Why Julian Jagtenberg Created Sleep Robot Somnox

20 Minute Fitness Episode #66

This week we have the pleasure to introduce you to a very ambitious and knowledgable young engineer from the Netherlands. Julian who knows the ins and outs of sleep has started to work on Somnox, the world’s first sleep robot about 5 years ago. Today he shares all he’s learnt about sleeping patterns and the reasons that cause sleeping issues during these 5 years of trying to build the best possible solution to insomnia.

Listen on to hear how a simple university project has grown into Somnox, a product that has the potential to improve the sleep of millions worldwide!

Three Things You Will Learn

1) The Development of Somnox

Julian has always been fascinated by robotics. However, the projects that he had worked on before didn’t give him the full satisfaction, as he sort of felt that they had no real purpose. Therefore, he decided to build something that could tackle the issue of many people around the world, including her mom, which was insomnia. He started to work on the project with his university mates first and went through a number of iterations.

Press play and listen to the exciting evolution of Somnox from the size of a big dog to its much smaller current form of a pillow!

2) Somnox Is Not Something But Someone

The sleep industry has been booming in the past couple of years. We have seen everything from gravity blankets to sleep trackers and smart mattresses. But Somnox is definitely something new. It’s the first-of-its-kind sleep robot that combines breath simulation with specific relaxing sounds to help you sleep faster, longer and better.

In today’s episode you can learn about how Julian and his team are trying to increase Somnox‘s effectiveness by creating a feeling of affection between the user and the robot.

3) How To Solve The World’s “Sleep Crisis”

Julian believes that the increasing popularity and development of the sleep market will not slow down anytime soon. He definitely sees a stable role for Somnox in the everyday lives of people. However, he also thinks that the current state of sleeping issues is so big that it’ll require a whole ecosystem of innovative companies to solve them for the long run. 

Tune in to hear about how Julian sees the future of Somnox and the sleep industry as a whole!

Subscribe To 20 Minute Fitness 

on Apple Podcast

on Android

on Breaker

by Email

on Google Podcast

on Stitcher

on Tuneln

via RSS

Full Transcript

00:04 Martin: Hey, and welcome back to Why I Built This, a sub-series of the 20 Minute Fitness podcast. I’m your host, Martin Kessler, and on every episode, I bring you an inventor who had an exciting startup that is really trying to make a difference in health and fitness. And in today’s episode, we got a very young engineer from the Netherlands, who hadn’t even left the university library quite yet, but already ran two startups in between his lectures. Julian’s own personal motivation led him to the creation of, first of all, a university project on how robotics could solve one of mankind’s oldest problems, insomnia, and getting actually good sleep, just a few years later and after, of course, tons of work and a successful crowdfunding campaign, Somnox, a robotics sleep pillow has become a reality. Tune in to hear more about Julian’s story and what it’s like to go to sleep with a robot. But before we move on, I would like to thank our sponsor ShapeScale. ShapeScale is a 3D body scanner, scale, and fitness tracker. You simply step on it and it digitizes your body composition in photorealistic 3D. Now available on pre-order on


01:10 Martin: Hey guys, it’s Martin from 20 Minute Fitness. And today, I have a really interesting guest from the Netherlands, actually, from Europe, and he’s working on a really, really interesting product in the sleep space. Julian, why don’t you introduce yourself a little?

01:23 Julian Jagtenberg: My name is Julian Jagtenberg. I live in the Netherlands and I am a robotics engineer that is trying to help the world sleep better. I’m an industrial design engineer, and since I was a little boy, I wanted to become an inventor. And today I am bringing a sleep robot, Somnox, to the market.

01:41 Martin: Yeah, tell us a bit more about that because when I think robot, I think something that’s moving around like humanoid robot, but that’s not quite what Somnox is, right?

01:52 JJ: Yeah. [chuckle] The first thing that people think of usually is this metal man swinging you to sleep.

01:57 Martin: It knocks you right out.

