Firms unite against insomnia epidemic

A bed manufacturer and a technology company have teamed up in Japan in an effort to find a cure for what has been described here as an epidemic of insomnia.

Panasonic Electric Works Co., an offshoot of the home electronics firm, has worked with The Simmons Bedding Co. of the United States to create the bed that is designed to provide the perfect night's sleep.

Called the Restino, and for a cost of 9000 euros, it incorporates the fruits of Panasonic's research into people's sleep patterns - including how they drift off to sleep and the most comfortable way in which we can wake up - with Simmons's bed knowhow.

And the Restino has arrived just in time, at least in Japan, where an estimated one in five people say they either do not get enough sleep or are troubled by broken sleep, caused primarily by increasing stresses in everyday life.

After 25 years of research, Panasonic's experts have found that the most effective way of getting a person to relax so that sleep comes more easily is to have him or her get into bed with the lights on in the room and gentle music playing, or recordings of natural sounds, such as water flowing over rocks. Once the bed senses that the person is comfortable, it gradually reduces the lighting and the volume of the background sounds, lulling the occupant off to sleep.

The bed's duties have only just begun, however, as it constantly monitors the user throughout the night. If, for example, it senses the occupant is becoming too warm in the humid summer months, moving around and kicking the covers off, it will automatically start the air conditioner.

And instead of the shrill squawk of an alarm clock in the morning, waking the person up with a jolt, the Restino system reverses the process that sent the user to sleep by gradually bringing the lights and the volume of soothing music up.

The result, the companies claim, is that the user feels fully refreshed and is better equipped to face the day ahead.

Hotels across Japan have caught on to the rising need for a completely relaxing night and are offering overnight "healing packages" that include access to spa and massage facilities before the lights go out for the evening. Many also provide scents designed to calm the senses and even pillows designed to help the guest nod off.

JR

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