It’s fair to say that the pandemic hasn’t brought many positives, but there appears to have been a major upside for Brits.
We slept better.
This will certainly not have been everyone’s individual experience. None of the stresses of the day — working from home, vacationing, home schooling, caring for loved ones, struggling with food supplies, and of course trying to avoid the virus yourself — weren’t particularly conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Still, sleep data collected (with permission) by Samsung and its global network of smartwatches suggests that we slept longer and more efficiently overall. The US saw the largest increase in total duration, while South Korea performed worst and its citizens got the least sleep.
“We don’t know why that is,” says Dr. Hon Pak, Samsung’s Chief Medical Officer. “But you did something right.”
“There was some interesting data, but the bottom line is that sleep really has outsized effects on our health.”
dr Pak begins ironically speaking from the US as Samsung prepares to release a new suite of health-related features for its watches. He probably didn’t get in his full eight hours last night, but I want to stress that everyone else is striving for it.
“As a doctor, I’ve spent my career improving the health of my patients,” he says. “Initially, they came into my office one at a time, but realized I knew very little of the context [of the issue] or what happens outside the walls of the clinic or hospital.
“Throughout my career, I’ve tried to make the greatest possible impact, and part of my joining Samsung has to do with the billions of people who use our devices.” I truly believe that we really do make it easier for our users can do to improve their health holistically, and that includes making sleep a priority.
“We all know how our alertness and energy levels feel in the morning after a bad night’s sleep, but what consumers know less well are the connections between them.” [poor sleep] and chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.’
That took a rapid turn. However, there is plenty of work examining and confirming the links between sleep disorders, including insomnia and sleep apnea, and other health problems.
“Sleep has many different flavors,” says Dr. Pak, who started his career in dermatology before turning to digital health. “If you look at the top three factors affecting sleep efficiency and duration, first is sleep apnea, then insomnia, followed by restless legs.”
Restless Legs Syndrome is exactly what it sounds: an overwhelming, irresistible urge to move your legs, often accompanied by a crawling or crawling sensation.
Just the thought of it could be enough to give anyone insomnia, and while it could be argued that worrying about sleep is in itself counterproductive when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, Dr. Pak firmly believes that it is not only about providing data, but also about offering insights that help bring about behavior change.
Phones and children’s mental health ‘a big problem’
While for adults a smartphone might be a simple tool to improve sleep or fitness, for children it can be even easier to do the opposite.
There is widespread concern about the impact of social media use on the mental health of children and adolescents, including disrupted sleep from late-night use.
“It’s a huge problem,” says Dr. package “I think it’s impacted mental health in ways that are difficult to measure, but I think it’s obvious.” Our devices have a way [for parents] to track the number of hours spent on the phone so that it is now measurable and can be monitored. It is then up to the parents to decide how best to deal with it.
“The advice I give to young parents is, before you give kids a phone, set a time in the evening when it needs to be plugged in in Mom and Dad’s room.” I think that creates discipline, but you have to do it before they get the phone – once they get a taste of it, it’s going to be hard.”
“If you’re tracking sleep, it probably means you have concerns – and sometimes maybe obsessions – about lack of sleep,” says Dr. package “And that can potentially lead to worry that keeps people awake and into a cycle that they can’t quite get out of.”
“But our first approach is to make sure users understand their sleep patterns without trying to create additional tension.” Include things like the number of hours slept, the duration of sleep stages, when you’ve moved, snoring detection, and the blood oxygen content.
“That helps create a sleep score that provides a baseline from which to see what things would change your actual sleep efficiency.”
Sleep Score is part of the One UI 5 Watch software, due out later this year, which aims to help users “better understand their sleep patterns, build healthy habits, and create a sleep-friendly environment.”
Recommended healthy habits include avoiding caffeine after 9 p.m., meditating, and avoiding naps — which may come as a shock to some.
“After tracking your sleep pattern for about seven days, the program assigns a character based on the pattern — say, a lion or a deer — and then guides you through a coaching program and habits to promote good sleep,” says dr pack . “It’s a personalized approach based on your goal.”
Finally, One UI will also help develop better “sleep hygiene”.
“We also know that creating a sleep-friendly environment is important,” says Dr. package “In this way you can control a wide range of smart home products made by us and our partners, for example to close the blinds in the bedroom at a certain time, turn off the lights or turn on the air conditioning, a relaxing story to stream or guide you through a meditation to a planned bedtime.’
When the user falls asleep, the smartwatch triggers sleep mode, which silences notifications and dims the watch and paired phone screens.
But while sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health, Dr. Pak and Samsung care about another thing – the activity.
“We’re really focused on exercise and sleep,” he says, citing their watches’ fitness tracker as the other top contributor to users’ health.
“We’ve added more personalization and goal setting, allowing users to set five personalized training intensities.”
The training sessions are based on the user’s heart rate, which also helps in the development of individual interval programs and allows for real-time running analysis.
Current Galaxy Watch Pro users may be familiar with Route Workout, which has now been expanded to include walking and running in addition to the previously available walking and cycling options.
“The older I get, the more scientifically it has become clear to me that the more exercise you are, the healthier you are,” says Dr. package “That’s really why we’re on this journey, to help you sleep well and exercise well — often so we can nudge people.”
“Ultimately, it’s really about behavior change.” It’s one thing to provide data, another to provide insights, but it’s also about knowing how to engage the user in sustainable behavior change.
“Of course we know that everyone is on a different life journey — work happens, relationships happen, there are moments of stress and other things.” So how can we help them identify those moments when they stop and think or be encouraged to find the right content to help them through these phases, these trials and tribulations, so they can maintain the kind of well-being they desire – and deserve. ‘
Well-being doesn’t come for free – a smart home full of connected devices doesn’t come cheap, nor should good mental and physical health be the domain of the wealthy.
But as more and more people buy a wider variety of personal and wearable technology, it’s only right that they benefit from it, not be controlled by it.
“We’re really excited about our leadership in the delivery of home care through the variety of devices we have,” concludes Dr. package
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