Quality of sleep plays a pivotal role in determining one’s attitude, efficiency and general cynicism for the next day. Inspired by this single activity that unifies the diverse lifestyles across the globe, James Proud, a 23-year-old British entrepreneur, introduced the sleep tracker Sense in early 2015. Although there have already been similar sleep-tracking products, Sense represents the culmination of innovations in the field in its integration of sleep pattern analysis with environmental factors.
Sense represents the culmination of innovations in the field in its integration of sleep pattern analysis with environmental factors.
Simple in design, Sense is enclosed in a soft white polycarbonate mesh which protects a wide range of sensors within. Shaped like a tennis ball, the sphere is placed on the bedside table and serves both a decorative and practical function. Although subtle, the device contains a wide range of sensors, including a microphone (which detects noises and is programmed to recognize snoring), a light sensor, a temperature and humidity sensor and a particulate sensor. Together, these sensors provide a comprehensive analysis of environmental factors which influence the user’s sleep pattern. The results of the analysis are displayed in a sleep log which rates and explains the user’s sleep quality throughout the night. For instance, if Sense detects excessive tossing and turning at 2 a.m., it is also able to tell you the environmental factors which might have contributed to this disturbance such as a sudden change of lighting or noise. It is also able to play back noise spikes during the night so that the user can hear the source of disturbance, whether it is a sleep-talking roommate or a stray bear outside the window.
The second component of the device is a small round plastic capsule, called the sleep pill, which contains an accelerometer and gyroscope. It is to be clipped onto a pillow and communicates with the bedside sensor wirelessly. Over time, Sense can learn the conditions that are most conducive to the user’s quality sleep — the user can wave a hand over the device, and it will glow a certain color to indicate whether the room conditions are optimal for sleeping. For instance, a red glow suggests that the user should adjust light or temperature.
Another remarkable function of Sense lies in its integration of sleep cycle analysis to create a Smart Alarm to find the optimal time to wake a user. Sleep is divided into four stages: transition to sleep (lasting about five minutes in which muscle activity slows), light sleep (lasting about 10 to 25 minutes in which heart rate slows and body temperature drops), deep sleep (deepest stage of sleep characterized by slow brain waves and restoration of physical energy) and REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep, lasting about 70 to 90 minutes, during which dreaming occurs and muscles are paralyzed). Individuals waking up during the light sleep stage gain immediate full alertness; those waking up during deep sleep, however, will not only find it painful to wake up, but will also remain groggy for the rest of the morning (this should undoubtedly provoke painful memories for all of mankind of waking up to alarms, or in some regions of the world, roosters). Sleep cycles typically take 90 minutes to complete, and Sense’s Smart Alarm combines calculations of when a cycle is expected to end with motion detection of increased tossing and turning (which typically occurs during light sleep) to wake users during light sleep. The user simply has to set a time to wake up, and the Smart Alarm will rouse the user appropriately, not more than 30 minutes before the set time, and certainly not after.
For the few fortunate individuals who are satisfied with their sleep quality, Sense can serve as a intelligent alarm clock which can ease the pain of early mornings. For the rest of us, Sense’s detailed analysis of sleep patterns in conjunction with environmental factors provides a promising cure to frustrating sleepless nights, whether it means kicking out one’s roommate or alerting the local wildlife control.