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Wearable Device Puts Insomnia to Bed

A new wearable device is set to join the frontlines in the battle against insomnia. The lightweight tracking ring is worn on a finger and reteaches people how to develop a longer, deeper sleep pattern.

The ring, developed by tech company Thim in collaboration with researchers from Flinders University, is connected wirelessly to a user’s smartphone and wakes the person with a gentle vibration during their lightest sleep stage – a process that is repeated continually. Thim’s Chief Scientist, Prof Leon Lack, said research showed that repeatedly dozing off helped the body learn to fall asleep again faster, and also increased sleep duration by an hour.

The ring also serves as a “power nap” trainer to help people achieve optimum benefit from having a daytime nap. “The secret of the perfect power nap is to sleep for exactly 10 minutes. Sleeping for more than 20 minutes will leave you feeling groggy upon waking, and sleeping for five will provide no benefit,” Lack said.

“Because Thim knows when you’ve fallen into the first and lightest stage of sleep to the minute, it knows when to begin timing your perfect 10-minute power nap. The best option you have now is setting your alarm, which doesn’t know when you fall asleep.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 30–35% of adults in the United States have brief bouts of insomnia and almost 10% have a chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least three times per week for at least 3 months.

Thim’s Lead Engineer Vera Townsend said the idea was to develop something people forgot they were wearing. “We’ve gone through hundreds of iterations – we’ve given our 3D printer a serious workout,” Townsend said. “With every iteration we have definitely learned something new and it has improved our design.”

The device could be available as early as December. Each Thim wearable will then cost $100 upon commercialisation and the app will be available via Google Play and the App Store.

Thim has also developed the Re-Timer headgear, which directs a soft, UV-free green light onto the eyes to stimulate the part of the brain responsible for regulating the 24-hour body clock, making it easier to overcome jet lag. More than 30,000 Re-Timer units have been sold worldwide since its launch in 2012.

Caleb Radford Adapted from The Lead South Australia / CC by 4.0