The Sleep Sensei - Fall Asleep Faster Without Medication
A simple device that uses a calming pattern of light to help users fall asleep by training their breathing
Follow the project on Facebook or Twitter!
The Device Design
The Sleep Sensei is designed to shine a pattern of light through your eyelids. This pattern of light is used to coach your breathing pattern, which encourages your breaths to become longer as time progresses. To ensure that enough light is delivered, I put four LEDs on the device; however, the maximum brightness is adjustable to allow for different user tastes. In order to cater to varying heights of nightstands, the device is able to pivot to encompass a wide range of scenarios. For those who sleep with a partner, I added side-shields to concentrate the light's focus, reducing stray light that may annoy others.
I chose laser cutting to make the kit easy to ship and mass produce. With the target order volume (around 1000 units) in mind, laser cutting proved to be an affordable way to create a custom design.
The circuit board was designed with fritzing, and the logic and programming were done with arduino, which are both open source tools.
All aspects of the design (arduino code, circuit board designs, mechanical design files, website assets, photos, and documentation) are open source and are available for download on my github page. I will continue to refine the design and produce more prototypes using the Kickstarter funding, and during the development time, I encourage advanced users to fork the repository and provide me with suggestions and ideas to include in the final product!
Why Red Light?
The Sleep Sensei uses light to help you fall asleep, so I wanted to make sure that the light reduces any negative impacts that late-night light can have. Blue/white light actually keeps you awake, while green light has a similar effect and can suppress your melatonin output. This leaves red light, which "has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin." It's recommended to adjust the Sleep Sensei's brightness such that you can just barely see it through your eyelids, ensuring that the intensity is low enough to avoid any negative effects.
How it Works
The Sleep Sensei works by reducing your breathing rate, causing increased relaxation and bringing your breathing pattern closer to the reduced breathing pace that is typical of sleep. It also has the benefit of giving you something to focus on for an extended period of time, which can be helpful for those with sleep issues due to active minds.
Using calming red light, the Sleep Sensei produces a sine wave pattern of light that you follow with your breathing. As the light begins to brighten, the user inhales, and as the light dims, the user exhales. As time passes, the breath length increases up to the maximum length specified by the user’s settings. It is a very gradual and unnoticeable change that happens progressively over time.
Who it's for
The Sleep Sensei primarily helps those with sleeping problems caused by stress or an overactive mind at bedtime. The current design of the Sleep Sensei is primarily designed for users that can lie on their side or stomach to fall asleep; however, if you prefer to fall asleep on your back for medical or other reasons, you can still use the Sleep Sensei on an elevated surface to point down towards your eyes.
Bright and Directable Light
The main innovation of the Sleep Sensei is its use of bright light that is capable of being seen through the eyelids in order to make it visible with the user's eyes closed. Other similar products are just not bright enough to achieve this and require open eyes.
The Sleep Sensei has a pivoting base which allows you to shine the coaching light directly at the eyelids no matter how tall, short, or non-existent your nightstand is.
The maximum brightness of the Sleep Sensei can be adjusted at any time using the adjustment wheel. This allows you to shine the Sensei's light on a wall for eyes-open coaching, dim it a bit if you are sensitive to light, or stare right at it for a meditation session.
Customizable Breathing Pattern
Another unique innovation of the Sleep Sensei is the user's ability to program custom breath lengths to suit their preferences and breathing rates. The user can choose initial and final breaths ranging from four to 20 seconds in duration. Defaults are available as a starting point.
When I set out to make this project, I was determined to make the final design as simple as possible to keep the price low and to make using the Sleep Sensei simple and easy.
Feedback and the Sleep Study
When I first created the Sleep Sensei, I used it on myself for several weeks resulting in a general feeling that it was helping me to fall asleep faster. I wanted to quantify this somehow, so I began tracking my sleep using a sleep tracking app on my smartphone. After seeing a significant positive trend in the amount of time it took me to fall asleep using the Sleep Sensei, I decided that I wanted data from more users to see if the device worked for others. Thus I started the Sleep Study.
The hypothesis was simple: “The Sleep Sensei will reduce users’ average time to fall asleep.” I made posts on reddit’s /r/insomnia, /r/arduino, and /r/quantifiedself subreddits asking for volunteers for the study using this advertisement (The device was initially named the Sleep Coach). Of the five volunteers who replied to the advertisement and participated, all of them showed some improvement in the time it took them to fall asleep. The full report can be found here, and the raw data from the study can be found here.