02:00 JJ: It’s not what it is. It’s also not a sex robot, some people think that as well. So let that be the disclaimer. [chuckle] It’s something you cuddle or hold during the night, like a teddy bear, if you will, like a pillow almost. It’s very soft. What it does, it can sense or detect whether you are awake or asleep through sensors, so it measures breathing rate and motion to see whether you’re awake or asleep, but it doesn’t stop there because there are so many products that are already tracking sleep that our product makes the next step. And that is, actively getting you to sleep based upon the data. So if you hold the cushion, it measures your sleep but then it will actively help you get to sleep by regulating your breathing and playing audio.

02:45 Martin: And how is it doing that? So it’s playing audio and I am adjusting my breathing to that rhythm or…

02:51 JJ: So what happens, if you hold it, you will feel the physical sensation of the falling and rising of the breath. And in our studies, we actually found the concept of mirroring, which is something that happens if you, for example, hold a baby or a pet, that you will synchronize the heartbeats and you’ll also synchronize your breathing rate. So that is exactly what we do. So you feel the cushion go up and down, it synchronizes to your breathing rate, and it guides you to very slow Buddhistic breathing exercises.

03:19 Martin: It’s almost like meditating.

03:21 JJ: It is, yeah, it’s like your meditation buddy in bed, so to say. And with some speakers inside, we can also play white noise, lullabies, guided meditation that will turn off and turn on during the nights, and that’s what makes it a robot. It can sense whether you’re awake or asleep. It will analyze what it can do to help you and then it will adjust its breathing and adjust its sounds to make you sleep faster.

03:45 Martin: Oh, that’s cool. And so how did you come up with that idea? You guys started this project in 2015, right?

03:50 JJ: Yeah, it was an academic project at first, so as I mentioned, I am a robotics engineer and I used to be in The Robotics Institute of the University of Technology Delft, in the Netherlands. And by the time, I was actually building robots that would do order picking, right? So if you, for example, order something on Amazon, there is a robot to pick your package, not a human. I was creating those robots, but the thing is that I wasn’t very excited about those robotics because it was more of a gimmick than I thought it was actually delivering value or that it had impact. And I was very intrigued by the movie Big Hero 6, with Baymax. It’s this giant marshmallow-white robot, a soft robotic, so I wanted to create a soft robotic instead. And during the time in Robotics Institute, my mom was sleeping, very, very badly. She was basically eating pills in order to get to sleep and she wasn’t herself anymore because sleep is just so important to not only be healthy, but also to be energetic, be productive. It’s fundamental.

04:57 JJ: So I saw her eating these pills and the general practitioner and all the professionals didn’t know anything better than prescribing her pills. So I decided to put my skills to the test as a robotics engineer and create a soft robotic to help my mom’s sleep. That was just academic hypothesis, so I researched all sorts of papers about how you could naturally induce sleep, and I found that breathing and audio were proven and effective methods in order to get people to sleep. So I started making prototypes, gave them to my mom. The first ones were horrible, actually, and after a while, it started taking up.

05:34 Martin: How did those look like?

05:35 JJ: Well, the first one was really big. It was a very big dog, almost, the size of it. It was actually making a lot of noise. It was very soft, though, but because of all the mechanics inside, you could hear it snore. It was almost like a robotic snore, it was kinda scary. So my mom told me, “This isn’t helping me,” at first, so I optimized, and yeah, I had a very quick iteration process with the team. And after a while, we started to make something where she was very happy about. She used to wander around the house at 4:00 AM and look at the ceiling, being very stressed and anxious, but now with the robotic, after eight iterations or so, she started falling back asleep again. And that was a very special moment for us, because not only did we help my mom, but this could potentially help others. So we started to investigate it more.

06:27 Martin: And at that point, the intent was mostly to help her fall asleep or also to keep her rested, improve her deep sleep, and so forth? Or what was the main intent at the beginning?

