This scientist wants to fix the way you sleep

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"Reuniting humanity with sleep is my big ambition."

That's how Matthew Walker, PhD, describes his main professional goal.

As a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California-Berkeley and the director of the UC-Berkeley Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, he's already conducted research on the significance of sleep. But in his new role as chief scientist at San Francisco-based startup Hello, he's getting his hands on what's "probably one of the largest data sets on human sleep on Homo sapiens [ever collected]," Dr. Walker told The Washington Post.

One of Hello's new products, Sense, is a sleep tracker that "consists of a spheroid environmental sensor that tracks temperature, light and air quality along with a sleep-movement tracker that clips onto a pillow," according to the report. Two years ago, Hello launched Sense on Kickstarter and sold 21,000 units. It has since become available on Amazon and it will be available in select retail stores later this year.

It's no secret that a lack of sleep is a worldwide dilemma — even the CDC has called it a "public health problem." As Dr. Walker told The Washington Post, "... the sleep-loss epidemic is the greatest public health crisis in First World nations of the 21st century."

According to Dr. Walker, there are a myriad of issues disrupting individuals' sleeping patterns, including being exposed to blue light from screens before bedtime, alcohol consumption and sleep inconsistency. Although many people tend to maintain a consistent sleep schedule during the workweek, their schedule shifts on the weekend, throwing off their overall sleep cycle. Temperature also plays a key role. Because the human body and brain need to drop two degrees to fall into a deep sleep, bedrooms should be kept at cooler temperatures rather than warmer ones.

Sense tracks all of these factors, and it has been since it went on the market. Dr. Walker hopes the hours of sleep data Sense has gathered will help uncover breakthroughs and innovations in sleep research.

"Here's a wonderful paradox that we are now designing technology to fix the problems caused by technology," Dr. Walker said. "This is where I differ from my colleagues. They think the invasion of technology in the bedroom is the greatest enemy of sleep, and they're right, but I also think it's our potential salvation."

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