Some comments from the study participants:
“I think the quality of sleep has been improving, and I think that’s the Sleep Sensei. When I start having issues again I pull it out and it does help” – Alice S, TX
“I was really impressed with the Sleep Sensei- it cut the amount of time it took me to fall asleep by about half … based on the survey, I basically don’t have insomnia anymore and it feels that way” Marijke S, MA
“The Sleep Sensei allows me to fall asleep in at least under 30 minutes, sometimes even as few as 7 minutes, which is great for me! I would definitely recommend this device to anyone who is on the search for something new to help them fall asleep, someone who perhaps has tried every other sleep aid without finding anything that truly helps yet. The Sleep Sensei is awesome!” – Kate B, GA
“I’ve noticed a HUGE decrease in how long it takes me to fall asleep which has been wonderful! I really like the machine. It’s easy to use and works well.” – Kelly P, LA
Now I want to reach a much wider audience with the Sleep Sensei by launching this Kickstarter. Hopefully it will help others as much as it helped the study participants!
The Sleep Sensei Story
I have trouble falling asleep at night. I used to take over-the-counter remedies, and I've tried prescription stuff, but these either made me feel groggy the next day or had side effects that were not worth the benefits. I then stumbled upon some smartphone apps and devices that use a rising and falling pattern of light to help you fall sleep by training your breathing. I tried these with some success, but I found that they all had one major flaw: they required your eyes to be open. Who in the world tries to fall asleep with their eyes open?!
Using my arduino skills, I set out to create a device that will help coach my breathing to ease myself to sleep with my eyes closed. Thus the Sleep Sensei was born, with its pivoting base and four ultra-bright red LEDs that can shine through eyelids, it was created to address the problems of similar apps and devices.
Choosing the Kickstarter GoalWhen I first started producing Sleep Sensei for the sleep study, I created a simple design that I could manufacture cheaply using parts from my local hardware store. Each one was made by hand, a process that took about 90 minutes per Sleep Sensei (longer if I had to troubleshoot a problem with my low-quality homemade circuit boards).
After receiving such positive feedback from the sleep study, I wanted to bring the Sleep Sensei to the masses, but I knew I couldn’t continue spending hours just to produce a dozen devices. Thus I have turned to outsourcing the circuit board manufacture and assembly as well as making the mechanical components by laser cutting. I secured multiple quotes and found that I need to produce at least 1000 Sleep Senseis in order to make them economically viable. For example, a batch of 100 circuit boards costs over four times more per board than a batch of 1000 boards!
Assuming the Kickstarter is fully funded, this is the plan to make Sleep Sensei a reality:
Rewards Photos and Details
Note: the Sleep Sensei is still under development, so the images below will differ from the final product.
The bare board:
Just the board. Provide your own electrical components and soldering skills to complete the board, or just hang it on your keychain as a token of appreciation for helping this project become a reality.
The Sleep Sensei Kit:
Includes laser-cut parts, assembled electronics board, battery pack (2 AA batteries not included), hinge hardware, and all other necessary hardware (TBD). It should take less than 5 minutes to assemble and will include easy to follow instructions.
The Assembled Sleep Sensei:
The completed Sleep Sensei fully assembled by yours truly.
Risks and challenges
The main risk of this project is not getting enough backers to keep the price low. If I do not gain enough backers, but there is still a positive response, I will look into other ways of producing Sleep Senseis in smaller volume; perhaps reverting to making them by hand (if the demand is reasonably small).
Another risk is if the demand is too high for me to be able to ship all Sleep Senseis myself and still meet the promise dates. If this does happen, I have a couple of shipping logistics companies that I have received quotes from to assist in packaging and shipping the orders. This will cost me more, but if the volume is large enough, cost per unit will decrease and I will not go into the red.
The lead-time for the circuit boards to be produced and assembled is about 1 month, and I have conservatively estimated another month for shipping to my doorstep. I have quotes from 3 different board manufacturers, and I have high confidence that I will be able to meet the deadlines, but unforeseen events can always occur causing the dates to slip. I will update backers with news both good and bad about the progress of Sleep Sensei production. I will also test each Sleep Sensei before I ship it to ensure that all orders are fulfilled right the first time.
No FCC certification is required as the Sleep Sensei is a digital device that runs at 1 MHz (per 15.103 of CFR47, FCC certification is required at 1.705 MHz and above) and does not connect to AC power lines (it is powered by two AA batteries).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (49 days)