DREAM STATE: Multisensory Design Stimuli to Somnolence

To be in a deep slumber is synonymous to being in a very restful mood allowing your mind and body to recharge and rejuvenate. Often indicated by reaching a dream state, the act of sleeping is as essential as eating food and drinking water.  How do we really reach this state? Do we just naturally fall asleep or can we induce it? Would we have to rely on soporific products and perform rituals in order to doze off? 

Sleep or its scientific term Somnolence, has long been widely studied by physiologists and psychologists alike. Issues would normally include conditions associated with sleeping patterns and disorders.  Not surprisingly, common problems relate to the amount and quality of sleep that a person gets at night. Are grandma and grandpa sleepy during the day?–may be a question for some of us which may be caused by an excess or lack of proper sleep. 

What contributes to achieving a genuinely good sleep? Does our spatial environment play a role in its quality? How have our sleep spaces and its elements evolved over time?

A History of Sleeping Surfaces article was recently published by mattress company Owl+Lark. It investigated and explored the ways as to where and how people choose to sleep.  It revealed the earliest bed discovered in South Africa almost 77,000 years ago as testament to sleep as an ancient human ritual.  This and other excavations that followed highlighted the importance of the bed as central to our domestic life.  Prehistorically made of stone or wood, the sleeping surfaces of the past mirror the ingenuity of man as gatherers who collected resources from what is available nearby.  As blankets for cover during cold climatic conditions, they used either leaves or animal hide for protection.  More advanced civilizations such as the  Egyptians, Indians, and Greeks have created bed frames sprung with cord.  The article even clarified that “the exhortation ‘sleep tight’ comes from the fact  the supports were woven in such a way that sagging ropes could be pulled taut”.

Sleep Foundation is a non-profit corporation whose main goal is to become the most reliable source of trustworthy sleep information.  While their content is primarily hinged on the medical aspects of sleep, they also deliver articles that spawn creativity. Their article How to Design the Ideal Bedroom for Sleep tackles the visual design aspects of a bedroom which include: the use of warm and appealing colors, usable layouts, reduction of clutter, and the feeling of home. More interestingly, it shares practical ideas that designers may focus on when generating creative concepts motivated by the fulfillment of physical and mental relaxation in the sleeping environment. Such elements of design addresses and responds to all of our bodily senses through experiences affected by:

  • LIGHT
  • SOUND
  • SMELL
  • TEMPERATURE
  • AIR QUALITY
  • MATTRESS & BEDDING

The architecture and design magazine Dezeen has archived a collection of products designed for sleeping over the last decade and featured innovative solutions offered by recognized designers from across the globe. Some of them include:

Sleepy Chair- A chair as a Blanket designed by  DDAA (Tokyo 2010) which was conceived as a thin mattress folded as a chair.  Inspired by the musical instrument concertina, it “provides a space of warmth and happiness”.

Sleepy Chair sourced from DDAA

Night Night – is a lamp created by Swedish designer Vanessa Hordies (Stockholm 2011) to work like an hourglass as it dims the light to put one to sleep within a 15-minute period–as a response to scientific studies showing how we normally fall asleep between 10 to 20 minutes.

Im Blanky designed by Studio NMinusOne and Rodolphe el-Khoury (Toronto 2012)- This blanket is embroidered with tiny sensors to ‘watch you sleep’. An innovative project, it “aligns ornamental craft with digital technology to invest the intelligence and knowledge built into traditional materials and forms with a renewed purpose and relevance in increasingly networked environments”.

Somnox is both the name of the company and its exciting product which claims to make you ‘fall asleep faster’. As their corporate statement, they “help poor sleepers with drug-free and validated sleep solutions to reduce stress and restlessness, resulting in better and deeper sleep”. The robotic Somnox pillow, designed and displayed at the Dutch Design Week (Delft 2017) gently breathes as it puts one to sleep echoes the company’s slogan: Breathe Better, Sleep Better.

Somnox Pillow sourced from Dezeen

With all these amazing soporific creations, we now have a myriad of ways to reach our desired dream state. However, you may still choose to count sheep to put yourself to sleep.

Cover image sourced from Pexels as shot by Ron Lach

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