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Counting more than sheep; sleep becoming big business

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Counting more than sheep; Sleep becoming big business

In this July 7 photo, Sleep Number store manager Lee Pulliam demonstrates how the company's sleep technology tracks sleeping patterns. A number of companies are incorporating sleep science into products that help people track and improve the quality of their sleep.

NEW YORK — Sleep-related companies are adding more technology to products hoping to lure customers craving a better night's sleep.

But with ever-growing options, people may find items are getting more sophisticated and still may not be accurate.

The number of sleep centers accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine nearly tripled from 2000 to 2015, the group says. People are more likely to brag about how much they spent for a mattress than on their clothes, says Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America.

"Sleep is the new status symbol," she says.

It's a big business. One of the more expensive products is Sleep Number's 360 Smart Bed, which runs from $3,449 to $4,999 and makes adjustments based on how restless people are while they're sleeping.

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The Zeeq pillow, which sells for $299 from REM-Fit, monitors snoring and can gently vibrate to nudge someone into a different sleep position.

Insufficient sleep is a public health concern, federal officials say, with more than one-third of American adults not getting enough on a regular basis. That can contribute to problems like obesity and diabetes. A study by the Rand Corp. put the financial loss to U.S. companies at up to $411 billion a year.

Finding solutions could be lucrative. Earlier this year Apple Inc. bought Finland-based Beddit, which was making a $150 sensor that's placed under the sheet, on top of the mattress, that analyzes data such as the portion of time someone is in bed asleep before waking up, heart rate, temperature, movement and snoring.

At the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, neurologist and medical director Clete A. Kushida tests new therapies and medications. His conclusion?

"Consumer wearable devices are not there in accurately detecting the stages of sleep," he said. The problem: They focus on motion, which can be deceptive since a person could be lying in bed awake.

But Kushida believes products are getting better and will be able to accurately monitor and solve sleep issues in the next five to 10 years.

Some stores are highlighting sounds and smells they say can help people sleep better. HSN Inc. offers a $299 Nightingale Sleep System that masks indoor and outdoor noises. Best Buy has a Philips Lighting's system that let people choose the colors and brightness of lights and program them to turn off at certain times or respond to the sun. And Sensorwake is launching a product in the U.S. that releases smells like fresh linen it says can help you sleep better.

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