06:38 JJ: Yeah, the main intent was really to have her sleep longer. She fell asleep quite easy at night but then she would wake up at 2:00 AM and just not being able to fall asleep again. So the objective was to let her sleep longer but also get her back to sleep in case she would wake up in the middle of the nights when she would be anxious and stressed because she’s thinking, “Oh I need to go to work at 7:00 AM, I didn’t sleep and I will feel shit tomorrow.” So there was this negative thought cycle going on, so the goal was to help her out with that. And that is exactly what the robotic does. It soothes body and mind as soon as you feel stressed or anxious, and it gets you back to sleep so that you sleep longer in the end to live a more energetic life during the day.

07:21 Martin: And how do you even know how to even first go about it? Did you follow some research that was already out there or did you have some co-founders that were active in that space?

07:32 JJ: Yeah, so we are with four co-founders in total, all engineers actually, within different disciplines: Mechanical engineering, software, electrical, you name it. And we bumped into this particular research paper that was done with babies, actually. And what they did is they put a breathing teddy bear next to these babies and what they found was very interesting because they adapted to the exact breathing rhythm of the teddy bear, and where the babies used to be crying and stressful and barely sleeping at all, they were now synchronizing to the breath and the heart rate of the teddy bear that was put next to them. So we took that concept to see if it’d also apply to adults, to help them synchronize their breath and heart rates. And we took the research from this existing paper and we put it to the test with our prototype with adults. We started to see the same effects and that’s where we started elaborating on it and see, “Okay, will this also help my mom or other people?” And yeah, that is how it came to be.

08:34 Martin: And now, how did you decide, okay, to do that, the best approach would be to have something that’s pillow-shape, almost the size of one of those teddy bear animals? Couldn’t it have been also a different form factor since people move around, do they really keep holding the device, or how does that move?

08:55 JJ: Yeah, so you definitely do not have to hold on to it the whole night, that would be a very ridiculous use case, I’d say. Now, the shape came to be because we took a lot of pictures of people sleeping and what their positions looked like. And after a while, we identified, in a heatmap, that the most frequent comfortable position was laying on your side, holding on to something, someone or something, a pillow, a significant other, it doesn’t really matter. So it also has a lot of health advantages to sleep on your side because it prevents snoring and apnea and so on, so the shape actually stimulates you to lay in a certain position, and it was inspired on a…

09:35 Martin: So would it also work for somebody that typically would be a back or stomach sleeper?

09:40 JJ: Yeah, yeah, you definitely could use it that way but you just need to hold on to it in a different way. But the shape itself is like a foetus, that is also what it was inspired on, so that you can really spoon with it, that you can hold on to it and yeah, give that feeling of affection.

09:54 Martin: Right.

09:55 JJ: Our design philosophy is not to make things but to make companions, so that it’s not something helping you to sleep, but someone. So there’s actually also a birth certificate that comes with the robots, so you can give it a name, because in our research studies, we found people having a hard time giving it back and starting to give it names.

10:14 Martin: Okay, so you were working on that and you were transitioning and then you came up with a design that was working for people. Then how did you… Did you launch it with some retailers, or how did you go to market with it and how did you know who to even target?

10:29 JJ: Yeah, so it’s funny, I’d say, because we had this prototype that was working for my mom and we published a research paper in our repository of the university. And we weren’t actually planning to make a business out of it, it was just an academic project to help an individual. But after we published this paper, it went viral, a local newspaper started writing about it, that there was this robotic that could maybe one day replace the sleeping pill. And a lot of people were reading that research paper, and actually, my email was hidden in the paper down below, but in a week or so, we got a 1,000 emails of people asking, “I’m addicted to these pills. I am really stressed about them and I want to get rid of them. I’m very happy to try your prototype. Can I get one?” That was very surprising to us because we didn’t do any marketing. There was no business intentions whatsoever, but this was so unique, not every university project gets that much traction without publishing it.

11:28 Martin: Yeah, that’s quite incredible.

