Eye masks are commonly worn during sleep to block out light. And some folks use nighttime eye masks as beauty treatments. But what if that slumber mask could track bio-signals and provide a data-driven window into a person’s sleep quality? That’s the question that Somalytics Inc. has asked and answered with their new SomaSleep mask. Unveiled at CES 2023, the device tracks eye movements to help the wearer know their sleep stages, disruptions, changes in sleep patterns, and overall sleep quality. Based in Redmond, Washington, the University of Washington tech spinout says they’re shooting for mass production of the mask by the end of 2023 with a planned consumer price of $199.
Tracking REM and non-REM sleep is more important than some may think, offering insights into a host of physiological factors. Non-REM sleep has three stages: light sleep for 5 to 10 minutes in which muscles (including eye movement) relax, a second light sleep stage in which eye movement stops and heart rate slows, and deep sleep with no muscle activity or eye movement. The onset of REM sleep usually happens about 30 minutes after a person goes to sleep. During this stage, breathing gets faster, blood pressure and heart rate increase, dreams are more intense, and the eyes move rapidly.
How does the SomaSleep mask work? Eye movements are tracked by what Somalytics calls “the world’s smallest nano-based capacitive sensors.” These carbon-nanotube paper composite capacitive sensors, called SomaCaps, are highly sensitive and ultra-thin, measuring 1 millimeter in diameter and able to detect human tissue up to 20 centimeters away. And they don’t require much power; one charge of a small battery lasts for eight hours, which is about the time that the average adult sleeps.
Somalytics CEO Barbara Barclay says, “REM is critical for learning and memory. Things such as snoring, back and leg problems, medication, antidepressants, concussions, and stroke and other neurological illnesses can disrupt sleep, and in particular REM. [But] until now, the only option to track REM was through sleep centers.” The SomaSleep mask meets a significant need; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough sleep. One CDC study found that about 75% of participants reported sleep disorder symptoms, including trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and breathing issues. Barclay adds, “This is a transformational moment for in-home wellness and our team is thrilled to have a role in bringing to market such an important product.”