When faced with debilitating insomnia and stressful 80-hour work weeks in the city that never sleeps, Sleep and Me founder Ben Coleman tried every combination of research, gadgets, and lengthy pre-bedtime checklists, but couldn’t find anything that both worked, and fit his challenging schedule.
It wasn’t until he started carefully tracking everything he was doing (and not doing) that he found a pattern of strategies that worked for him. His journey, and belief that online sleep advice fails to account for our individual differences, led him to create Sleep and Me, the first automated sleep coach built on the world’s largest social network.
The Sleep and Me chatbot is a new way of providing the type of personalized sleep insight that used to require access to specialized equipment or expensive therapy. “We have all kinds of data, but most of us don’t use it,” said Coleman. “Instead of creating another tech device that collects dust we built Sleep and Me on one of our favorite apps — Facebook. This improves our reach and engagement, and leads to better outcomes.”
“There is a lot of fantastic research out there on sleep (and how to improve it), but you can’t simply apply what works in an experiment to any given person and expect results. Sleep is complicated, each of our sleep needs are unique, and so are our schedules. What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for the next,” said Coleman. “What’s missing is a level of personalization. We’ve found that just a few conversations can give us a pattern of data that can be used to personalize the advice we give.
More than 60 million Americans have trouble sleeping at one time or another. Many suffer from serious sleep problems like insomnia. There are few aspects of health that cannot be improved with better sleep, and a range of medical problems (death included) linked to insufficient sleep. “I’ve seen firsthand how frustrating it can be to find sleep advice online. Even responsible sources that focus on the science will ignore the existence of individual differences, and it can feel like there is a “right” way to sleep that’s just not possible for you. This mindset means that many fail to pay attention to the things they can control; which ones help their sleep, and which disrupt it. The most we usually do is use a fitness tracker like a Fitbit, but we can go a lot deeper without really adding much complexity. There’s so much good research out there; there’s no reason why we can’t just match strategies to individuals’ specific needs.”
Rather than simply collecting data and creating bar charts, Sleep and Me users have been able to tackle more personal, actionable questions, including some of our favorites:
- What’s the right amount of sleep for me?
- What sleep and awake times are best for me?
- How does food timing or fasting affect my sleep?
- Do certain foods, supplements, and substances affect my sleep?
- Am I doing my workouts a little too early or late in the day?
- Or maybe it was my love for coffee?
- Am I Too hot? Too cold?
- What about sleep partners, positions and pets?
- Is my job or lack of one getting the best of me?
- Or is my rocky relationship contributing to it?
Here’s how it works.
First, we learn about their needs with our free sleep assessment. Second, the user starts logging their sleep data and experimenting. Our chatbot asks a few questions each day to learn more about their sleep and what factors influence it and provides recommendations, based on proven research, calculated to match that user’s needs. Third, users track the results and keep what works.
Over 400 people have taken the initial sleep assessment, and more than 200 have signed up to be users. Sleep and Me was well-received; users found the app to be a beneficial, simple, and affordable way to find out what’s helping (and hurting) their sleep. “Helping people fix their sleep was our primary concern. However, we can now see strong demand from health seekers who want to optimize their sleep,” said Coleman.
“We’ve found a lot of interest from people that would classify themselves as insomniacs but also people who would just like to sleep better. We were surprised with the number of people who were interested despite not considering themselves insomniacs. For anyone who wants to sleep better, I invite them to take our free Sleep & Me assessment and get a custom report based on their unique needs. They can discover how to start tracking what works for them — starting tonight.”