11:29 JJ: And then a national newspaper started picking it up, and then from national, we went to The Times in the UK, so we went from a 1,000 emails to, I guess, in total in a month to 10,000 inquiries of people saying, “I need something that is not chemical but that is something that I can hold on to.” And that’s when we decided, “Okay, wait a second. We should start a business because within university, you can be very pioneer in the field, you can experiment all sorts of stuff, but it’s not the place to commercialize something and to bring something to the market. So we chose Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, to get all those people that did an inquiry to help us actually fund the whole manufacturing process.

12:09 Martin: And how did that turn out? Did it work for you?

12:11 JJ: Yeah, it did. We didn’t do a Kickstarter before, so I was really surprised by how successful it was. We raised 200% of the initial goal of 100,000 so that was great. We found a lot of partners. We got even more media coverage, and now we have Auping, which is a mattress manufacturing in Netherlands to join us on the manufacturing part. So we have a very scalable supply chain. So we can actually bring that once was an academic prototype on a large scale all around the world. So yeah, the Kickstarter was a real kick-starter.

12:43 Martin: And that was in 2017, right? So that was two years after you had… Been working on some early prototypes and really were at the point where you nailed it down, you got some of that press coverage.

12:56 JJ: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And we were published in… I guess it was The Verge. Actually one of our colleagues, he flew to The Verge, its office in New York, to hand over a sample and it really moved the needle, so to say. So that gave a lot of interested early adapters to help us out in the early stage of the company. So it was a really exciting ride and we’re about to hit the market now. We just did our soft launch.

13:21 Martin: Oh, that’s great, congrats.

13:23 JJ: Yeah, 100 products are now with their owners. And then in March, we are actually hitting the market in retail and so on.

13:31 Martin: Right, and before that, the first two years, before you launched Kickstarter, before you got all this sudden traction from national newspapers, and even The Times in the UK, did you ever have any feeling of doubt? Because definitely, the space is getting increasingly crowded. Nobody’s really doing quite what you are doing. But there were quite a few wearables that have been trying to sleep track, but then they been also… I guess, like Bose, they came out with those sleep buds rather recently, but before that there were also already some level of device that were trying to help you with white noise. I don’t think anybody had been really trying to do something with the breathing and the rhythm and so forth. But did you never have any concerns like, “Are really people going to buy this or need it?”

14:14 JJ: Well, I guess, because in the beginning we didn’t do any market research because there was no business intention. It was really just to help my mom, and that we had the freedom in a university to create something like this. So we didn’t do any competitive intelligence, we were just very open and yeah, actually inexperienced in the field, I would say. And I think the whole industry is doing incremental innovation. So there are a lot of trackers and the trackers become better and better and better. But the data on its own actually causes orthosomnia, which is something that is, the people that have a Fitbit will go to their healthcare professional, and say, “I have a sleep problem.” Because they see that the data says they’re only sleeping for six hours a night, whereas, they feel fine. So I think the whole industry is just copying one another, being incremental.

15:02 Martin: Yeah.

15:02 JJ: It’s just a small change compared to the other. And I think this is a really cool example of innovation that we had a personal problem that we tackled with our skill set. That’s how sleep and robotics came to be. And I definitely think that the whole market is transitioning towards robotics because robotics, in the end, also do sleep tracking with the sensors. But robotics already answer on what is the next step after tracking because it’s analyzing and acting upon the data, rather than just showing you numbers and graphs in the morning. It’s about actionable insights, it’s about changing your lights, it’s about changing the temperature, it’s about changing your breathing rhythm.

15:41 Martin: Yeah, that sounds really like it’s really starting to become really promising for you. And tell me once again, I don’t think we covered it. What is actually the price point for consumers to buy one Somnox?

15:51 JJ: Yeah, so it will be available on March 1 for $599 US dollars through Amazon, and Bed Bath & Beyond. And we do offer a 30-night trail, as well. So in case it doesn’t work for you, you always have the opportunity to return it. Because we feel like sleep is a very mysterious and complex activity that we spend a third of our lives doing, but not everyone is aware of what is the cause of their sleep deprivation.

16:18 Martin: Yeah.

