- 46.7% of respondents reported using some form of sleep technology, with those aged 25 or under the most likely to use it (59.9%).
- Respondents using sleep technology were over 22% more likely to be satisfied with their sleep and nearly 50% more likely to have great quality sleep than those forgoing sleep tech.
- Nearly 7 in 10 respondents who spent over $300 in total on sleep technology reported having great quality sleep.
The Evolution of Sleep Technology
The first smartphone app targeted for sleep was released in 2009 exclusively on Apple iOS devices. That app, called Sleep Cycle, was a digital alarm clock that also tracked users' sleep patterns. Since then, the app has advanced to use the newest algorithms and analysis software that follow more metrics that aid sleep. And over the years, numerous companies have released their own versions of smartphone apps for both iOS and Android devices, lamps, and other monitors that, supposedly, can help people sleep better. But do they really work? And are they truly worth the investment?
We surveyed over 1,000 adults and asked them about their sleep habits and sleep technology usage to find answers. Read more to see what we uncovered.
Sleep Technology's Rise in Popularity
Sleep technology is now highly endorsed by celebrities, such as Matthew McConaughey, Harry Styles, and Kevin Hart. These apps and aids have exploded in popularity as people link good sleep habits to better overall health – and world events like the COVID-19 pandemic keep more of us awake at night. Meditation sessions, bedtime stories for adults, sound machines, and wearable technology like the Apple Watch – there are more options available now than ever before.
According to our survey, almost half (46.7%) reported using at least one kind of device to help them through the night. But which ones were the most popular?
Overall, sleep apps tended to help respondents reduce anxiety and create an atmosphere for refreshing sleep. The most popular of the bunch included Sleep Cycle (50.5%), SleepScore (43.7%), and Headspace (38.2%). On the other hand, devices worn on the body and external devices, such as sound machines and lamps, resulted in ease of falling asleep and waking up easier, two of the most common insomnia problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. The most popular wearable technology worn while sleeping included the Apple Watch (57.6%), Fitbit (47.1%), and the Biostrap band (38.6%). The most popular physical sleep technologies were the Dodow sleep machine (49.7%), the Homni lamp by Terraillon (40.9%), and the Cove device (40.3%).
Sleep Technology Demographics
Beyond the general popularity of sleep technology, which age groups find themselves using it the most? Who makes up the sleep technology user base?
Of those surveyed, respondents aged 25 and under reported the highest use of sleep aids, most notably wearable technology, such as an Apple Watch or Cove device. And they are the group with higher-than-average sleep impairment. In a study published in 2017 in England, over one-third of adolescents and close to 50% of teen girls aged 15 experienced trouble sleeping. Moreover, today's teens and young adults do not know a world without handheld devices and smartphones, which are clinically linked to sleep problems when used in excess. But when using sleep aids, this age group also reported higher quality sleep than their older counterparts, who were less likely to use them at all. Apple Watches did come in first in every age group, though, from 25 and under to 51 and older.
Income and work status also affected study outcomes. Those making over $100,000 annually and people working full time were more likely than any income or employment setting to use sleep aids. In fact, respondents who made less than $50,000 per year or were "otherly" employed (neither full nor part-time) were less likely to include any sort of technology or help in their sleep routine. This could be attributed to the increasing digital divide among lower- and higher-income Americans. A Pew Research study from June 2021 concluded that while smartphones, home broadband services, computers, and tablets were nearly ubiquitous among adults earning over $100,000, they weren't for those with household incomes below $30,000 annually.
Why Use Sleep Technology?
When talking about sleep aids, there are two categories: technology and products. While this might seem obvious, sleep products are considered items such as weighted blankets, air purifiers, and special mattresses; they don't rely on a screen, blue light, or algorithms to function.
