This isn't a joke. As the New York Times recently reported, major corporations are pouring gobs of money and time into improving their employees' rest. "Sleep entrepreneurs" are flooding a $32 billion market to aid shut-eye. You can even hire your own online sleep coach.
Sleep, the Times suggests, is the new black for the professional class. No longer will we misery-brag about how stressed or busy we are; instead, we'll chipper-boast in job interviews about our total completed REM cycles. Companies will pay us stipends for the sleep we get.
The faddishness around sleep is off-putting, but it's based on an indisputable fact: We need sleep. We need good sleep. As the Times article notes (with an arch cruelty that suits the Style section in which it appears), "poor sleep will make you fat and sad, and then will kill you."
That's an overstatement, sure. And yet it's essentially backed by research that many companies are paying very close attention to. It is indeed worth cultivating the skill of a good night's rest. Your career may hinge on it. Your health definitely will.
In the spirit of nourishing sleep skills for success, or just for a better mood in the morning, here are three of the most interesting sleep-aid innovations highlighted by the Times.
The goofy sleep aid
Ben Olsen, an Australian entrepreneur, launched the Re-Timer in 2012. It's a "pair of goggles fitted with tiny green-blue lights that shine back into your eyes," aiming to reset your body's clock. While Olsen has sold 30,000 pairs in 40 countries, the device is as ridiculous to use as you think. "My eye sockets glowed a deep fluorescent green, and terrified the cat," writes the Times Penelope Green.
Olsen is keeping on with his iconoclastic sleep-aids with Thim, "a gadget you wear on your finger that uses sound to startle you awake every three minutes for an hour, just before you go to sleep," because research apparently suggests that sleep disruptions can cure, um, sleep disruption. (Yes, you read that right. He could just try sleeping with a toddler for perhaps the same effect.)
The interesting but invasive sleep-aid
A computer science engineer in Paris has created a headband that uses sound waves to induce sleep (he also raised $10 million in venture capital to do so). The product is called Dreem and will be released in summer 2017 for about $400.
Green tried a beta version, "a weighty crown of rubber and wire" that will be sleeker when it hits the shelves. But Green wasn't bothered by the size of the Dreem; instead, she writes, "It skeeved me out that it was reading — and interfering with — my brain waves, a process I would rather not outsource."
The simple, practical sleep-aid
The Sleep Ambassador for LinkedIn, Nancy H. Rothstein, is unimpressed with the sleep contraptions hitting the market.
"I'd like to have a survey done to show how many people are also reading their texts while they're tracking their sleep," she said to Green. "If you want to improve your sleep, you have to make some changes. Your Fitbit and your Apple Watch are not going to do it for you. We've lost the simplicity of sleep. All this writing, all these websites, all this stuff. I'm thinking, Just sleep. I want to say: ‘Shh. Make it dark, quiet and cool. Take a bath.'"
Rothstein recommends a simple relaxation practice that combines gratitude with body awareness and breathing. Green combined this practice with a meditation from Inscape and found that she did indeed sleep well through the night.
Full disclosure: Your humble blog writer tried an Inscape sleep meditation. It was very nice. I woke up calm.
Now go to sleep!