Stress, anxiety, insomnia, and low quality of sleep are growing problems in society, partially due to our stressful modern lifestyles. An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep insufficiency and bad quality of sleep are correlated with an increased risk of anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and high blood pressure. 40 percent of the people that look for medical assistance regarding sleep problems have a psychiatric disorder and more than 70 percent of patients with depression have insomnia.
This is raising the need for portable, at-home devices that can help increase people's sleep quality and wellbeing (the revenue of sleeping aids was $69.5 billion in 2017 and is projected to be $101.9 billion by 2023). Although an increasing number of products that aim to quantify sleep and physical activity are available in the market, most efforts have gone towards improving sleep tracking accuracy instead of developing solutions for improving sleep quality. In addition, current devices are limited to display-based interfaces on smartphones or watches that show diagrams and tips to improve lifestyle. However, little research and development have gone into developing solutions that aim to interact with people in a more subtle manner to improve their wellbeing. Part of the problem may well be that our technologies are mainly focused on audio and visual feedback. In contrast, the sense of smell differs from other forms of perception by being closely tied to the emotional center of the brain. The olfactory bulb has direct connections to the two brain areas that are responsible for processing and controlling emotions and memories. Unlike other modalities, scents can be presented during sleep and have a measurable effect on sleep and dreams without awakening the subject. Previous scientific research has shown how odors can modulate mood, cognition and behavior to reduce stress and improve sleep quality. Unfortunately, current scent technologies used in sleep laboratories are not portable and require the use of nasal masks and large olfactometers that cost up to $100K.
This is why we created Lotuscent
We believe using scent during sleep represents an interesting way of improving sleep quality and a means of interacting with the sleeper without disturbing them. While traditional user interfaces have focused on visual, audio or haptic modalities, both olfactory and sleep interfaces are still in their infancy. We hope to change this with the introduction of the Lotuscent device.