TechStage tests the Somnox sleep robot. It should improve sleep with breathing exercises and soothing soundscapes.
Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are high on the list of modern lifestyle diseases. The main causes include overload, stress, professional and private problems or simply wrong sleeping habits. Possible consequences of lack of sleep include not only metabolic disorders and weight gain, but also exhaustion and the resultant loss of concentration and performance.
Somnox wants to counteract bad sleep with high-tech in the form of a sleeping robot and is convinced of its own concept: The Dutch manufacturer not only appeals to various studies from sleep research, but also offers a 30-day return policy. The concept goes back to a successful crowdfunding project, Somnox now delivers its robots with a two-year guarantee and has been able to add many additional functions as part of product maintenance. A prerequisite for use is a smartphone with Android from version 4.3 or iOS 10, communication takes place via Bluetooth 4.0 LE and is only necessary to select the respective program on the robot. The last selected mode is then called up at the push of a button on the device itself.
We test the Somnox sleep robot as part of our theme world on sleep gadgets. We have already tried the Withings Sleep (test report) or the Philips Wake-Up-Light (test report) there.
The fully automated bed buddy in soft cotton robe measures 35.5 x 20.3 x 12.7 cm, breathes in different operating modes, plays sounds and music on request and glows softly. Its curious shape is roughly reminiscent of a kidney bean, which means that it nestles against the body, especially when the embryo is held in a lateral position. In the correct position, the thicker end points upwards towards the user's head and the control panel with the additional input buttons and interfaces away from the body. The comparatively high weight of just over 2 kg also feels comfortable and ensures that the robot does not fall out of the bed at the first movement.
The manufacturer delivered firmware and app updates with new functions several times during the several-month test period, including a more stylish, graphical user interface, a low-power mode to extend the battery life and a function for adaptive breathing. As a result, the sleep robot no longer only moves based on selected programs and speeds, but adapts its behavior to the breathing rhythm of the user. As the time progresses, it slows down its frequency and is intended to have a positive influence on the breathing frequency and depth of the user. In doing so, he relies on the effect that the user automatically and unconsciously adapts to the specifications of the electronic sleep aid in order to ensure a deeper and better sleep overall. It is similar with classic breathing exercises, which are used for relaxation purposes, for example in the field of autogenic training or yoga. All of this is aimed at indirectly influencing the vegetative nervous system, which cannot be controlled voluntarily: slow, deep inhalation and exhalation at a frequency of four to ten breaths per minute should counteract stress-related sleep problems and provide relaxation.
In individual cases, this requires a different length of time, which may even take several weeks to get used to. The manufacturer recommends that you deal with the basic functions of the sleeping robot on the sofa during the day, so that you can fully focus on the movements of the sleeping partner in the evening. A morning charging process ensures uninterrupted operational readiness.
The scope of delivery includes a power adapter. Before the first start-up, the manufacturer recommends charging the 3500 mAh lithium-ion battery for four hours, which should last around 10 hours at a time. After three consecutive test runs of 90 minutes each, the device showed a half full battery, which corresponds to the advertised value. In addition to a clearly designed, multilingual user manual and additional information material, Somnox also includes a cover with a zip that is washable at 60 ° C. Detailed operating instructions are available in the download area on the official website or directly via the smartphone app.
The control panel on the outside is well implemented in several ways. All functions are easy to use even at night. This applies in particular to the on / off button in the middle: if the user wakes up at night after the robot program has already run, one click on the control element inserted inside and the sequence previously programmed by smartphone starts again . Also practical is the volume control, which also serves to fast forward and rewind between the played sounds.
These come from a 16 GByte memory card from Sandisk, which is already installed in the micro SD card reader at the factory, which also allows you to play your own sounds and music – in this way, the user weighs in with Schlager or Death Metal according to individual preferences Sleep. Replacing the memory card with a larger model is possible, but requires cloning using appropriate software: For the proper function, the sleep robot relies on the partitioning and directory structure of the original. Moving to a 64 GB Lexar Professional 1800x micro SD card was no problem with Acronis True Image 2020.
There is one limitation with regard to the MP3 format: a music file with a bit rate of 128 kbit / s was played without problems after the synchronization of the micro SD card via app, a song with a data rate of 320 kbit / s, however, ensured that it was removed from the memory card for crashes and previously only ran for a few seconds. As soon as the manufacturer sends an official statement about the compatibility of music files, the test will receive an update at this point.
A separate button calls up the four-stage fill level indicator of the battery, the white LEDs of which only light up when necessary. All other functional components are hidden inside. These include an electronic air pump that works in the middle of the inward-curved side and fills a small air cushion for breathing simulation, a breath measurement (CO2) and acceleration sensor as well as a loudspeaker hidden under the top facing the head and a subtle night light.
The setup is also easy for less smartphone-savvy users. All steps are carried out via the Android and iOS-compatible Somnox app. This has now largely been translated into German, and English-language fragments can still be found as a rare marginal phenomenon. For the initial account setup, an email and password query, but also the alternative login via Facebook or Google, is available. After a scan of the serial number barcode of the packaging, the sleeping robot and smartphone are connected via Bluetooth. The app is also used to initiate firmware updates. The manufacturer has now made significant improvements to the furnishings, as the selection options are now self-explanatory.
Somnox offers different operating modes. The breathing duration can be set at 5-minute intervals to a maximum of 90 minutes, after which the robot switches itself off until it is activated again by clicking the on / off button. The same applies to the optional sound output, which uses music, natural sounds and spherical sounds. Some of the sounds stored on the SD card, such as spoken words, are already available as files, but should only be used in future software updates.
