Somnox for better sleep and relaxation in the healthcare

by | May 23, 2018

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The world’s population is getting older, while anxiety and sleep deprivation are increasing issues in the society (Stranges et Al. 2012WHO, 2017). In the near future, the number of caregivers will be deficient to take care of the new generation of senior adults (World Alzheimer Report, 2013). At the same time, more and more institutions try to reduce their number of medication, open to try alternative solutions. After initial research in this area and showed interest from healthcare institutions, Somnox is now working on a further development of the sleep robot for better sleep and relaxation also in the healthcare.

This is where we come in; Sara and Camilla from Sweden. We are two Master Thesis workers, studying Industrial Design Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. Our aim is to redesign the sleep robot in a way that it easily can be implemented in the healthcare.

We started off our work with a pre-study of patient groups that we saw could benefit from the sleep robot. People with an anxiety disorder, neuropsychiatric disorder and physical disability were a few of the patient groups that we found potential. To better understand the user, we chose to focus on one specific target group, where we decided to look further into people with dementia. This is a critical patient group that sets high requirements for the design, which is positive since it can cover other patient groups’ demands as well. In addition, several elderly cares in the Netherlands had already shown significant interest of the sleep robot. 

The target group: Elderly with dementia

Dementia includes different types of diseases, where Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form. There are around 50 million people living with this condition worldwide and every three seconds, someone develops Dementia (Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2015). The illustration below describes the most common symptoms that we have to consider when redesigning the sleep robot for this target group.

Testing the sleep robot: A variety of interpretations

In order to spot improvements and opportunities for the development, we tested the current sleep robot with people with dementia in healthcare facilities in Sweden and in the Netherlands, during both day and night. Our aim of the tests was to observe their reactions and to understand how the sleep robot can be incorporated in the routines in the healthcare facility. We did not validate the effects of the sleep robot on their sleep, as it requires a longer implementation process and more test nights.

The sleep robot was used in several positions and many elderly found it to be very interesting to interact with.

The reactions from the test persons were amazing for our study! We observed a great variety of interpretations and ways of using the product. The abstract shape got many names from the elderly, such as a child, pig and a pillow. The interesting insight from the observations was that many test persons stopped their habitual twitching from motoric anxiety and interacted calmly with the sleep robot, which shows a great potential.

The redesign: A simple, safe and hygienic priority

We are currently working on implementing our findings from the research in a redesign of the product. We started off this phase by ideating on over 70 different solutions that were further iterated. Now we have a number of solutions that we want to narrow down to one concept through prototyping and evaluation.

The design phase includes sketching, rapid prototyping and feedback sessions with the research team at Somnox and nurses from elderly cares.  

During the redesign, we are also focusing on how to use the sleep robot for relaxation during the day. Many individuals with dementia experience motoric anxiety during daytime and seek stimulation in objects to calm down. Therefore, we have to make the sleep robot safe to not enable them to unintentionally open up the sleep robot. Simultaneously, we see a potential in using the sleep robot for releasing their motoric anxiety by intentionally adding a calming material or tactile detail that they can fidget with. Using the sleep robot during daytime requires another shape that can be balanced better in the user’s knee.

Lastly, we need to consider the caregivers in the design solution and make sure that the interaction is easy for them. Here we are especially looking at the maneuvering, charging, hygiene and storage of the product. Additionally, we want to make the maneuvering accessible for relatives and next of kin when used outside the healthcare facility.

Our next step is to fine-tune the concept that we find most promising. We hope that the future of this sleep robot will reduce anxiety and improve sleep of elderly with dementia as well as other patients. In a long-term perspective, we also hope that we can reduce the workload for caregivers.

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