Feb 28, 2022 - Health

Health tech developers want to help you sleep

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Venture capitalists are amping up their bets in sleep and movement tracking, according to a new PitchBook report.

Why it matters: Startups and tech giants have been working on fitness and sleep devices for roughly the past decade, and today, affluent consumers have their pick of Oura rings, Whoop bands, Apple Watches and Google Nests.

Flashback: Wearables have been popular for ages, but Amazon and Google began investing in bedside sleep trackers last year.

  • Last July, Amazon was given the federal green light to use radar for sleep tracking.
  • And last March, Google unveiled sleep sensing in the latest iteration of its Nest device.

Driving the news: In recent years, more of the devices have incorporated artificial intelligence and machine learning for better accuracy and new features, according to the PitchBook report.

  • Plus, new products have emerged that intervene to help while people are sleeping, as opposed to those that simply prepare people for rest, the authors of the report write.
  • And clinicians tell Erin they're increasingly open to taking a look at the data from their patients' devices, whether to help identify an overall pattern or emphasize a certain issue.

By the numbers: The PitchBook researchers peg the market for at-home connected fitness devices and sleep-sensing technology at:

  • $1.1 billion for virtual fitness and movement-tracking.
  • $12 billion for sleep detection.

Between the sheets: More attention is being paid today on tools designed to improve people's sleep while they're at rest. Some examples of such tools include:

  • Light therapy, with a focus on the use of red light to boost sleep quality.
  • Technology designed to regulate the ambient temperature, such as Google's Nest, which auto-adjusts based on user's patterns.

Yes, but: Both sectors face current headwinds, the PitchBook researchers note.

  • For sleep tech, the main challenge is distribution: "Devices are often expensive, unproven, and not covered by insurance, so it remains difficult to generate widespread adoption," they write.
  • For fitness tracking, it's the pressure placed on the sector by the recent reopening of IRL gyms and studios after quarantines proved a boon.

What's next: The PitchBook researchers predict that digital health companies will begin applying their fitness and movement-sensing tech to complementary use-cases such as:

  • Posture sensing for physical rehabilitation and fitness training.
  • Gesture tracking for controlling devices and appliances.
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