When it comes to sleep technology, the primary motives for use were to fall asleep (39%) and to stay asleep (38.8%). Overall, there were apparent benefits to their use, as those who used sleep technology were more likely to be satisfied with their sleep (over 22%) and have a greater quality of sleep (nearly 50%) than those who didn't use it. On the other hand, 63% of respondents said they used non-technology items in comparison to the 46.7% that said they used technology. Weighted blankets were the most popular non-technology sleep product (45.6%) and the most effective (80%), with adjustable mattresses (79.2%) and air purifiers (76%) closely following in effectiveness.
Financial Commitments to Sleep
Whether it's worth it to spend several hundred dollars on sleep technology is, of course, up to the individual. But in general, how does a financial commitment to sleep affect it?
The respondents in our study said they achieved higher quality sleep after spending $300 or more. The average person who uses sleep technology will spend approximately $43 per month, not including subscription services. Sleep product users, on the other hand, tended to spend even more than tech-savvy sleepers. It seems, for those we studied here, spending money really does help with sleep – and it doesn't have to stem from purchasing the latest, greatest, newest, most popular tech item. Who knew?
Sleep Technology Regulation
How do Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations impact sleep technology users' decisions to purchase a particular device?
Regulation from government agencies such as the FDA and FTC is important to users of sleep technology, but mostly when they are aware that regulation is available for these products. FDA-regulated health products must provide clinically significant benefits to participants in company trial reports and be able to present that full data. These products aren't always approved before sale, so the bureau keeps a close eye on new sellers for any red flags. But according to the FDA, only individual medicines or health products are approved, not companies on the whole. The FTC works alongside the FDA when seeking to approve an item for market. The FTC also works to "inform consumers, businesses, and policy-makers on a range of issues affecting the cost, quality, and accessibility of health care."
Create New Habits
In a COVID-19 world, habits couldn't be more important. Daily routines and choices add up, creating a healthy mind and body. One surefire way to protect your body is through adequate, restful sleep. "Sleeping is a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing," according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). You may already know a few basics, like staying away from blue light and avoiding caffeine and exercise too close to bedtime.
According to study participants, some of the most common daytime habits included drinking coffee (65%), excessive computer use (54.2%), and running or walking (49.2%). However, the daytime habits yielding the highest quality of sleep were playing sports (69.5%), going to the gym (65.1%), and doing yoga (63%). Clearly, active daytime habits resulted in greater quality sleep. Similarly, 69.8% of respondents who reported exercising before bed had great sleep quality. The most popular nighttime habit was drinking milk before bedtime (39.3%), and it was also the habit that provided the most respondents with high-quality sleep (72.5%).
Final Thoughts on Sleep Technology
Whether you choose to use sleep aid devices, experts advise users not to put too much faith in them. "Consumer sleep trackers are pretty accurate at tracking total sleep time … but lend a critical eye to the sleep stage information you get from your device," says Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program wellness exercise specialist Thomas M. Rieck. For some, sleep trackers actually cause anxiety and make it more difficult to get quality sleep.
At the end of the day, basic, tried-and-true sleep advice is the way to go. You'll spend approximately 36 years in bed over an average lifetime, so it's important to make it count – for both your health and your happiness. Sleep Foundation suggests controlling your bedroom light, keeping the temperature around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, creating a nighttime routine, and using high-quality pillows, sheets, and a mattress.
PlushBeds offers all of these bedding options in certified organic, sustainable, handcrafted pieces that recently received the Good Housekeeping 2021 Best Bedding Award. Don't skimp on sleep. Visit plushbeds.com to see which of our mattresses best fit your lifestyle and needs – try any mattress for 100 nights and love it, or we'll give you a refund.
Methodology and Limitations
For this study, we surveyed 1,004 adults via Amazon MTurk about their spending habits. 56.4% of respondents identified as men, 43% identified as women, and the remaining 0.6% identified as nonbinary. The average age of respondents was 37.4 years with a standard deviation of 11.1 years.
The main limitation of this portion of the study is its reliance on self-report, which is faced with several issues, such as, but not limited to, attribution, exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.
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