16:19 JJ: That is why we offer this opportunity to try it, and if it doesn’t work, you can return it. We especially find it effective for people that are stressed or anxious and are having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.

16:32 Martin: Got it. Now you mentioned that you already delivered the first 100 units, how do you facilitate keeping in touch with some of those early customers to make sure the product is really delivering on the value proposition that you guys promised?

16:46 JJ: Yeah, so we have the concept of one metric that matters. It’s the metric that matters most. And in our case, it’s the daily… Or, sorry, the nightly active users. So the amount of people, of the 100 that have currently one, that are using it. So we can see in real time because the robot, of course, has the sensors, how many people are using it. And it captures the value because if they keep using it, apparently there is value in the product itself. And, of course, we can see if they are asleep or awake and we can compare it to the days that they were sleeping more badly, so whether they improved over time. So not only we have this objective data coming in in real time to see whether it is delivering upon the promise, but we can also start sending them emails or phone calls in case we find that they’d stopped using it. So we can figure out what happened or what is going on. At the moment, we are learning so much and the results have been really cool. I think now it’s 95% of the people that bought one are using it actively for the last 30 nights. And five of them didn’t, because they’ve figured out they either had apnea, it was their partner snoring. So there, again, was another cause of the issue. So the robot would not be able to solve that.

17:58 Martin: I guess one data point that you might miss though is, how is their sleep without using Somnox? Because there’s definitely many, many different factors involved that affect our sleep, not just our breathing but also the mattress that we use, maybe air quality in our room, probably temperature and stress, what we’ve been eating, alcohol, all these different factors. How do you correct for that?

18:26 JJ: So what we did, we also gave these people trackers or they already had one. This could be a Fitbit or something. So we can compare we have some sort of baseline measurements to see how it improved compared to not having one. So this is not clinical research yet, but it does give us a good indication whether we are actually giving a significant decrease in the time it takes to fall asleep and a significant increase in the total sleep time.

18:52 Martin: Right. And so far, early results are looking promising on that level as well?

18:57 JJ: Yeah, yeah. So we… So far these are early test results, of course, but we found that we see a significant decrease in the time it takes to fall asleep of an average of 40% faster. So people that used to sleep, for example 30 minutes… It used to take 30 minutes to fall asleep, now it was 15 minutes. Some people got an hour more sleep because they stopped wandering around the house, because they could get back to sleep at 4:00 AM in the morning. So so far so good. But we also found these five people of the 100 that had a different issue where it didn’t have the desired effect. So that’s why we offered a return opportunity.

19:35 Martin: Got it. So now after three years of development, what would you say has been the most difficult part about being a consumer hardware company that is building an actual sleep product?

19:47 JJ: Well, I guess you’re not selling a product, but you’re selling a dream, you’re selling a promise, that’s the whole problem. We sell the promise of you sleeping better with hardware. And you know what they say, “Hardware is hard,” and it is true because it is not as scalable as digital products are. So you will have manufacturing issues. Someone will have a different preference, you need to ship it, the logistics, blah de blah de blah. So I think the hard… Yeah, the real challenge is to really identify, “Hey, what is the specific value that you can actually under-promise and over-deliver?” I think that is just really hard thing to do especially with a Kickstarter campaign, because you are so early in the process, and you already need to make promises about when the delivery will be, what certifications you will run into, issues that you can simply not predict because it is a new-to-the-world product. If it was an incremental innovation, it is easier but ours, you can literally not compare it to anything.

20:41 Martin: Right, yeah. Did you get a lot of pushback from prospective customers that have tried already a lot of different gadgets and few of them delivered really on the promise of improving their sleep. And now you come out with this new device and it’s unproven, and they have to trust you, that you can really deliver.

