A Pill You Don’t Have to Swallow Could Be a Solution for Sleep Problems

The tiny Sense sleep tracker uses technology to help you get more rest.

(Photo: Courtesy Sense)

Aug 21, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Patricia Dao is a regular contributor to TakePart. She is a Los Angeles–based serial tech entrepreneur and managing director of the nonprofit Girls in Tech–LA.

Had another night of tossing and turning? You’re not alone. Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. As a result, we rely so much on medications that will help us drift off to dreamland that emergency room visits due to overdoses doubled between 2005 and 2010. Given our issues, it’s no surprise that wearable fitness trackers that come with sleep-tracking capabilities are increasingly popular.



Here’s the downside of the devices: Trackers need to be worn all day and all night to get the right data. Strapping on a silicon bracelet while tucked comfortably in bed is doable, but not ideal. That’s where Sense, a new product from San Francisco–based Hello, comes in. The tiny tech gadget hopes to make sleep tracking a smart and seamless part of your bedroom routine so that you can get more rest.

“With the rise of wearables, we’ve seen that people clearly care about their sleep. But to us it felt so unnatural to be worrying about putting something on, charging it, and remembering to press buttons,” says Hello cofounder James Proud. “We believe that technology needs to disappear. It didn’t make sense to us to be told to put something [on] just as we get into bed. Everything with Sense is designed to fade away. You should simply be able to just sleep.”

The Sense system coordinates information between a futuristic Epcot–looking globe that you can stick on a shelf or dresser and a tiny pillow sensor called a Sleep Pill. The Sleep Pill sensor attaches to your pillow, allowing the Sense system to pick up on any movements you make while you sleep. This not only frees you of wearing a device but also matches your movements with the detected disturbances in your environment.

Users connect the globe and the Sleep Pill through a handy smartphone app that displays their sleep behavior. What makes the Sense stand out from the sleep-tracking pack is that it not only tracks your sleep and works as an alarm, but it also senses the environment in your bedroom.

What does that mean? The quality of your sleep is largely dependent on what’s going on in your bedroom. If the room is too bright, too hot, or too noisy, your sleep quality is compromised. When you wave your hand over the sensor, the device’s LED lights begin to glow a certain color to let you know if your environment is optimal for sleeping.

The Sense app will also report the detected disruptors in your room, such as light, noise, or humidity. Dim the lights, turn off the television, and turn on the air conditioner, and you might be well on your way to visiting Mr. Sandman. For those who have allergies, the particulate sensor in the device is able to detect a rising level of microscopic particles in your bedroom.

If a loud sound, such as an airplane or noisy neighbors, causes you to begin tossing and turning, when you wake up the Sense app will directly report to you when you shifted and why. It even allows you to play back the detected noises. (If you’re waking up on the wrong side of the bed, you may now have the proof you need to convince your neighbors to quiet down.) Bonus: The device will play soothing sounds such as white noise and falling rain to tune out all the disturbing sounds.

At the end of July the Hello team took the product to Kickstarter to raise funding for production. The initial crowdfunding goal of $100,000 was quickly smashed. As of this writing, the project has raised more than $2.3 million—clearly there’s demand for a product that will help us sleep. Want one of your own? The crowdfunding campaign ends on Aug. 22.