Trying to get a good night’s sleep is something many people continually strive to achieve.
For Tim Antos, his work-related insomnia was so severe he required the services of a sleep clinic. Realizing this was not accessible or convenient for everyone, he and a fellow engineer devised a sleep solution. The result is the Nightbuds Earbuds by London U.K.-based Kokoon.
Nightbuds are fully functional but, unlike other earbuds, they’re smart and designed for sleep time. When used with a mobile device and the MyKokoon companion app, they help you fall asleep free from disturbances.
They connect via Bluetooth 5.0, but the earbuds themselves are not totally wireless. Each bud connects to a purposefully and cleverly shaped malleable cable to a control module that sits behind your neck: it’s like wearing a mini fanny pack. You loop each one over your ear and snuggly insert the soft silicone buds. Amazingly, they can be worn all night without falling out and are comfortable even when sleeping on your side.
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By moving some of the electronics to the module behind the neck, the buds are a mere 6mm thick, about 1/3 the size of a typical pair. After a few nights, you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing them.
Nightbuds have built-in sensors, like those found in devices such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, that gather info and monitor your sleep. They can even tell when you doze off for the night. The PPG sensor can measure blood flow signals and the accelerometer can detect your movement at night. Within the earbuds is a built-in heart rate monitor, which gives extremely accurate information as it’s sensing very close to your carotid artery.
The app provides a daily summary and sleep analysis, including how efficiently you slept, how long it took to fall asleep, length of sleep, and type of sleep, for example, whether light, REM or deep, and awake time. Sleep coach technology offers tips on how you can improve your sleep quality.
Helping you fall asleep typically starts with music, audio or a TV program. The app is compatible with most of your favourite music services like Apple Music, Spotify, Audible, YouTube and even specialty apps like Calm & Headspace. Kokoon also has its own library of selections, albeit limited. It has curated playlists for when you’re trying to fall asleep, get back to sleep after being disturbed or perhaps are feeling anxious. The library includes sounds like coloured noise, meditations, and even binaural soundscapes for an immersive experience ranging from a few minutes to two hours. They can also be looped for continuous play.
What makes Nightbuds really shine is the ability to configure the buds to fade out and pause the audio once it senses you’ve fallen asleep. Even better, it can crossfade the audio to protective coloured noise that can continue to play throughout the night to mask outside disturbances. The passives noise-blocking audio seal also helps prevent outside noise from coming in.
Kokoon Nightbuds work much better than I anticipated at improving my sleep quality. And anything that can help me sleep better is a good thing. The auto shut-off and coloured noise generation with its own volume control are invaluable – although I’m still trying to fine-tune my personal settings.
Other handy features include a built-in mic so that you can make and receive calls. With the latest update, Nightbuds will power off automatically when the earbuds are removed.
The built-in 100mAH battery is rated at 10+ hours. Depending on use (I use about 55 to 60 per cent per night), you may need to charge Kokoon daily. Two full days of power would be ideal. I suspect the smaller battery was to keep the unit small and light.
The control module had three simple button controls (volume, pairing, power etc.) that protrude out slightly at the top and are small enough not to add an extra bulb but large enough and spaced apart just enough to be able to control while it’s around the back of your neck. They stayed on nicely and didn’t seem to interfere with the mask and hose from my CPAP machine, as long as it put them in first.
The data provided is not as in-depth as what you might find on a Fitbit, but enough to help you with your sleep management especially knowing how long it takes to fall asleep. In all fairness, this is a new product, and the features are constantly being updated.
The Kokoon Nightbuds come with a carry case, four pairs of various-sized tips and a stubby USB-C charging cable. It retails in Canada for $349.99, although, on occasion, I’ve seen promos ranging from 20 to 40 per cent off. Kokoon offers free shipping, a 30-day trial and a two-year warranty.
Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca.
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