mind two innovations I have seen at recent Medica events.
Firstly, Sleepiz – they have a great tagline ‘touching lives without touching’ They have a device placed next to the bed and as we sleep it measures movements originated from heart contractions and breathing patterns together with body motion. In turn this gives useful data to monitor conditions such as sleep apnoea, COPD, etc.
This Zurich based business recently received its CE Class IIa certification making its Sleep One+ solution the first certified non-contact device for vital sign monitoring in Europe. I’m excited to see how far this non-contact device technology can take us.
Another great company working in similar technology is QUMEA, also a Swiss start-up, uses a device which is not unlike a smoke detector fixed to the ceiling, it continuously monitors activity of patients by detecting small movements using 3D radar. Then the software can provide information on out-of-bed activity, restlessness, falls and other activity. They cite ‘that knowing how calm or active a patient is not only helps to assess the quality of sleep, but also helps to support medication or therapy decisions’. Movements also provide information on risk of pressure sores.
All of these features are delivered using a privacy-proof technology that is contactless and in real-time. My interest was further piqued when researchers suggested that future studies may yield information on a patient’s mood.
All of this as we sleep – I have been intrigued by my own sleep pattern ever since my Fitbit could measure it – it tells me each morning how well I did and how well I dreamt!
Whilst the idea of exploring this untapped reservoir of data is appealing and obviously useful for those with a clinical need, for others it may seem like an intrusion. It’s a precious thing sleep – not to be tampered with – and I don’t really want to tamper with it either. Not least as it can be a major source of innovation from dream interrelation to purely the act of falling asleep – Check out the Christmas New Scientist (pg.19) – falling asleep may boost creativity. As people fall asleep they may spend a few minutes in a state called hypnagogia or ‘N1’. Researchers are testing out the link between the ‘N1’ state and creativity. This research shows that volunteers who reached the N1 state were able to work out certain maths tasks faster compared to those who stayed awake or slipped into a deeper sleep.
It’s further evidence that this wonderful downtime is beneficial in many ways. I hope we all manage to get some of this quality downtime at the end of this year.
To all of our friends, colleagues and clients thank you for the support this year – we look forward to continuing our collaborations and remain excited for the innovations that we will wake to in 2022….
18/25, December, 2021, New Scientist, 19.