Technology for Problem Sleepers

Having trouble sleeping? In The New Yorker, Patricia Marx writes about the economy of slumber, offering a lively survey of current gadgets and expensive equipment designed to get you a night of rest, and she nestles it snug as a bug with a primer on the growing science of sleep. From deprivation to natural cycles to oversleep, Marx’s piece is far from zzzzzzz.

If you are hoping to excel at sleeping, you’ll need a high-performance pillow, Eugene Alletto, the C.E.O. of Bedgear, told me. (His observation that “many people have never been fitted for a pillow” was not exactly a shock to me.) You’ll also want sheets and a mattress protector made from “climate-control fabric.” Bedgear is one of several new companies that sell technologically advanced bed accessories. My friend Marshall’s Pillow ID—based on a Web questionnaire concerning his size, sleep position, and type of mattress—pegged him as a perfect candidate for the Dusk 2.0, a spongy cushion with a crimson border made from “nature’s most durable support material, derived from the frothed milk sap of natural rubber trees,” as opposed to fake rubber trees ($162). He took it to his mother’s house in the Hamptons, where the cacophony of nature tends to keep him up. After a week with Dusk 2.0, he said, “It’s the kind of pillow I like, mostly because it’s cold and firm. I also like that it is red and distinctive.”

On the other head, there is Pillo 1, a large, bouncy, latex-foam model from a company called Hall Innovations ($199). With a scooped-out hollow for your skull, the Pillo 1 would make perfect packing material for a cantaloupe. But, as a sleep aid, it disappointed my friend Penny: “I woke up that first morning with an acute pain in my neck, so I wasn’t willing to be a volunteer for this pillow anymore.” The directions indicate that, because it can take from three to four weeks to “break in” (whether it is the pillow or you that is broken in is unclear), you should use it at first for only one or two hours a night. Isn’t that like waking the patient to give her a sleeping pill?

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