[Interview] Sleep Scientist Dr. Vanessa Hill Explains How Technology Can Help Users Optimize Their SleepShare open/close
With a third of our lives spent asleep, it’s safe to say that sleep is crucial for healthy living. Waking up after a poor night of rest can set you back, affecting concentration, mood and physical health in the long term. As more people seek to establish healthy sleep schedules, technology is playing an increasingly important role in helping individuals understand and fine-tune their sleep habits.
To learn more about the importance of sleep, Samsung Newsroom sat down with behavioral sleep scientist as well as Samsung Wellness Council member Dr. Vanessa Hill and discussed how technology, such as Galaxy Watch series, can help improve sleep quality.
Q. Please introduce yourself and the research you’ve done as a sleep scientist.
I’m passionate about sleep and want people to feel better about their health.
My research focuses on the pre-sleep period, evening routines and healthy sleep habits to support restorative sleep. I’m particularly interested in the relationship between sleep and technology as well as strategies to reduce blue light exposure before bed.
Besides my research, I created “Sleeping With Friends” — a reality TV show on YouTube Originals about improving the quality of sleep. In addition, I’m serving as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) ambassador for Women in STEM.
Q. Why is sleep important? How does it influence individuals’ overall health?
Sleep is a huge factor that affects our health and well-being, and it’s one that we can control. The duration and quality of sleep affect everything from our daily mood, productivity and memory to post-workout muscle recovery.
Good sleep is crucial for our holistic health and is intertwined with other factors like physical activity. Striking a healthy balance between these different factors — exercise and sleep, for instance — is necessary for our overall physical and mental health.
Q. How do daytime and nighttime habits affect sleep? What are some metrics that are measured when analyzing sleep quality?
Behaviors that arouse the brain before bedtime — using your phone to scroll through social media or doing work — can lengthen the time it takes to fall asleep and contribute to more nighttime awakenings. Additionally, developing healthy daytime habits such as physical activity or meditation can lead to more restorative sleep and less sleep disturbance.
The key metrics we measure are sleep latency, quality, duration, nighttime awakenings and daytime fatigue. Together, these metrics are generally tallied and used to communicate overall sleep quality.
Q. How can people improve their sleep quality?
Two ways people can enhance their sleep quality are by integrating stress management habits and moving their bodies. Elevated stress levels can disrupt sleep — incorporating meditation, journaling or listening to music throughout the day or in the evening can help alleviate stress. Another habit that can improve sleep quality is to get out and move. By walking outside in the morning, you can experience the benefits of physical activity and the impact of natural light in regulating your circadian rhythm.
Q. How are wearable devices, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Watch6 series, helping users measure and improve their sleep quality?
Wearables have the potential to revolutionize and personalize health, but sleep tracking by itself isn’t enough to change our habits. Research shows that people understand sleep is important, but struggle to improve it in part due to habitual behavior. Technology can help us break those habits or replace them with better ones.
The Sleep Score Factors and personalized Sleep Coaching on the Galaxy Watch6 series are game changers. By tracking certain habits, people can gain deeper insights into how their day-to-day actions are impacting their sleep quality.
Q. What future sleep-related enhancements would you like to see on wearables?
In the future, I’d love to see deeper insights into the relationship between physical activity and sleep quality in the Samsung Health app. These insights could help time-poor people tailor their schedules to fit in a workout routine without negatively impacting their sleep.
Another future sleep-related enhancement would be meaningful insights on chronotype — your biological preference for sleep timing. With an in-depth analysis of chronotypes, users can predict when they will have optimal energy during the day.
Q. Is there any message or advice you’d like to deliver as a sleep researcher?
We all have our own bedtime routines and habits. It’s important to remember this when adjusting your lifestyle and preferences. To improve the quality of sleep, set a bedtime and try to stick to it as much as possible. Using Sleep Mode across your watch and phone to mute notifications and dim screens can help create the perfect sleep environment, eliminating additional distractions and interruptions.
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