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The Technology of Sleep

by Ben Koses

In the Digital Age, our every waking moment is spent with technology, from that BEEP BEEP of the alarm clock in the morning to the clicking of computer keys at work (at least until it’s all done via touchscreen) to those TV dinners at night. But what if it wasn’t just our waking moments, but those we spend in sleep as well? It sounds mildly horrific, like the culmination of a futuristic, dystopian nightmare. However, as many college students will testify, sleep is a valuable resource, and with the evolution of technology, we may have a way to perfect it. We now have the option to wear a mask to improve sleep for those who suffer sleep apnea. Websites like Mattress Matchers use technology to test and recommended products to consumers.

Lucid Dreaming

The crux of many, many science-fiction movies and books revolves around the concept of dreams and artificial realities. Consider Inception as the iconic example of the dream-within-a-dream. Dreams where we can control our actions are not entirely within the realm of fiction. This type of dream, where the dreamer knows they are asleep and can even control their actions to an extent, is called a lucid dream.

A study in Germany found that it was possible to induce lucid dreaming by applying small electrical shocks to the brain. The experiment tested 27 patients who had never experienced lucid dreaming before. Lucid dreaming proved most successful with currents of 40Hz, with 25Hz having a similar, though smaller, effect. Not to worry—these are harmless low-level electrical impulses.

Smart Pajamas

But using electrical stimulants is hardly the only way technology can assist us with sleeping. Imagine if your bed could give you the perfect sleep experience! Or, even neater, if your pajamas could.

No, I’m not a poster boy for Mattress Discounters. However, I am here to talk about advanced pajamas. These smart pajamas would be capable of monitoring sleep patterns, skin conductivity, blood pressure, and more. It might sound like a far-fetched concept, but there are already pajamas imbedded with QR codes that read stories to children so anything is possible. Smart pajamas designed for your maximum comfort doesn’t seem like a stretch after that.

Hibernation

Another popular feature of science-fiction films is the concept of cryo-sleep. Just about anything involving outer space, from Riddick to Halo, features some variant of cryo-sleep, of hibernating the human body, much like bears do in winter. Only with their own bodies instead of human ones.

This type of sleep has become a topic of interest for researchers. It has significant value in space exploration, which is why NASA is investigating ways to induce a state of hibernation. However, this is not its only value. These technologies can also be used to slow body processes, helping victims to survive traumatic injuries and even cardiac arrest!

Combine that with the electrical stimulus, and we could have a scenario of Matrix-proportions – humans in cryo-sleep who are in control of their dreams! What a world that would be.

Conclusion

In many ways, it seems like the next logical step. We are already wedded to technology, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live. We might as well see it in the bedroom too. After all, it’s there to help us. To make life better.

We may have miles and miles to go before we sleep with this dreamy technology. But when we get there, we will sleep and, perchance, will dream.

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