We’ve all been there: lying wide awake all night after a day full of yawning and wishing we were in bed. Apart from counting sheep, driving around, taking a walk and soothing tea are among the things we use to lull ourselves back to sleep. For many people, it works; however, for an unfortunate number it doesn’t. If these otherwise relatable events are sporadic occurrences, you could consider yourself lucky.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 45 percent of Americans suffer from poor or insufficient sleep which affects their daily activities at least once a week. Sleep quantity is not the problem for many Americans, in fact, Americans get an average of seven hours and 36 minutes of sleep a night. The reason for America’s poor sleep is poor sleep quality. This issue isn’t limited to the United States, however – all over the world supplements, relaxation programs, and special sound effects are used to help more and more people get to sleep.
Somnox, a Dutch startup, is one of many organizations helping those who suffer from poor sleep quality. They have found a way to improve sleep quality for their users by ensuring that users can fall asleep, stay asleep and feel safe throughout the night using a little robot buddy (think of the Companion Cube from Portal). According to the startup’s Kickstarter page, one in five people suffers from sleep deprivation, which can make them feel tired, cranky and out of it the next morning. To them, the concern for good sleep goes beyond feeling your best in the morning and touches upon the affect that poor sleep has on the mental health, physical health and quality of life on those suffering from chronic sleep issues.
Their sleep robot, or sleep companion, helps users get to sleep and stay asleep by breathing, playing lullabies, and providing affection. Shaped like a large kidney bean, it can be held and spooned throughout the night for a soothing sleep.
The breathing function can be felt by the user. The rhythm is intended to reduce stress and induce sleep. Somnox attributes these effects both to a large body of research which focuses on breathing and sleep but also to buddhistic breathing techniques which are said to assist relaxation and sleep. The purpose of using a specific breathing rhythm is that, as users sleep, their breathing gradually slows. They found that feeling a breathing rhythm subconsciously affects the user’s breathing rhythm by allowing them to synchronize their breathing with their robot. Somnox’s theory is that this makes it easier for the user to enter a meditative state of mind making it easier to fall and stay asleep. The breathing profile of a user’s robot sleep buddy is tailored to that user, using breathing exercises and breathing templates to set user preferences.
Some of the pre-loaded lullabies available for users include guided meditation, heartbeat, and white noise, but users can also choose their own sounds, have their favorite book read or pick from a selection of lullabies. The lullaby stops playing after the user falls asleep. When it comes to affection, Somnox says they’ve researched multiple shapes and fabrics that would make "the ultimate huggable robot." Once testing was concluded, they found the kidney bean shaped robot made of washable, fully breathable, and natural fabrics was their best bet.
All you need to do once you’ve tucked yourself in is hug the Somnox sleep robot- kind of like a teddy bear. It will then use a range of non-invasive effective features to tickle the senses, and soothe your body and mind until you’ve fallen asleep.
Somnox created their sleep robot as a way of combating potentially habit-forming medication by providing natural techniques to ease the user’s sleep. The robot is designed to reduce stress and anxiety, help the user fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up naturally. The breathing buddy can be used for 12 hours on one charge, it connects to an app available for iPhone and Android users and offers Bluetooth connectivity as well. The project was formed with the cooperation of test sleepers, researchers, sleep research and sleep technology, but they say they are always looking for further input.
There are no age restrictions to use the robot and it is specially created for those who find it difficult to get to sleep, stay asleep, suffer from anxiety and feel stressed or restless during the night.
Though some of their features are still under development, they are planning a full launch soon. Until launch day, donations can still be made on their Kickstarter page. The message they are sending is clear: fixing deteriorating sleep quality involves actively working to untangle the deep-seated issues keeping us up at night and soothing them without potentially habit-forming drugs. Sometimes all it takes it a cuddle buddy.