how i lie I lie in bed spooning my little robot, one hand on its gently curled tummy as it slows my breathing, and I’m struck by the memory of making love to my children when they were babies. It can be comforting to share your bed. research suggests that we report better sleep when the bed is shared, even when objective measurements show sleep quality has deteriorated. (It helps that my current sleeping partner plays soothing rain sounds and doesn’t need a bottle at 3am.)
Somnox 2 is a disembodied, bean-shaped torso designed to gradually slow your breathing as you subconsciously match its rhythm. It can adjust to your breathing rate to calm you down and help you fall asleep. Its soporific power is amplified by a speaker that reproduces dreamy soundscapes or nature sounds. You can tweak everything from an app on your phone.
The original Somnox was born from a Kickstarter campaign in 2017, and this improved model has been in the works for four years. The new version is smaller and lighter with a larger breathing range, longer battery life and an improved speaker. But other key upgrades, like Bluetooth audio streaming and sleep tracking, are still “coming soon,” making the $600 price tag a lot harder to swallow than a sleeping pill.
Somnox 2 is just over 12 inches long and weighs less than 4 pounds. It’s upholstered in a soft fabric with memory foam underneath and has a simple control panel for turning it on and off and adjusting the volume. An internal pneumatic system fills and deflates an air bladder in an impressive simulation of natural breathing. It’s as easy as snuggling, spooning, or putting a hand on it.
The Somnox app offers a variety of breathing exercises. You can use the bot to calm you down during the day or even increase alertness, but its main purpose is to help you fall asleep at night. When you turn on Somnox Sense and hold it against your body, it adjusts to your breathing rate and helps you breathe longer and deeper, gradually slowing your heart rate and making it easier to fall asleep. It combines a six-axis accelerator and a three-axis gyroscope with a proprietary algorithm to achieve this.
The default settings worked well for me and I relaxed and fell asleep faster with the Somnox 2 than without. Somnox starts with a breathing rate of 12 breaths per minute and steadily decreases to six. It uses a standard 1:2 ratio, so the exhale is twice as long as the inhale. If you feel the need, you can set a specific breathing rate, adjust the ratio, and change your Sleepbot’s breathing intensity (how loud and deep it breathes).
That Science behind Somnox is solid, and the latest version had input from sleep experts and scientists. A clinical study is in the works to be released later this year. But the effects of controlled breathing on our ability to relax are undeniable. The thing is, you don’t need a $600 robot for this. There are countless apps such as Calm or shortness of breath, that may help. Somnox’s selection of soundscapes and natural sounds is also similar to what many apps and other sleep gadgets offer.
It’s nice to snuggle up to someone or something in bed, but physical presence is all that makes Somnox unique. Whether that’s enough to justify the high price is debatable, especially when you consider the other downsides.
Somnox 2 helped me fall asleep, but not sleep. my sleep tracker, Withings Sleep Tracking Pad ($99), showed no change in the average duration or quality of my sleep. I found it a little uncomfortable waking up with a dead weight next to me. Sometimes when I rolled over in my sleep it would throw it out of bed to hit the floor.
We had connectivity issues with the original Somnox, and I was disappointed to find that its successor, while more reliable, still won’t connect to the app at times for no apparent reason. Having to type through a connection process every time I open the app is annoying.
Once set, you can trigger your sleep program with the power button on the Somnox 2, but it will only run one program at a time. To change it or tweak the settings or tones, you need to make a selection in the app and upload it to your Somnox. The process is cumbersome and takes longer than it should.
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