How does it work?The technology uses two small monitors which you sleep between; one is a transmitter and the other a receiver. It calculates body motion, heart rate and respiratory rate and patterns through measuring sound and radio frequency signal algorithms via Wi-Fi. It combines the inputs through a sensor-fusion for sleep tracking and apnea (slow or stopped breathing) detection.
We pride ourselves in the accuracy of providing the in-depth information… so we can give users the recommended bedtime, recommended wake time so that users can have the most optimal sleep,
“We want to make our technology available to all users to essentially improve their sleep because we noticed that it’s such a big problem worldwide,” Paul Lee, Asleep’s head of strategy and business development, told Euronews Next.
The five stages of sleep
But it’s not just the amount of sleep you are getting that is important – sleep quality is also critical.
Scientists have categorised five sleep stages based on the characteristics of the brain and body during sleep.
Stage one is the lightest, followed by a deeper sleep at stage two. The third and fourth stages are known as deep sleep, which progress by level.
The fifth stage is called REM sleep, which is the stage associated with dreaming. It’s during this stage that the skeletal muscles do not move and breathing becomes more irregular.
Are sleeping technologies accurate?
These sleep stages are usually monitored by a polysomnography (PSG), which tracks brainwaves and body movements.
But it’s impossible to carry out these tests – which are considered the gold-standard of sleep tracking – outside of a laboratory or hospital setting.
This has given rise to sleep apps or wearable technology that you can use at home to monitor your sleep, such as Fitbit among scores of others.
While such technologies can be accurate in determining if you are asleep or awake, just by measuring your body movements and breathing, they are found not to be as accurate when monitoring the different stages of sleep.
A study published this year in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep found that most wearable sleep tracking devices were not accurate in quantifying sleep stages (REM and non-REM).
“What trackers can do to a relative degree is measure how long you’ve been asleep,” said Neil Stanley, director of sleep science at Sleepstation, a clinically validated sleep improvement programme.
“It cannot measure light sleep or REM sleep. That can’t be done because these are defined by the brain,” he told Euronews Next.
How Asleep is accurate and secure
But the technology at Asleep claims to be incredibly accurate.
Partnering with Seoul National University Bundang Hospital Sleep Center, the company tested its technology on more than 3,000 people. It found that it was about 77 per cent as accurate as the sleeping tests performed in hospitals.
Lee also says it has an AI model that is currently in the development stage that can predict brain signals.
One of the key objectives for the Seoul-based company is creating an accurate device that is also comfortable and does not require the wires or machinery to be worn on the body.
Sleep is now seen as the thing we have to do rather than the thing we want to do. It’s a pleasure and we don’t see it as a good thing.
Another way the company says it is more accurate than other sleep tracking devices is that it provides personalised sleep recommendations which is done by its radio frequency (RF) and Wi-Fi tracking technology.
“We pride ourselves in the accuracy of providing the in-depth information about users REM level and sleep cycle information, so we can give users the recommended bedtime, recommended wake time so that users can have the most optimal sleep,” Lee said.
The company says this is different to other sleeping apps, which use rule based solutions that are not customised to users.
The start-up, which has a staff of 20, is for the moment focusing on South Korea’s market but it plans to go global. But entering the European market has been difficult.
“In terms of entering the European market, the regulation and the certification process is different for each individual European country,” Lee said.
He also said security concerns make it difficult to enter Europe’s market. But the Asleep device is secure as its Wi-Fi technology is approved by the US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is proven to be non-hazardous.
As for data privacy concerns, the company uses a cryptic code so the data that is not necessary is removed while the data used is kept safe.
Asleep is hoping the device will become available for consumers by 2022 and wants it to be affordable for all consumers at a guide price of €65.
When sleep becomes unhealthy
While knowing the amount and the quality of the sleep we are getting can help us make better decisions, such as when to stop consuming caffeine or knowing what time to go to bed, it is important not to get lost in the technology to achieve the “perfect” sleep.
Several years ago, a condition was coined called orthosomnia, the medical term for the obsession for the perfect sleep.
Stanley said sleep tracking apps can lead to orthosomnia and make us see sleep as a “competitive sport”.
While he admits as a society we are not respecting sleep as much compared to previous decades when nightlife ended earlier and we did not have phones and laptops to keep us up at night, we have forgotten the sleep fundamentals.
“Now we’ve got the ability to forgo our sleep. That’s the problem,” Stanley said.
“Sleep is now seen as the thing we have to do rather than the thing we want to do. It’s a pleasure and we don’t see it as a good thing”.