One-third of a person's life is said to be given over to sleep -- but getting enough of it, and of sufficient quality, can be a challenge for many people, especially under the duress of a worldwide pandemic.
Help, however, is at hand as new services spread using artificial intelligence, sensors and 3D scans as well as so-called "sleep masters" to give people advice on the best conditions for achieving a good night's rest.
S'UIMIN, a Tokyo venture spun off from the University of Tsukuba, has developed an AI device that measures brain activity during sleep.
"You have a C evaluation," a person who recently tested out the service was informed by the device's readout. "The quality of your sleep is good, but your average sleeping time is five hours -- too short and irregular."
The device, called the "InSomnograf," comprises a head strap with electrode stickers that must be put on before going to sleep for around five days. The stickers are placed on five areas of the face -- one each on the center, left and right of the forehead, and one on each side of the neck.
It calculates more than 20 different sleep indicators, including how long it takes to fall asleep and the amount of time spent in sound and in fitful sleep. Data is uploaded to the cloud, with daily reports available through smartphones based on individual sleep health screenings. Brain activity is analyzed by AI based on the data of hundreds of people.
S'UIMIN stands for Sleep is the Ultimate Intelligent Mechanism in Nature and is phonetically the same as the Japanese word for sleep.
Hideaki Kondo, 57, a medical specialist in charge of sleep evaluations at Inoue Hospital in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, praised the AI device for its simplicity.
"It's an easy device that can obtain objective data. It is even possible to take measurements from a remote location, and there is little burden on the patient," Kondo said.
Recently, more people have been complaining of insomnia and other sleeping disorders due to disruptions from the novel coronavirus pandemic, experts say.
Bedding manufacturer Nishikawa Co. based in Tokyo has set up "sleep consultation" clinics at its outlets nationwide where store staff referred to as sleep masters are on hand to help customers resolve their sleeping issues.
Data, such as daily activity levels and sleeping conditions, are measured with a small sensor attached to the user's waist for about a week. Another sensor tracks environmental conditions by recording data such as bedroom temperature, humidity, brightness and noise.
A 46-year-old female temp employee from Tokyo who visited a sleep consultation clinic averaged 5 hours and 33 minutes of shut-eye while tossing in her sleep nine times on average.
"You have a pattern of spending a lot of time in wakefulness when trying to sleep and waking up too early. It would be best for you to lower the bedroom humidity and go to sleep 30 minutes earlier," the sleep master advised her.
Inside the store, a device measures which parts of the body are under pressure when lying down on a bed. The results are displayed on a monitor, and a 3D scanner is also used to check for skeletal distortions. The sleep master suggests personalized bedding options.
Since the pandemic started, the number of people coming for consultations has doubled. With more people working from home, many complain about not getting enough exercise and not modulating their work-rest lives in a balanced way.
"Comfortable sleep is decided based on lifestyle habits, sleeping environment, and bedding," said sleep master Arata Otsuka, 43. "I advise getting moderate exercise during the day, soaking in the bath before you sleep, and not looking at your smartphone right before sleeping."