Can a smart sleep mask help with insomnia and jet lag?
For night shift workers, those who have trouble falling or staying asleep and anyone who's suffered from jet lag, the makers of a new sleep mask think they have a solution. Resembling a regular sleep mask, the Neuroon is a wireless device that connects to a mobile app to monitor your brain waves, analyze your sleep patterns, and use bright light therapy to supposedly help improve sleep quality.
The Neuroon sleep mask is built around the premise that bright light therapy can help people who have difficulty falling asleep or waking up during normal hours. Studies have shown light therapy's effectiveness and sleep clinics have been incorporating it since 2014.
Light therapy typically involves lamps that generate faux sunlight directly onto the body at intervals and timing that depend on the individual's particular sleep situation. In this case, though, the light is in the mask itself, with different combinations of light coming from the white and colored LEDs inside.
The light therapy programs are determined based on data collected through electrodes that touch the skin on the user's forehead. Unlike other sleep masks that only measure the user's pulse and body movement, the Neuroon also measures brain waves, body temperature and eye movement.
Depending on the user's need and situation, the light therapy can be implemented before going to bed to ensure quality sleep, before waking up to provide a less abrupt waking experience, or during the day to either enhance energy or relieve the effects of jet lag. We aren't sure how many people will want to put on a sleep mask only to stay awake and shine some light on their eyes, but that's the working theory anyway.
Three different components make up the Neuroon system: the mask itself (made of hypoallergenic material), a removable sensor pack (this is the part you take out and charge via microUSB), LED lights and electronics encased in the mask and the companion mobile app.
When the sleep mask is connected to the app, it generates a sleep analysis, for things like how long it took the user to fall asleep, sleep duration and sleep patterns. This data is added to a sleep score that also includes the user's reported experience while asleep. Several different light therapies can then be cooked up depending on the data and individual user's sleep needs.
Some of the modes in the app include:
- Jet Lag Blocker: helps combat the sleep disorders associated with rapid time zone changes
- Sunrise: uses bright light therapy to wake the user when he or she is in the lightest rather than deepest sleep phase
- Personal Pause: lets users plan ideal nap times based on their historical data
- Biorhythm Adjuster: uses light therapy to adapt the user's circadian clock to irregular wake up times and lifestyles often associated with shift work
The modes that integrate into normal sleep times sound useful, but some of these sound like they would require people to strap on a mask for light therapy sessions during the day while awake. Wearing a mask while you're sleeping is one thing; putting one on just to plan for better sleep later that night is a lot to ask.
Another company attempting to address the sleep quality issue with a sleep mask solution is Napwell which, in 2014, introduced a sleep mask that incorporated an alarm clock and LED lights to wake the user up gradually. Perhaps that's all products like this really need to do.
The Neuroon sleep mask costs US$299 following the completion of a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $438,000 in 2013. It finally started shipping to backers last month and is now available for to the public to order from the product page below.