This Startup Is Developing A Smart Pillow To Help You Sleep

Everybody needs it, though many busy professionals don’t get enough of it. Sleep.

“If you understand that sleep is a scarce resource then you understand the need for a product that optimizes the amount of time spent sleeping,” said innovator and entrepreneur Zimin Hang, the co-founder and CEO of Ultradia, a lifestyle technology company focused on developing Chrona, a sound-based smart pillow that tracks and optimizes sleep.

Chrona is designed to complement high-performance lifestyles by using scientifically validated sound waves to improve sleep.

“The research shows that even with eight hours of sleep, learning is impaired when deep sleep is interrupted,” he said. Chrona’s technology, called Deep Sleep Boost, is designed to enhance the deep sleep cycle, improving memory and cognition.

During deep sleep, Chrona periodically emits a variation of white noise layered with natural sounds, like rain and fire. “Low frequency sounds mimic deep sleep brain waves,” Hang said. “When the brain is stimulated with the right sounds at the right intervals, deep sleep is optimized.”

Chrona allows any pillow to become a smart pillow by placing a thin latex foam insert into a pillow case. Once installed, Chrona’s built-in speakers and an accelerometer track head and torso movement without compromising the integrity of the pillow.

Hang is quick to point out key differences between Chrona and wearables like Fitbit, and apps that also track sleep patterns.

“Wearables are completely passive,” he said. “They only provide data. A user will get a message in the morning that reports how well or how poorly they slept through the night. If a user slept poorly, getting a report from an app does nothing to change that.”

Hang said Chrona uses sounds that are scientifically proven to actively improve the user’s experience while they sleep.

Hang became passionate about the science of sleep after reading two medical journal papers examining the use of acoustic stimuli to supplement anesthetics. “It was incredible to learn that sound can do what drugs can do,” he said. “Patients undergoing surgery who listened to acoustic stimuli required about half as much anesthetic. I made the assumption that if sound works as an anesthetic then it must work for sleep.”

Hang, a Washington University graduate, began working on Chrona in 2013 and launched a Kickstarter campaign in April of this year. Hang and his team reached their funding goal of $50,000 within six days. The company was also on the receiving end of a $50,000 Arch Grant in October.

Hang said the manufacturing of prototypes will begin early next year, leading to a broad consumer launch by the end of 2016.

Source:Upstart Business Journal, Renee Moore
Photo: The team at Ultradia works to develop a better pillow. (YouTube/Chrona)
Renee Moore is a staff writer with InnoVox STL, a nonprofit that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in St. Louis.