Research at Notre Dame has demonstrated that the human brain does not take a rest while we sleep. Rather, the non-waking hours are incredibly valuable for the day-to-day, according to research conducted by Jessica Payne, the Nancy O’Neill Collegiate Chair in Psychology. Payne’s research indicates that everyone could benefit if we took a nap each day and that just 20 more minutes of sleep on a regular basis helps to reap the brain-building benefits of sleep.
ESTEEM Alum, Matt Berg, is working to commercialize this research via Somni, a digital platform the delivers interactive content and tools designed to help individuals improve their sleep life. Current ESTEEM Student, Timothy Jacque, is also working on this project. The Somni program intends to begin with college students and expand into professional environments. The goals include helping individuals develop skills and habits for better sleep, brain function, and performance.
Berg conceived the project after he took Payne’s The Sleeping Brain class as a senior and became aware that sleep is the foundation for learning. “I’m very protective of my sleep now,” he said. “It’s hard to get ahold of me after 10:30 p.m., and I nap almost every day because of Jessica’s class and the benefits I’ve seen from it. If I had known all this as a freshman how much more I would have learned and better my college experience would have been."
The product includes a kit, designed for convenience both in dorm rooms and on trips, that includes lavender spray, a silk eye mask, organic tea, ear plugs, a humidifying fan, and nasal strips – items chosen after exhaustive pilot studies at Notre Dame because they proved most effective in creating a sleep routine and enhancing the sleep experience. The application includes a sleep tracking feature to help improve behavior and awareness, access to dozens of brief video clips by Payne that cover key insights about sleep, and a way to reorder supplies.