A good night's sleep is increasingly regarded not only as the best but the most crucial medicine for our health. Without it not only are we operating below par in the short term, but long term we are susceptible to a range of life threatening illnesses.
Our health is our wealth and in a society where there is no longer a clear demarcation between work and leisure, never has the value of sleep been more pertinent. In the words of Thomas Dekker "Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and bodies together." The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.
Sleep is fashionable. Talk about sleep routines, sleep hygiene and sleep apps is commonplace and only last week the Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine was awarded to a trio of scientists for their discoveries relating to the Circadian Rhythm, the human sleep/wake cycle that dictates our need for sleep. We are quite literally a nation obsessed with sleep. I confess to being one of those people. So does that make me a sleep bore? Personally I would like to think of myself as being "bang on trend", although I am sure my teenagers would almost certainly disagree.
So with my confession to sleep obsession firmly on the table, you won't be surprised to hear that when asked to review the ResMed S+ Sleep Tracker I jumped at the chance.
What Is The ResMed S+?
Quite simply it is the world's first non-contact sleep tracker. If you are still wearing a fitness band on your wrist to monitor your sleep (which I was) then I am sorry to be the bearer of bad of news, but you are behind the times. Things have moved on - considerably!
Widely regarded as the technology dunce in our family, I was firmly pushed to one side by my geek husband and youngest teenager when the ResMed S+ arrived. Never have they been so keen to help and as each stage was completed my husband could be heard muttering "This is such a clever bit of kit."
Despite being overpowered on this occasion, I can assure you setting it up is straightforward even for someone like me. You simply sync it with your smartphone or tablet, set up an account, answer a few questions about yourself and your lifestyle (honestly of course as my husband kept reminding me) and you are ready to go.
To look at, the ResMed S+ is quite simply a shiny white box encased in brushed steel, a bit new-age in appearance but nonetheless sleek and stylish, which is exactly what you want from something that is going to be on your bedside, or at least I do!
Of course it is not as basic as all that. Inside the white box are all the brains and sensors of the machine which are going to help advise you on getting a good night's sleep. A LED glows red in the middle of the box when the S+ is on but not connected and green when your phone is in the vicinity. The white box tilts in the frame so you can angle it towards you regardless of the height and position of your bedside and this is important to check each night because if it is not angled correctly it quite simply won't record, as I found out to my detriment on a couple of occasions.
When it is time to turn in for the night, the ResMed S+ monitors the light, noise and temperature in your room and recommends the ideal levels for the perfect sleep environment. Then you hit the sleep button on the app and answer a few questions on your specific state before going to sleep, namely how stressed you were that day, how many caffeinated and alcoholic drinks you consumed and how much exercise you did. After that you can choose to clear your mind and relax ready for sleep.
The mind clear feature I found particularly useful. Like most mothers, I go to bed with a multitude of things going around in my brain from that day and in anticipation of the next. Mind Clear enables you to either record a voice text or enter a text message to get the thoughts out of your head before going to sleep. It certainly worked for me and is better than waking in the middle of the night and reaching for a notepad and a pen.
After this you either set the SmartAlarm and/or turn on a calming sound to send you to sleep. To be honest with this feature I think it is down to personal taste. My husband rather liked being lulled to sleep by the sound of crashing waves whereas I found it irritating, but then again I am exactly the same if I have a facial, I cannot stand the background tubular bells style music that is intended to help you relax, so I think this probably says more about me than the feature.
The flip side of this, however, is the Smart Alarm which I LOVED. This gives you a 15 minute window during which to wake and get up, so if your alarm is set for 7am the Smart Alarm starts easing you into the morning around 6.45am with gentle sounds which start off quietly and gradually increase to the point when you need to get up. As a non-morning person this for me was a much better way to be woken up than the harsh, uncivilised ringing of an alarm bell, whereas my husband who loves mornings and jumps out of bed at the first sound of the alarm found this pointless. We agreed to differ on these features. But then again it was my sleep it was monitoring not his, he just happened to be nearby!
