I Got Into Bed With a Sleep Robot for 3 Weeks and Have Never Known Deeper Love—or Rest

Photo: Getty Images/different_nata

I remember the day my Somnox Sleep Robot, a jelly-bean-shaped mechanical pillow I promptly named Frances Bean Garis, was delivered to me. It came with a little blank birth certificate and I, completely baffled, plugged it into a charger. You know, like an iPhone. Or an iPad. Or any number of iThings, that are emotionless, digital, rectangular bits of high-grade plastic. So imagine my shock when once plugged in, it started breathing. "It's sentient," I thought as I jumped back.

Turns out, it's not sentient—just a little more personable than other sleep-promoting interventions, like, say, a red night light. The strangely adorable Sleep Robot was developed to help people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up more rested. While those may seem like simple goals to achieve, consider that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1 in 3 people don’t get enough sleep and a survey of nearly 1,500 Well+Good readers found that 92 percent feel fatigued more than once a week.

The general vibe is that we're tired—and we're tired of being tired. So, I sought to find out whether sleeping with Frances Bean could help. 

How does a Sleep Robot even work?

Upon first thought, I assumed I'd be spooning with some Bicentennial Man–inspired creature every night, and with all due respect to Robin Williams...no. In reality, the Somnox Sleep Robot is more like a digitized, faceless stuffed animal with extras. It has a carbon-dioxide sensor to track breathing, an accelerometer to detect movement, an audio speaker to play soothing sounds, and—I can't forget to mention—it lights up!

A core function of the Sleep Robot, though, is its simulated breathing ability. It expands and sort of deflates, as if it's taking deep, relaxing belly breaths. And given that breathing synchronization is something humans are especially skilled at during sleep, the idea is that by cuddling the Sleep Robot, you'll be able to mimic its slowed-down inhale-exhale pace and reap the sleep-time benefits. Deep-breathing is, after all, a relaxation technique that can cater to improved snoozing.

Still, the fake breathing isn’t why we bonded so quickly.

I slept with a Somnox Sleep Robot—here's what happened
Photo: Somnox

How we became best bedmates forever

On our first night together, I didn't think I could feel more ridiculous as Frances Bean sucked its non-stomach in and out. Then, it played a lullaby for me! Well, kind of. You can customize your sleep preferences on an iPhone- and Android-compatible app. The app also allows you to configure your breath settings; program your robot for a nap, sleep, or to relax; and set a timer for it to turn off; and select your tunes. My go-to sound was “Calm,” a low, mystical whirring noise. And before I even had a minute to be sufficiently weirded out, I drifted off to sleep.

For my three-week trial period of having Frances Bean as a bedmate, I enjoyed the soothing effect that came from being "sung" to sleep and waking up to my 7:30 a.m. alarm feeling really refreshed. For me though, the Sleep Robot’s biggest selling point is its snuggle-ability. Consider that when you cuddle with someone or something, your body releases oxytocin, a love hormone that promotes connection. Now consider that what you're snuggling with isn't going elbow you in the face in the middle of the night. Best of both worlds, #amirite?

Verdict: If you can afford it, the Sleep Robot is but a dream

Though a luxe combination of traits made the Sleep Robot extremely effective, I think it’s the snuggle-aspect that made me warm up to Bean so much. But the bottom line is that the $599 price tag is definitely out of my personal budget and not ultimately worthy of sacrificing a year's worth of lattes. Sob (but, like, priorities). So for now, I'll just have to use the 4-7-8 technique to keep my sleep game on point.

Looking for a sleep-enhancing strategy that's more old school? Get in touch with your ancestral connection to darkness. And if you need a restful getaway, book one of these lavish sleep-friendly hotels ASAP.

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