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Somnox: a robot as sleeping aid


Somnox by Auping

Photo: Auping

Work overloads, relationship troubles, worries about the future: when we’re under stress, we take many problems with us to bed at night, which then make it difficult for us to fall asleep. If we try to force sleep, it doesn’t come at all. And exhaustion leads to even more stress, which gradually drives us into a vicious circle. At Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, robotics engineers have been grappling with the subject of poor sleep, leading to the development of Somnox: a product designed to help insomniacs fall asleep by using soft robotics.

Breath regulation and playing soothing sounds are two of the techniques the robot employs to put users into a relaxed sleeping state. Although many people prefer absolute silence in their bedrooms, calming sounds or slow music can contribute to a good night’s rest, because they reduce stress and thus aid relaxation. That’s why Somnox has a range of relaxing sounds at its disposal – including heartbeats and white noise as well as lullabies and meditation music, all of which have been specially selected by a team of audio engineers. You can also upload your own sounds via an app. The volume gradually reduces from the moment you fall asleep.

Calm breathing has a soothing effect on the body and mind. That’s why breathing techniques have been used for centuries to aid relaxation – and why breath regulation is one of the sleep robot’s key functions. It simulates a breathing rhythm suited to falling asleep. If you hold a Somnox unit against your body, you automatically adopt the robot’s rhythm. Likewise, you also follow the rhythm as it gradually slows, which allows our bodies to relax and gives our brains the signal to go to sleep. In addition to the preset breathing rhythms, it’s also possible to create a personalised rhythm based on one’s own breathing.

During the night, the Bluetooth connection to the Somnox device deactivates to reduce disruptive radiation in the bedroom. The data recorded during the night is only sent to the user’s smartphone for evaluation once the Bluetooth connection is reactivated.

The ergonomically shaped robot has an outer cover that is made of the same material as Auping’s mattress covers. Its shape has been designed so that it sits in a natural position against the user’s chest and can be held in their arms. This comfortable pose has a calming effect and contributes to a feeling of safety and relaxation. The soft material adds to the pleasant sensation. Although the case requires specialist dry cleaning, the covers can be washed at 60°C in the washing machine.

Extensive testing has been carried out on the Somnox’s operation. According to the manufacturer, more than 5,000 test subjects gave overwhelmingly positive feedback over a 24-month development and research period. But since everyone has individual sleep preferences, Auping offers potential customers the opportunity to trial a Somnox device for a week. This offer is subject only to the payment of a Euro 15.00 fee for cleaning the cover.