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Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Weirdest Product at MWC 2022 Is a Sleep-Aid Gas Dispenser

Expectedly, MWC 2022 was a showcase of plenty of phones—even if they didn’t exactly knock our socks off—while laptop and tablet innovations tried their best to keep things exciting. But it isn’t all about your everyday screen-based gadgetry at MWC, as evidenced by this device echoing the sentiment of this year’s show. It aims to send you to sleep … on purpose, in a potentially worrying way.

The Gosleep is an air-purifier, wireless charger, Bluetooth speaker, and mood light all in one—but none of those are important. The “Sleep Air” to induce drowsiness is the product’s main feature. Sleep Air isn’t some clever concoction of your garden-variety pillow spray, though. It’s “a light level of CO2” (carbon dioxide).

The marketing pitch is simple: “Ever felt drowsy in a closed car or in a crowded classroom? It’s because of CO2.” Or rather, higher levels of CO2 than normal in the air mix in those potential situations.

Gosleep says that, “according to various researchers,” including a paper by Stephen Snow (2018), elevated carbon dioxide concentration indoors stimulates the medulla oblongata—the lowest part of the brain and lowest portion of the brain stem—which plays a key role in controlling heartbeat and respiration. The result? You get sleepy, claims Gosleep.

The device itself, made by South Korea–based NYX, looks like an odd hybrid of a high-end speaker gone wrong and a rotating column fan, with a long, rectangular arm attached for good measure. This arm floats over when you sleep (“looms” might be more accurate), distributing the Sleep Air alongside an aroma and ASMR sounds for 15 minutes. The base column conceals a replaceable CO2 canister.

Once Gosleep finally lulls you into slumber, it’ll then supposedly also analyze your nighttime environment, too—measuring humidity, temperature, CO2 concentration, light levels, and noise. From the accompanying app, you’ll then be advised on the best conditions for your sleep.

Gosleep says it knows the optimal setup for getting you off to the land of nod as it uses sound-tracking to monitor your total sleep time, number of snores, deep sleep, sleep diet (when you wake up in the morning and how much REM, light, or deep sleep you get), and sleep improvement (how your snooze time progresses while using the product). If you think there seems to be some crossover between these categories, we agree. Gosleep says the marketing literature is not finalized.

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As no good sleep is complete without a pleasant morning wake-up, Gosleep has that covered too. At your set time to rise, the arm will give off a fresh air aroma—including added oxygen and a scent—and raise the light levels in the arm to gently rouse you, hopefully refreshed.

Gosleep says its device is for general commuters, shift workers, parents, and students—but we’re unsure why older generations and everyone else aren’t deserving of a refreshing night’s sleep. Further, as an electronic device without need for prescription, Gosleep says it could offer assistance with sleeping difficulties and disorders.

But, hang on. Wouldn’t the thought of having extra carbon dioxide whirling around your mouth and nose while you sleep keep you up at night? It’s an extremely worthy concern, as high levels of CO2 can cause permanent brain damage and lead to comas, or even to death. And even if it isn’t potentially dangerous, will it even work?

On the latter, WIRED spoke to the same Stephen Snow, postdoctoral research fellow from University of Queensland, whom Gosleep cites in its own literature. But Snow says there is a lack of correlation between his paper and what Gosleep’s leaflet says it demonstrates.

“I see they have cited this paper as saying that CO2 in an indoor space ‘stimulates the medulla oblongata in the brain, making people hazy and drowsy.’ This might be true, but we don't mention the medulla oblongata in this paper,” Snow says. “So it's not technically a correct attribution to this specific paper.” Further, Snow says both this paper and another he has authored sought to test the effect of CO2 on “work ability (i.e., drowsiness).” This is particularly important as, according to Snow, drowsiness isn’t quite the same as sleepiness, and, furthermore, his paper didn’t reach any strong conclusions on the subject.

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On whether the device could work, Snow is unsure. “There is less literature on the effect of introducing pure CO2 (which is what Gosleep is proposing),” he says. As such, Snow declares the findings of his paper “do not completely support the argument made by Gosleep, but they also don’t refute them.”

We put Snow’s comments to Gosleep corporate adviser James Jeong here at MWC 2022. On the distinction between drowsiness and sleepiness, Jeong says he doesn’t see one. “It’s hard to see the difference at night,” and their testing has produced results where “people felt differently.” He says Gosleep’s testing currently shows results of sleep being induced over the course of 90 minutes, and they are aiming to get it down to an hour. Where Jeong does outline a distinction is between inducing sleep and making you sleep—he says the Gosleep device only does the former.

But what of the testing to verify the company’s claims? Snow’s academic paper was published during his time at the University of Southampton in the UK, while, for now, Jeong says Gosleep’s testing is ongoing. The research involves just 13 patients at the Seoul Asan Hospital in South Korea, and Jeong says the company is hoping to get the results recognized by the Scientific Citation Index Expanded (SCIE)—a publisher of curated scientific journals. But that’s not happened yet, and Jeong says this is the company’s primary research for the product.

Then there’s the issue of carbon dioxide. Too much in a room can be dangerous, with 1,000 to 2,000 parts per million causing drowsiness and poor air, while 2,000 to 5,000 ppm has more severe effects. “Headaches, sleepiness, and stagnant, stale, stuffy air. Poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate, and slight nausea may also be present,” according to flue gas and engine exhaust analyzers Kane.

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The effects get worse from there as CO2 levels rise. Gosleep wouldn’t state the exact proportions of CO2 in its Sleep Air mix, just that the device comes with a sensor to indicate if the concentration levels in your room are correct (as set by Gosleep).

Gosleep is set to cost an eye-opening $2,000, with a launch in South Korea set for April, the US following in June/July, and then the rest of the world in 2023. You’ll also be able to pay around $40 per month to use the product via a subscription service, but the details aren’t yet finalized on how this method of payment will work. Nevertheless, Gosleep says there may be a period where you’ll get CO2 bottles for free, but after this initial trial they’ll be around $5 per month on top.

But we’d strongly recommend seeing how the research comes along—and whether there’s more research to come—before considering a purchase. Nobody wants to pay the ultimate price for a good night's sleep.


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