How many times a week do you wake up feeling groggy? And how many times do you hit snooze before clambering out of bed? If the answer is more often than not, it's likely you've tried to rectify the issue with either more hours in the sack or a more consistent sleeping pattern. Perhaps you've even employed the help of a sleep tracker to help log how your body is operating during the night.
And if so, you'll already know that trackers aren't necessarily the best solution to help understand the rest your body requires and, in turn, feel more refreshed when you wake up. And it's an issue that Shenzhen-based startup Dreamlight is aiming to tackle head-on - literally.
The company's smart sleeping mask, which has just broken through its funding goal of $30,000 on Indiegogo, uses adaptable lighting, customisable sounds and even artificial intelligence to tap into your genetic profile and determine what kind of sleeper you are. The hope is that this can help improve your habits and sleep for good, with early backers able to pick up the device from $169 ahead of expected shipping in April.
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"There's obviously a trend regarding the quantified self; everyone is trying to track something. But most wearables generally fail to create a regimen for you to improve your sleep routine, and the mask is something we feel is a better and easier way to do this," Dreamlight's James Sung told us.
"There's research and scientific data which suggests that orange light actually helps you get to sleep — this is something that's been tested by the likes of NASA, for example. A lot of people believe that you just need total darkness, but we've found that's not necessarily the case. Dreamlight users will get an orange LED inside the mask which they match to their breathing, and it's something which has shown can help people get to sleep more effectively.
"Then, once the heart rate monitor detects the user is sleeping, the mask can emit infrared lighting around the eyes to help reduce dark circles. And finally, if you've set a time that you'd like to be woken up, the mask emits green lighting within a specific period to suppress melatonin production. As a result, you wake up more naturally and feel more refreshed - or at least that's the pitch.
"There's also machine learning involved, with the device eventually getting to a point where it's able to pick when you should be waking up and when to incorporate the lighting into your sleep," said Sung.
As Sung indicates, the smart lighting capabilities of the Dreamlight are at the core of improving your sleep, but this is also backed up by four internal headphones feeding sound to the user. Through the mask's companion app, wearers are able to select between a combination of white noise, sounds from nature (such as falling rain), light music, and binaural beats to play in the background, something which the company included after certain studies suggested this lowers heart rates, reduces stress and improve restful sleep.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) — a sound-induced tingling — is also available through the mask, with sliders in the app allowing users to select when and how they want the range of sound effects to pop up during the night.
But, as we mentioned earlier, it's not just about the tracking. Sung indicated that the data gathered is also interpreted to help gauge the user's specific sleep requirements and build a personalised sleep profile.
"There's certain genotypes that determine what kind of sleeper you are, which is why some people can work through the night and why some people can function on less sleep," he said.
"The mask is able to automatically determine this and give you recommendations based upon this. Some people sleep for eight hours, but they may feel less rested than if they slept for five hours, and these are things that we can tell the user through the app."
As is the case with other trackers, the app will also provide a breakdown of your night, telling you how much time you spent in light and deep sleep, as well as your average heart rate throughout the night. Once it's tracked enough sleep data, it'll begin offering advice for how you should tackle your sleep.
Dreamlight is aiming to bring something new to sleep tracking and help propel your night hours to the next level, but is it worth backing?
Well, unlike many other startups, Sung noted that Dreamlight is already well funded and ready to enter mass production, regardless of its crowdfunding exploits. Since the company is also based in Shenzhen, the well-known hardware epicentre of the tech industry, he told us that the team is already busy in the factory and ready to work out scale of its manufacturing.
While that's certainly a positive, it's important to keep in mind that taking a leap on technology such as this is always a risk. If you can get past the design, which Sung suggests has gone through rigorous testing in order to fit faces of all shapes and sizes, you still have to ask yourself whether you believe in the effectiveness of the technology.
It's also important to understand that other options are also out there aiming to boost your sleep. Rythm Dreem and Philips' upcoming SmartSleep are two solutions, for example, which also tap into the user's head.
But for those who like the sound of Dreamlight's concept and believe it could be the difference between them and more restful night hours, there's certainly a lot to be intrigued about here.
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