The assessment of the sounds is likely to be highly subjective in individual cases, so it is also possible to deactivate or play your own music. There is room for improvement with regard to the somewhat treble-heavy speaker, which should give off a warmer and therefore more soothing sound. The freely adjustable breathing rate starts at a maximum of 18 and ends at a minimum of four breaths per minute. Alternatively, the previously mentioned adaptive frequency adjustment is available based on your own breathing rhythm. In both cases, the fewer breaths the robot takes per minute, the longer and deeper they are. That makes a lot of sense: A well-trained hobby athlete generally breathes much more slowly than an editor working at a desk, who spends his free time primarily with coffee, pizza and chips in front of the Smart TV and gaming notebook.
The nap-Function is suitable for a small power nap of 15-30 minutes a day and uses a breathing ratio of 1: 1.5. Exhaling takes 1.5 times as long as inhaling. Somnox recommends a time between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., i.e. during the classic midday low. Taking naps too late can negatively affect sleep quality in the evening. In contrast, the sleep operating mode relies on a breathing ratio of 1: 2 and the relax function on a breathing ratio of 1: 2.5. The latter is intended as a pure breathing exercise in order to relax and switch off in combination with appropriate sounds. Ultimately, it is important to find out which function and frequency the user finds to be particularly pleasant, relaxing and conducive to sleep in the individual case.
Personal opinion: Kai Tubbesing
According to a popular opinion, there is no better guarantee for a peaceful and relaxed sleep than gently gliding into the land of dreams next to a loved one. The brutal reality, however, often looks different, because exactly these sleepers tend to wallow loudly back and forth with a consequence bordering on malicious maliciousness in order to kick themselves, snore with a shattering mark, or claim most of the duvet for themselves. The Somnox sleep robot does not have all these serious disadvantages, but is that why it is the better bed buddy? This question cannot be answered objectively; the assessment depends on too many subjective factors and sensitivities.
It took me two nights to get the Somnox sleep robot to no longer feel like a stranger under the covers. After that, the slow inhalation and exhalation next to me proved to be increasingly pleasant. In my case, stress-related brooding phases are often the reason for falling asleep badly. It was helpful to concentrate on the rhythm of the sleeping robot instead of on your own problems in order to hide your thoughts through this shift in focus and to glide peacefully into the dreamland faster. Finally, using the adaptive frequency adjustment, it was actually easier for me to fall asleep, the breaths of the robot became deeper and slower – at least as far as I was aware of it when I was still half awake.
I have completely foregone the background sound – I am one of those people who cannot switch off even with quiet noises. Since my bedroom window faces a main street, I also use earplugs anyway: the electronic pump and the air cushion inside the robot work quietly, but not without noise, so I didn't perceive them. The operating noise itself is uniform – whether this is a problem in individual cases is likely to vary greatly from user to user. So the bottom line of mine is a clear thumbs up.
Personal opinion: Vera Ahrweiler
I have a very light sleep, the smallest sound wakes me up and I am immediately fully conscious. This may be extremely practical in emergency situations, but noticeably reduces sleep quality in everyday life. So I was as excited as critical of Somnox's sleep aid. The breathing function itself is actually pleasant and calming. It takes a few tries to find the right frequency setting, but only the possibility of individual adjustment according to your own needs should be highlighted positively. Not only is the app easy and intuitive to use, but also the handling of the sleeping robot itself: the control panel only has the necessary input elements, the labeling in the form of tactile pictograms is easy to feel even in the dark.
Switch on, snuggle up, sleep – at least that's the plan. In practice, however, some points of criticism turned out to be a disturbing factor: when I started up the respiratory rate pump caught my eye or rather my ear. When breathing in, the sleeping robot emits a humming sound that is reminiscent of the vibrating alarm of a mobile phone. Instead of relaxing, my brain now wanted me to respond to non-existent messages, so I was awake again. In addition, the device emits a slight pop noise when exhaling – but good, since mechanical components are at work here, it is not silent. The list of possible improvements also includes the desire for a better loudspeaker, because even when played on a notebook, the (deactivable) sleep sounds sound more voluminous and less heavy. While the comparatively high weight is pleasant, the sleeping robot should turn out a bit softer in order to adapt better to your own body shape. The basic idea is good, but unlike my colleague, I didn't really make friends with the sleeping robot.
On the Somnox side, the Sleep Robot costs 599 euros, the street price is currently slightly lower. However, a look at the price history shows that the robot has often been cheaper, for a long time it was available for 499 euros. Setting up a price alert can be worthwhile here.
Somnox sleeping robot
Somnox washable cover blue
Somnox washable cover gray
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Somnox's sleeping robot is certainly one of the most exotic gadgets of recent times, so ambivalent opinions are actually preprogrammed in the comment column. But that shouldn't hide the fact that the manufacturer has launched a largely mature product that can actually help you fall asleep and relax.
The customizable breathing function offers a variety of adjustment options and has a calming effect. Anyone who can get used to the idea of a sleeping robot in bed should give the device a chance. However, it is also clear that when evaluating the meaningfulness or senselessness, the focus is primarily on purely subjective evaluation criteria. This is not least reflected in the two different assessments from the editorial team. Somnox consequently anticipates this fact and offers a 30-day return guarantee to put the device through its paces.
On the objective credit side there is a simple set-up and programming, a high level of user convenience, a well-thought-out smartphone control and a customizable breathing function. If you want to fall asleep without sounds, you can deactivate them. It goes without saying that the breathing function does not work completely silently. One criticism, however, is the loudspeaker – given the purchase price of 600 euros, it could have been a bit better, it does not quite fit the otherwise well thought-out concept and the solid workmanship.
If you are looking for another solution to fall asleep better, you should take a look at our topic world on sleep gadgets. Maybe the Muse 2 Headband (test report) or Withings Sleep (test report) will help?