21:00 JJ: Exactly, so we’re very thankful to all the backers, people that supported us so far, which have been actually quite a lot of people already. So yeah, for sure, at this moment, I think it’s a very new to the world product, we’re still proving with clinical trials to actually get the proper scientific backup of it working. But the thing is, the problem is so big, and the solutions are so minimal that you need to try whatever works for you and this just seem it makes so much sense for so much people that this can work for them rather than taking pills or tracking their sleep because that is to be honest, the only alternative. There’s one thing I want to mention, there’s one promising solution that I really encourage every listener to try, called cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s actually a therapy where you be educated about sleep hygiene, sleep restriction, you define your own sleep schedule and so on. And this is a clinically proven way of improving your sleep. However, it takes a lot of discipline to get to that point. And with software updates, we will also include this cognitive behavioral therapy within the app that comes with the robotic. So it actually guides as a sleep coach as well rather than just the breathing and audio it makes.

22:16 Martin: Right. So where do you really see the future for Somnox? Do you have any big targets that you’re trying to hit over the upcoming years?

22:23 JJ: So for us, our main objective is to help everyone sleep better. That’s the whole point, and only after everyone is sleeping as good as they want, that’s when our company is a success. So this is a huge, huge challenge. So in the next 10 years, we will have a whole product line of self-robotics that will contribute to better sleep. And this one is helping adults that are stressed and anxious to get to sleep better, but we want to help babies, we want to help elderly, we want to help everyone and…

22:54 Martin: I was about to ask, has anybody… Because you mentioned that early on that a lot of it is based on that study with babies, and then a teddy bear that is like breathing. Wouldn’t that be an obvious step to do that as well? Because obviously that’s also a big issue to new parents, that their babies keep them awake because they keep waking up during the night.

23:13 JJ: For sure. So this is exactly one of the steps that we want to take, but we don’t start as a baby or a kid product because then you become a teddy bear and you will never be able to go to the adult market, right? That’s why we have this trickle-down approach and simultaneously we will tap into healthcare as well, because a well-rested patient, prior and after surgery, will recover faster than they will without sleep. So there’s just so many applications, everyone sleeps, everyone needs sleep and it’s so complex, that there is so much to do. And it’s not just us. We should collaborate. And this is also my call to action to anyone that is listening, that I want to partner up with any other people that think they have a good solution or maybe already a company that is solving sleep because we need to create an ecosystem where a consumer can choose and/or actually gets directed to the right solution that fits his or her lifestyle.

24:12 Martin: Speaking of, actually, where do you see the current state of, let’s say, the sleep improvement industry, maybe start with mattresses, which are actually not that old, and then we have waterbeds, and now we have those foam beds, and now we had this way for wearables. Do you see ourselves at the beginning of a new industry that is really trying to improve our sleep? And if so, where is it gonna be in the future, are we gonna have… Are we even gonna sleep on beds 30 years from now? Do you see that being really being disrupted in the future?

24:50 JJ: Yes, for sure. I think that it used to be cool, like a badge of honor, to be sleep-deprived, you’re a cool person to pull an all-nighter, work all night, and if you sleep you’re basically boring. And we are transitioning, as a society, from being conscious about food and exercise to also being aware of the importance of sleep. It’s the next big trend. And you can see this because companies, not only us, but the whole sleep technology category, I just returned from CES in Las Vegas, it is booming, there’s a whole category on CES with hundreds of companies, exhibiting and showcasing their sleep technology products.

25:33 Martin: And why do you think that is? Has anything tremendously changed in terms of the technology or is it some new-found knowledge that we have realized, “Hey, we have to improve our sleep, we’re actually not sleeping that well?”

25:46 JJ: I think it is just the general awareness of the problem, the three main pillars of health are exercise, nutrition, and sleep. And for the whole existence of humankind, at least in my life, we have just been focusing on nutrition and exercise, right? In high… In elementary school, I got lessons about how to eat properly, and that I should exercise, but I never had classes about sleeping. And, now, as a society, and in the media… Somehow… And I’m not sure why, but everyone is just talking about their sleep, and everyone is aware of the fact that it is so important. And it’s not even…

26:23 Martin: Yeah, that’s what I’m curious about. What was the turning point? What made us change?

