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Huffington Post 01/12/2016

Sleep and Pain at the Consumer Electronics Show

Half of our health status is bolstered through lifestyle and daily choices; only 20 percent of our individual health destinies are attributable to genetics, 20 percent to our environment, and 10 percent based on access to health care services.

CES 2016

The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held in Las Vegas last week, and featured an expanding array of health-focused, connected “things” for health in the growing Internet of Things landscape. Beyond the usual wearable technologies for the wrist that measure steps, heart function, and calorie burn, a growing number of devices address what Alexandra Drane coined as “The Unmentionables” — social determinants of health that can be taboo, not sufficiently discussed in public, but together can diminish health, quality of life, and mental wellbeing.

Foremost among these is sleep deprivation, a topic deeply covered in the February 2016 issue of Consumer Reports. “Sleeplessness has a long and tortured history,” the magazine notes, explaining that the first documented sleep deprivation was a way to punish prisoners in the 15th century. In the 21st century, sleep deprivation is a way of life for too many people, as 68 percent of people in the U.S. struggling to get to sleep at least once a week.

At CES, a portfolio of smart beds, apps, sleep-tracking sensors and lightbulbs target this health risk to go beyond prescription and over-the-counter drugs which have become risky solutions when taken too often or mixed with other substances (say, recreational drugs like marijuana or alcohol).

In the smart bed category, I spoke with the developers of the Variowell bed which is made of a sensor-embedded “dynamic foam” that connects with sleep-tracking app data and adjusts firmer or softer based on a person’s sleep patterns. Their technology is based on a hypothesis that the firmness of a bed surface determines a person’s waking from a deep sleep (known as “N3 stage”). The company expects to license the technology to a major bed manufacturer by mid-2016.

Quell Wearable Pain Relief

The Quell device from Neurometrix was featured at CES, from a company that is mature in the medical device market for diagnosing pain marketed to the professional community – doctors and other clinicians dealing with patients in pain.

The FDA-approved Quell device was developed to be marketed direct-to-consumers in pain. People managing pain multi-task their approach, using over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs (with an alarming growth of opioids and other narcotics), meditate and do yoga, see chiropractors, get acupuncture, among other tactics.

Quell is a flexible fabric cuff embedded with sensors that wraps around the upper calf below the knee. Quell was co-designed with IDEO, the design experts, and reflects a streamlined form factor that looks more like consumer electronics sold at Best Buy than a medical device purchased at the pharmacy.

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