Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Meet Richard Mills, CEO of SleepCogni

Richard Mills, CEO of SleepCogni, is a double award winning medical device innovator. His previous product innovation, Swellaway, went onto raise significant VC funding and won the national Medilink innovation of 2015. He has over 20 years experience in leading internet, medical, and technology companies. He is quoted as being one of the top ten of Yorkshire, UK entrepreneurs.

SleepCogni is the world's first bedside sleep device that integrates cognitive science and CBT, stimulus control, and physiological measures that allow the individual to self-manage their insomnia. SleepCogni combines environmental and personal data into an interactive sensory experience device.

A Kickstarter campaign to fund SleepCogni is currently underway.

1. How did your own difficulties with insomnia help give you the idea for SleepCogni?

I had suffered from insomnia for many years, unable to switch off a busy mind and fall asleep. I was so desperate to find a natural way of falling asleep, and determined to overcome his addiction to sleeping pills that I turned to what I knows best--technology. I believed that the secret was in reversing the ill effects of the daily stimulus and helping the mind and body wind-down with natural sleep cues to a sleep ready state. 

My objective is to help the world rid itself of sleeping tablets. They are addictive and harmful, with over 75M prescriptions for sleep disorders written in the US/UK alone in 2014, an average growth of 23% on the previous year. The Centre of Disease & Control (CDC) say sleep deprivation is now a global health epidemic. 

2. What distinguishes your product from other treatments or products meant to help people sleep?

SleepCogni is the world's first bedside sleep device that integrates cognitive science, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and stimulus control. SleepCogni's patented technology monitors the bedroom environment, but more importantly measures you physiologically, which then allows you, the individual, to self-manage and induce sleep. Our independent clinical research has proven that the way you wind down to sleep can actually improve your overall sleep quality and duration, too.

SleepCogni combines environmental and personal data into an interactive sensory experience using techniques based on CBT, the proven gold standard insomnia treatment. The bedside device produces a personalized program of audio, visual, and tactile natural sleep cues based on the user's physiological state, winding the user down to a relaxing, sleep ready state. Engaging with SleepCogni via the trigger component distracts a busy/wandering mind, and the gradually decreasing sleep cues act as confirmation (bio-feedback) that you are relaxing and unwinding from the blur and stress of the day, allowing you to drift off to sleep.

The uniqueness of SleepCogni is that it is personalized to the user; it monitors the body and--unlike any other device on the market--interacts with it to help the user reverse the ill-effects of the day and to induce sleep. SleepCogni also works as a training program, which means it becomes more effective the more it's used as it teaches you to wind down.

3. How does SleepCogni help to counteract the negative effects of the light we take in all day and evening from TV, computers, phones, etc?

Stress and over-stimulus in day to day life is contributing to our inability to fall sleep and stay asleep. We are all being hyper-aroused and over-stimulated from the moment we wake up through all of our visual, sound, and tactile senses. Many things are triggering our "fight and flight" mode. Unnatural sounds and artificial lighting can interfere with our biological clock delaying the natural cues our body receives throughout the day to which circadian phase we are in and ultimately the onset of sleep.

For many, our normal pattern of winding down before bed now involves watching films, using smart phones or tablets, catching up with social media, or browsing the internet before bed. But it is these devices that emit blue light to which our body is most sensitive. Such sub-optimal lighting suppresses melatonin and disturbs our biological clock, delaying our natural cues‎ to sleep. SleepCogni's sensory wind down program helps to counteract the effects of these devices.

4. What are the roles of sound and light when it comes to helping us sleep?

After extensive research, we found that your senses all naturally wind down as you get ready to sleep. Firstly, this happens through visual cues and the light sequence. Secondly, you focus on audio cues through our stereo speakers washing soundwaves over you, listening more intensely as your eyes become tired. Finally, you experience a gentle vibration for tactile cues through the trigger device.

Recent studies have shown that blue light (short-wavelength) has a greater effect on shifting the circadian clock and on melatonin suppression.

One study examined the effects of reading on a light-emitting device compared with reading a printed book. Participants who read on light-emitting devices took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep [the phase when we dream], and had higher alertness before bedtime [than those people who read printed books]. SleepCogni avoids using blue light. Instead, we use non-stimulating wavelengths (≥ 510nm).

SleepCogni has an array of sensors that feeds back into the generation of specific sounds which will bring down your heart rate, calm down the mind, and help you sleep more quickly. The music and soundscapes (of which there will be more than one and personalized) will consist of elements that can change tempo, timbre, and pitch.

5. How did you decide on Kickstarter to launch your product--and what are you offering to people who support your campaign?

I really like the idea of crowdfunding, people around the world helping designers and entrepreneurs get their idea/product innovation off the ground. Kickstarter is a global platform, and we believe we have a product that can help sleep sufferers / insomniacs get a good night sleep around the world.

We are offering early birds, before the 10th of December, a 50% discount and to be first to use the bedside device for just £99 / $149. Learn more at

Thanks, Richard!

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