26:29 JJ: Okay, so this is an hypothesis, an assumption that I have, it is due to th 24/7 economy that we nowadays live in, right? We have artificial lighting all the time, we’re not exposed to natural daylight anymore, so our whole circadian rhythm is shifted. And we need to be in touch with the world the entire time. So if Japan is awake, I should be asleep, but my work requires me to talk to Japan, so it makes sense, as a society, we expect me to be talking to Japan, whereas I should be sleeping, right? We’re on our phones all the time. So I think it’s just this momentum of society being connected 24/7, not taking into account our circadian rhythm, that makes the world transition into a global sleep crisis, causing traffic accidents, health issues, productivity loss. So, yeah, this is just the whole problem.

27:23 Martin: And when it comes to the whole industry, mattresses used to be the thing that we were talking about, but it is just a very tiny part of the solution. Cracking the code of great sleep is still a long way to go. And I think the whole industry is moving towards some kind of cocoon, almost, that you can step into, which will regulate all the parameters for you. So it will have the ideal temperature based upon the time of the day, the ideal lighting based upon the time of the day, the music, the breathing, and so on. It will become illegal to drive drowsy, because it kills more people than driving under influence. We will be teaching our children how to sleep. I think this is really where it is heading towards. And, yeah, robotics, and AI will definitely play a big role in this.

28:09 JJ: Yeah, I can definitely see a lot of changes. Last 10 years in our industry, us being on our screens constantly, either our smartphones, or our tablets, TVs. And then artificial light, like you were saying, it feels like we’re definitely being exposed to much more light, to much more disruptions as well, and I think that potentially also disrupts a lot of people, that they’re constantly anxious about the next notification come up. Actually, I had, just recently, another interview with the CEO of Simple Habits. I mean, that’s also a big thing. I was asking her… I was like, “Why… What’s the craze about… With meditation?” And I think it’s a very similar direction. People can’t focus anymore, because they’re constantly getting disrupted. And, yeah, I mean, yeah, definitely, I think you’re right there that a lot has been changing the last 10 years.

29:01 Martin: Okay, yeah, I just wanna finish off with a quick-fire round. So I’m just gonna ask you a couple of questions, where you just have to give me a very quick answer. You don’t have to think too long about it, or give me too long answers on them. Sounds good?

29:13 JJ: Sure.

29:13 Martin: So what did you have for breakfast this morning?

29:16 JJ: Cereal with yoghurt.

29:17 Martin: Excellent. And besides Somnox, of course, Do you have any other health and fitness apps, or gadgets that you use in your life?

29:24 JJ: So I really am a tool-obsessed guy, but my favorites are Forest, it’s something to stay focused, and Habitify, to really track my habits, and also get rid of my bad habits, and build up my good habits. I use Calm for meditation, and… Oh, yeah, Muse, of course. I really love Muse.

29:45 Martin: Yeah, did you see? They just released a second version of Muse, looks interesting.

29:49 JJ: Yeah, I actually… They are at… They launched a sleep app then actually.

29:53 Martin: Oh, I didn’t know that.

29:54 JJ: So they’re getting into the sleep market. And the last one is Welltory, and this is an app that basically tracks my HRV levels, so heart rate variability, and it predicts how my day will be.

30:06 Martin: Wow.

30:07 JJ: Because HRV can predict my stress level, so I can see how my wellness and health is to take that into account before I start my day. It’s really, really cool. It’s AI-driven. You should check it out.

30:19 Martin: Yeah, I’ve not tried that one, yet. Do you have like… Since you mentioned the habits… You have an app for that. Did you introduce one habit in your life that dramatically increased it for the better?

30:28 JJ: Oh, yeah. So for me this was journaling in the morning and the evening. I think it’s very famous nowadays. The five-minute journal is what I use. So it’s basically when I wake up, what am I thankful for? And in the evening, you write down what happened that made today amazing, and how it could be even better. So you get into the state of gratefulness all the time. And it makes your life so much more positive and happy. And it’s… Yeah, it gave me a lot of value just by scribbling a bit for two minutes in the morning and in the evening. Sometimes the best solutions are very easy.