The Sleep Data
In order for your data to be collected you do have to have your phone plugged in. Now as a firm believer of "no phones in the bedroom" and insisting my teens leave theirs downstairs when they go to bed, this seemed counter-intuitive but on the plus side once you have confirmed you are going to sleep, the screen does not emit the bright blue light that stops your brain producing the melatonin you need to nod off. As this is one of the biggest reasons screens are discouraged in the sleep environment, this was my rationale when challenged by my teens.
So here is the really interesting part and the bit that I think sets the ResMed S+ apart from all the other sleep trackers I have used and that is the score and analysis of your sleep.
Forget the basics of how many hours you have slept, the ResMed S+ breaks your sleep down into four components, Deep, Light, REM and Wake, the latter including the time it took you to fall asleep and any disruptions during the night. Each has an ideal score for your age and gender and your personal sleep score is measured against each of these.
Sleep restores us both mentally and physically and each morning you can see what you achieved overall for your mind (REM) and body (Deep) within the ideal scenario. Both of these stages are vital to our well-being but it is the balance of time spent in both of these phases that will make the difference between the general feeling we all get on waking of having slept well or not.
The first night I used the tracker was the weekend prior to my eldest teen leaving for university. Probably not a good time, but then again I wanted to see the bad bits of my sleep, not just the good. Not surprisingly perhaps with a house full of teens invading the house after a farewell party for my son, my sleep score was rubbish and disturbances plentiful on the first night. Ditto the next night, prior to his departure. The mind clear feature came into its own on this occasion as I woke frequently agonising over what we might have forgotten to pack, so when I woke sluggish and fretful the next morning with a deadline for departure and a husband telling me to hurry up, I could at least refer to my middle of the night notes!
Unfortunately my sleep did not improve much over the next few days after dropping him off and my worst recorded sleep score was 53 but this was probably a good place to start. My life and that of my family was changing big time so what better place to start with improving my sleep than at the bottom?
The ideal sleep score is 100. My highest score to date has been 98, but the journey in between has been so interesting and it is not over yet.
As well as your score the S+ Mentor feature gives you advice aimed at improving your sleep going forward, obviously with the view that you make adjustments and your score goes up. After one particularly poor reading this was its personalised suggestion.
People of your age typically get 6h 17m of total sleep time, 1h 26m of REM, 1h 6m of deep sleep and 3h 44m of light sleep.Your REM sleep last night was 0h 34m. REM sleep is the time when the majority of your dreams occur. Try the Relax to Sleep feature which senses your breathing rate and matches the speed of the sound to it. Slow the sound by slowing your breathing and then follow the sound as it leads you into a relaxed state and finally into sleep.
I find the analysis of how long I spend in each stage of sleep fascinating and it is easy to see how sleep becomes addictive. I love sleep but what the ResMed S+ has made me realise is that over the summer I have become lax with my normal sleep routine which quite simply is having a detrimental impact upon the quality of my sleep.
I have been using the ResMed S+ now for three weeks and interestingly the nights I have slept the deepest are when my husband is away on business. I have no way of knowing for sure but when my sleep history shows disturbances I generally assume it is due to his snoring. I am not quite sure where that leaves me or us for that matter but I have made progress and I have loved the tips proffered along the way - although clearly there were none suggesting I sleep alone!
The Value of Sleep
I have written previously about my battle with menopausal insomnia and my efforts to find a solution to those specific issues, but that midlife crisis aside, a good night's sleep is a prerequisite for life and particularly as we age. Adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime than those clocking up seven or eight as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Matthew Walker, neuroscience professor at Berkeley, California believes we are in the midst of a "catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic". He claims that in the UK alone, the NHS spends an eye-watering £50 million a year on prescriptions for sleeping tablets but that sleep loss costs the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue. You don't have to be a genius to realise that there is something wrong there somewhere. In his book Why We Sleep, Walker argues that the real need is to get to the root cause of why we are not sleeping and remedy it.
Achieving the correct amount of quality sleep is a discipline With the help of the ResMed S+ I have started to redress the balance. Of course it is not a perfect science. Living gets in the way sometimes and as a result there have been peaks and troughs in my sleep journey but like with everything else in life it is work in progress. The quest for perfect quality sleep continues and whether that will come with a 100 sleep score I am yet to find out. In the meantime, as Homer said "There is a time for many words and there is also a time for sleep."
Disclosure: I received the ResMed S+ in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and unbiased.