We don’t usually think of robots as comforting objects — let alone cuddly bed companions. But few robots are quite like the Somnox, a fuzzy bean-shaped gadget that falls somewhere between a body pillow and a robotic pet. Created by four engineering students in the Netherlands, the $599 device promises to help its users fall asleep faster, sleep more restfully, and wake up feeling refreshed.
Winner of a 2019 Red Dot Design Award, the Somnox aims to be your “little spoon.” Hold it against your body at night, and you’ll feel it “breathe” in a soothing rhythm, causing you to automatically synchronize your own breathing with that of the robot. The bot also features a CO2 sensor in its “head” that slows down the pace of its breathing motion to match yours as you fall asleep.
The Somnox’ designers explain: “By synchronizing your breathing rhythm to that of the Sleep Robot, you will reach a steady and slower breathing rhythm. This deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in your body, because it will send a message to your brain with the command to relax your body. This will result in a good and long night’s sleep.”
The team came up with the idea for the bot after suffering from stress-related sleep deprivation themselves, saying: “Rather than reaching for addictive medication, we found breathing, audio, and affection to be effective and proven methods to naturally induce sleep. Being personally exposed to the effects of sleep deprivation, we made it our mission to bring the world better sleep with the ultimate sleep companion: the Somnox sleep robot. Our mission is to help 100,000 people achieve a good night’s rest with the world’s best natural step solution by 2025.”
Just having something soft to cuddle at night can help you relax, but the Somnox offers some things your pillow (or cat, or partner) probably can’t: built-in audio with guided meditations, lullabies, heartbeats, or whatever sounds of your own that you might want to upload. Even better, these sounds automatically adjust in volume and eventually turn off after a set period of time. The Somnox even boasts a built-in “wake-up breathing program” and alarm that will wake you up with your music of choice and a soft glowing light.
Users say the pillow has a “belly” that rises and falls as the Somnox breathes, and the effect sort of feels like a purring cat. It’s about the size and weight of an infant, and covered in a soft heavy-duty fabric. A companion app lets you input factors like gender, age, and body mass index to determine the ideal breathing tempo and allows you to fine-tune it until it’s right for you. You can also set the duration of the breathing period anywhere from five to 90 minutes each night, and choose from three settings: nap, sleep, or relax.
At nearly $600, the Somnox isn’t exactly cheap, and its features may simply not be enough for people who suffer from insomnia and other serious sleep conditions. But if you could use just a little more comfort and companionship to lull you off to sleep, the sleep robot might feel like a better option than the many more invasive sleep augmentation gadgets on the market, like wearables that track your biorhythms.