31:00 Martin: Yeah, it sounds like a really effective habit, actually. Similar to what some people use for meditating, actually.

31:05 JJ: Yeah.

31:06 Martin: Yeah, next question, So can you tell us one thing that most people get wrong about sleep?

31:10 JJ: Okay, the biggest mistake is that people think that if they are sleep-deprived during the week, that if they sleep for a long time during the weekend, that they basically catch up.

31:21 Martin: [chuckle] Yeah, that they can repay their sleep debt, yeah.

31:24 JJ: Yeah, but that’s not how it works. That is not how it works. I can’t stress this enough. Because I have lots of friends of mine that used to live like this. They would sleep for two to four hours every night, during the week, and then they slept for 10 to 12 hours during the weekend, and they thought they were doing a good job. This is so stupid because you need to have a structured sleep schedule, eight hours a night. And that is the only way… I repeat, the only way to get the benefits of proper sleep.

31:51 Martin: Got it. And finally, yet, I know you already mentioned one book, but would you recommend any other book that our listeners should definitely read?

31:58 JJ: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walkers is one of the greatest book about sleep that I have ever read. So that is something regarding this topic that I would definitely recommend you to read.

32:09 Martin: And why is it so good?

32:10 JJ: Because it doesn’t only… It’s basically a letter to society that we should take sleep more seriously, and that we have a very wrong approach for the last 50 years. And I think it’s just a wake-up call to make you aware of sleep and also making it actionable. So not just complaining and stating the problem, but also giving insight in how we, not only as an individual, but also as a society, as an organization, how to solve this problem.

32:37 Martin: Yeah, I think that’s a very good point, especially with all those wearables, we’ve become so much aware how little we sleep and how badly we sleep, but then what do we do about it, right?

32:49 JJ: Exactly.

32:50 Martin: Anyways, yeah, thank you so much for joining the show. I know we are running out of time here, and I just wanna wrap it up. Maybe you can tell our listeners how they can find more about you, and of course, Somnox.

33:02 JJ: Yeah, so it was great to be here and to talk about sleep. I hope that you will take your sleep more seriously, to not only be more healthy but also be more energetic, be the best version of yourselves by sleeping eight hours a night. And in case you need a little hand to improve your sleep, maybe our sleep robots can help you. So go to, that is and check it out. You can pre-order it and you can always return it in a 30-night trial. And I also wanna mention this, I have a free sleep course, which is a video course teaching you about all the things about cognitive behavioral therapy. This is totally free so if you feel like educating yourself about sleep in this course you will be upgrading your sleep and therefore your life. So, and had a great time here.

33:53 Martin: Great. Thank you so much.

33:56 JJ: Well, well, well, dear listeners, looks like we’ve hit the end of today’s show once again. I feel like I’ve been speaking to quite a few European entrepreneurs and inventors as of late. It’s really telling that fitness and health doesn’t really know any borders. And I’ve come across, truthfully said, quite a few sleeping gadgets, so I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about Somnox, but it really seems that Somnox is going beyond simple sleep tracking. And, hopefully, I’ll get one for myself pretty soon as well ’cause I’m sick and tired of just having some accelerometer base tracking device, I really wanna have something that helps me get better sleep and for sleep faster.

34:37 Martin: Anyways, as always, we put everything mentioned on our show right on our show notes which you can find at Also, feel free to email us at, and just let us know your thoughts on the show’s content, but also don’t hesitate recommending any potential guests that you might wanna see on our show. Also, of course, if you’re enjoying our podcast, please make sure to leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. Doing so really helps other listeners to discover this podcast and re-share the joy. Thanks again for listening. I’m your host, Martin Kessler. I hope to see you here next time. Bye.

Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
Use our free guide to design your very own personalized nutrition plan.
Download e-Book
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
... start working on your unique diet plan.
Download E-Book

Lilla Laczo

Lilla is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
Use our free guide to design your very own personalized nutrition plan.
Download e-Book
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
... start working on your unique diet plan.
Download E-Book