December 8, 2021


Technology has recently started to overlap with personal health in powerful ways. These new innovations could offer new avenues for self-improvement and productivity boosts.

Sleep technology is one of those fascinating new frontiers. A variety of new devices offer new pathways to better health. Would you like a headband that magnetically stimulates your brain during sleep? How about sensors that detect your sleep conditions and create data reports for future sleep optimization? Or blankets and pillows that electronically adjust to your perfect conditions?

I’m intrigued by these new products. The sleep tech market is pretty new, so it’s too early to have a clear sense of which of these solutions are keepers, and which ones are just silly. But since we can’t function without sleep, and scientists don’t even fully understand what sleep is for, or how it works, it’s pretty clear that the industry is just getting started.

Cheap sensors and computing are making quantified self products seem increasingly inevitable. Ten years from now, we might all be swimming in data reports on our sleep, diet, exercise, work productivity, social interactions, and more. It’s a brave new world, and this technology has the potential to boost our productivity enormously. So we can’t afford to ignore these developments — we have to adapt, or lose out to somebody else who will.

Used well, a lot of this technology, and the self-improvement it enables, can be fun. But let’s be clear about the limits of technology. Work performance, health, and happiness are all human issues. Software doesn’t make us succeed at work — anybody can get that software. Devices don’t make us healthy — our personal choices (and luck) determine health. And happiness. . . you get the idea.

Technology gives us tools to do better with what we have. We can’t expect it to fix us, especially if we’re not already doing our part. Can’t sleep? That’s a problem, and maybe a new device can help. But maybe, try getting a little more exercise, eating less sugar, and avoiding the 2 hours of Netflix right before bed. In business and in life, we have to start with the fundamentals.

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