It has come to this. A company called Somnox has created a Sleep Robot pillow that lasts four hours on a charge and matches your breathing patterns. It helps you sleep, and it's based on science, but if you're like me, there is only one possible reaction to this product.
It looks awesome. I want to buy one. Seriously.
The idea is to sleep with one almost like a stuffed animal for adults. It may look a bit weird, but the photo above makes me feel sleepy just thinking about it.
Now, let me preface this by saying the product is still not quite available. It will cost you $550 (it is making a splash at CES--or maybe that should say it is putting people to sleep), which is a lot for a device that is designed as a sleep aid. The company behind the robot pillow is not exactly a household name. Yet, the idea makes perfect sense.
Here's the science behind it.
As you fall asleep, it turns out our breathing starts to slow down--at least, if we stop stressing out about the day. The bot matches our breathing, and the company says holding the pillow will help you manage stress because research has shown that breathing techniques and specifically breathing slower and more deliberately can help reduce stress. I've tested some of the apps before myself that help with breathing, and while I'm not exactly into medication or controlled breathing as a way to relax, I can see the benefits.
The pillow combines the idea of controlled breathing with trying to relax at night and block out the previous day. You're in bed trying to fall asleep, and by holding the pillow, you become more conscious of this gradual slowdown--of your mind and of your body. It's the same reason experts always say to breathe in a controlled way after you exercise--there's a spin-down period that really helps you get calm.
Apparently, something called the parasympathetic nervous system controls how your body starts to shutdown after a period of time, including the stress hormones in our body. Thankfully, it is fully automated. In fact, the less we think about sleeping the easier it is to sleep--a bit like driving a car and not having to think about finding the brakes. We just do it.
An app for the robot pillow lets you set breathing exercises, and you can monitor and track how you breathe at night. If you wake up, you can enable the robot again and use it to fall asleep. It's a bit like holding onto someone else in bed who also matches you breathing patterns. I could see bringing the pillow along on a business trip when you know you'll be sleeping alone.
The pillow works with iPhone and Android devices, and connects to your phone over Bluetooth low energy (which tends to draw less power from your phone). The company plans to develop a smart alarm that wakes you up at a set time using the simulated breathing patterns. To me, that also sounds awesome. Sign me up.