Can cuddling a breathing robot cure insomnia?

Can cuddling a breathing robot cure insomnia? The kidney-shaped device designed to help you drift off

  • Sleep robot plays soothing sounds and ‘breathes’ at a slow and steady pace
  • The 14 x 8 x 5in Somnox comes with a birth certificate and is nestled in a ‘cradle’
  • You set a ‘breathing speed’ to make you drowsy, based on your age and weight

Since my marriage ended a few years ago, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I’ve never been able to stop churning things over when I’m supposed to be winding down.

Also, I tend to wake suddenly and can’t seem to drift off again.

I’d gradually learned to accept that insomnia was my constant companion, even to welcome it as extra time to catch up on reading.

But then a spate of major life changes arrived at once. In just four months, I sold my home of 33 years, filed for a long-overdue divorce, moved towns with my new partner and — owing to a hideous commute — quit my job.

In a pantomime puff of smoke, everything familiar to me was gone. And so was any escape I got from sleep.

I tossed. I turned. I watched box sets. I drank wine that made me slumber, only to wake up in a cold sweat at 2am. I read much too much and ruined my sleep patterns. I made herbal tea then woke up to use the loo.

The 14 x 8 x 5in Somnox comes with a birth certificate in a box coyly referred to as a ‘cradle’ (stock image)

For the past three months, normal sleep has deserted me, despite relaxation apps and boring podcasts. Then I was offered a trial run with a sleep robot.

It sounded like something from sci-fi show Humans, but I was relieved to find there was no artificial intelligence, no automated body to jump into bed with. This was a relief, as I’m not sure my partner, Juliano, would have been too thrilled with R2-D2 joining us.

The sleep robot wasn’t much of a robot at all, as it turned out. It was a large, curved cushion that you are supposed to cuddle. But I have a cat for that. And a man. Why would I need a large kidney bean?

Well, I’ve been doing the entire Mad Men box set, and due to my drooling over Don Draper in the small hours, Juliano has decamped to the spare room for half the week. So anything was worth trying.

The 14 x 8 x 5in Somnox comes with a birth certificate in a box coyly referred to as a ‘cradle’. 

For a while I thought I was adopting a Cabbage Patch Doll. It was quite easy to set up: plug in, charge, download the app to your phone and off you go to Sleepytown. In theory. 

The user’s own breathing falls into step, which in turn, regulates and slows your heartbeat, getting you ready to sleep (stock image)

The idea is that, as well as being a cuddly companion and playing soothing sounds, the Somnox also ‘breathes’ at a slow, steady pace, making noises and moving in and out, like a chest.

The user’s own breathing falls into step, which in turn, regulates and slows your heartbeat, getting you ready to sleep.

You set a ‘breathing speed’ designed to make you drowsy, based on recommendations from the app based on your age, height and weight (cheeky ruddy robot), then choose how long the program should run.

You also select sounds from a cornucopia of options such as storms or rainforest noises. I find ‘wind’ too stressful but love the sound of the sea.

You can add your own sounds if you prefer to listen to music.

You set a ‘breathing speed’ designed to make you drowsy, based on recommendations from the app based on your age, height and weight (stock image)

So far, so good. Apparently the embryonic shape of the robot is designed for cuddling, to give you a feeling of comfort.

But hugging it made me feel more like Nora No Mates.

The robot is actually quite firm. I’d prefer the cat, but the feeling isn’t mutual.

Still, I turned it on. And lo, it began to breathe. But louder than I expected. It was a bit like sleeping with a trucker.

However, it does work. I immediately began to match my breathing to the machine.

It is relaxing. It’s also quite eerie. It reminded me of being pregnant and having the baby move — odd, but calming.

You also select sounds from a cornucopia of options such as storms or rainforest noises (stock image)

I listened to birdsong and a forest walk, but had to press the cushion to my ear to hear the sounds over the heavy breathing. 

I am possibly a bit deaf, and a bit cack-handed, and managed to switch it off several times while fiddling with the volume button. I then had to reset the program using Bluetooth and my phone app.

So, does it help? Well, yes. Once I got it working, I drifted off to sleep in no time at all, and even napped with it in the day.

But it proved cumbersome when I woke in the night, and it was jammed against my chin. Conjugal visits from the Mister ceased as he couldn’t stop laughing long enough to sleep.

And ultimately, I just couldn’t shake the stigma of snuggling up with a robot. ‘I have friends,’ I wanted to shout. ‘And I’m not pining for someone to keep me company at night.’

So it’s back to the boring podcasts, relaxation apps and sharing a bed with a human. Well, if he ever stops laughing.

n £549, meetsomnox.com

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