Hillel's Tech Corner: Working toward the ultimate sleep experience

NYX Technologies is a neurotechnology company that is currently developing a wearable headband that monitors and changes brain activity during sleep.

Employees of Haifa-based NYX Technologies.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Employees of Haifa-based NYX Technologies.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
We are still collectively trying to navigate through the changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the rising number of confirmed cases; many countries going on lockdown; and the global economy coming to a halt, stress and anxiety levels have been on the rise and possibly at an all-time high. It hasn’t been easy for any of us to experience the disruption of our daily lives. Between quarantines, school closures, social distancing and working from home (when possible), these changes have proven to be profound and overwhelming. I’d love to say the worst is behind us, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
When we experience a challenging time in our lives, more often than not, physical factors such as appetite and proper sleep are affected negatively. As far as the importance of a proper night’s sleep, it should not be underestimated, as it is one of many essential components for a strong and healthy state of mind needed to tackle our day-to-day activities that require physical strength. Simply put, a person’s quality of sleep can directly impact how they achieve success, be it personal or professional.
And yet, there is one important thing that managed to fall between the cracks while we have been trying to hold everything together during crisis mode, and that is the quality of our sleep.
Sure, many of us have been sufferers of insomnia well before novel coronavirus struck and may even be addressing it with our primary care physician. Yet, there are many that suffer from insomnia without even realizing it. Learning the symptoms of insomnia is crucial in order to target the problem and tackle it correctly. In short, people who suffer from insomnia may exhibit difficulty in falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night with an inability to fall back asleep, and feeling exhausted or drained as if they did not sleep at all.
According to a study by sleep research firm SleepStandards, 53% of respondents indicated spending less time sleeping than before the pandemic, and 67% believe their sleep was healthier before the beginning of lockdown in their area. Additionally, 98% of respondents claimed to have developed new sleep problems post-lockdown, and 68% of them feel stress and continue finding it hard to sleep, even after lockdown measures were lifted in their areas.
It goes without saying that sleep is a critical biological process. The importance of it becomes greater when confronting the COVID-19 pandemic for a variety of reasons. For starters, it empowers an effective immune system, while also enhancing mental health and brain function. Getting a healthy dose of sleep will also bring up our energy levels, thereby making us less irritable toward those around us.
Sleep deficiency can contribute to weight gain, risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and stress.
But you don’t need me to tell you all this. We know we need sleep. We know we need better sleep. Yet it’s easier said than done, especially in times of stress. This is where Haifa-based NYX Technologies comes in.
NYX Technologies is a neurotechnology company that is currently developing a wearable headband that monitors and changes brain activity in real time in order to provide users with a better night’s sleep. The current prototype is made out of a comfortable stretchy fabric that engulfs their sensors, stimulators and flex-printed circuit boards. The final product will likely be very similar.
During the night, the device will help users fall asleep faster, while monitoring and optimizing their sleep cycle and will wake them up at just the right time in the morning, to encourage that feeling of rejuvenation with a boost of energy. Users are instructed to put it on 20 minutes before they would like to sleep, and interestingly enough, most users end up falling asleep well before the session ends. The device also works more effectively with increased use.
The NYX headband uses AI and a Neural Activation System. This combination allows NYX to replicate natural brain waves and patterns so it can read brain signals and send back personalized signals to safely induce sleep, all in real time. Their technology uses electrical stimulation to adjust the electric activity of the user’s brain. The device essentially “talks” directly to the brain through neural signals.
NYX won the neuro-wellness vertical at the CES start-up competition – the world’s biggest start-up competition in Las Vegas, where NYX was also the first Israeli company represented at the XTC-Extreme Tech Challenge.
The company was founded by childhood friends Tomer Aharonovitch and Ophir Orenstein. Aharonovitch previously spent three years leading the Technion’s entrepreneurship center start-up accelerator, and is now the company’s CEO. Orenstein holds a masters in neuroscience from the Technion Institution, and is the company’s CTO. In August 2016, they decided to take their idea, which emerged from hard work and intensive research, and carry it out to the market. They aimed to build a product that addresses one of the most complex issues of our time by using data and a strong understanding in neuroscience in order to change the world of sleep as we know it.
The NYX team gradually grew from two people to nine. To date, NYX raised $1.5 million from private investors, the Israel Innovation Authority and Joy Ventures. After deep in-house tests and validation, the company is about to start their clinical trials and launch the new MVP version of their product. They are working toward the goal to enable people worldwide to live a better and healthier life, starting with the ultimate sleep experience.
Furthermore, NYX is currently in the middle of a $5m. round that will enable them to complete the product and take it to market.
Here’s to hoping their product and technology goes global very soon, because the world needs it. According to prescription benefit plan provider Express Scripts, the use of anti-insomnia, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant medications have spiked, with filled prescriptions increasing by 21% between February and March 2020. Bear in mind – that’s after usage decreased between 2015 and 2019.
While everyone does have different sleep requirements, we should all be aware of how our daily activities can harm or benefit your sleep schedule. Sleep can be promoted by maintaining a steady routine, limiting consumption of alcohol/caffeine, exercise and keeping screens off when it’s close to bedtime to avoid going down that rabbit hole of news reports and social media.
We’re constantly being told that the many changes we are experiencing are all part of “the new normal.” But there cannot be any compromise on sleep. While we still work on putting the pieces together, it’s comforting to know that there are companies such as NYX Technologies out there, that are working toward bringing sleep patterns back to what it used to and should be.