What’s your Side Project: Anthony Esplin '21 is Creating the Sleep Easy Pillow

Author: Danielle Koterbay

Anthony Esplin (ESTEEM '21)Anthony Esplin (ESTEEM '21)

How did you get the idea for Sleep Easy?

My former neighbor’s son has Down syndrome as well as sleep apnea. He did not want to wear his nasal cannula while sleeping, so I was inspired to build him a pillow that would solve this need. To validate, an O2 monitor was placed on him and showed that his O2 levels increased and he experienced less apneatic events while sleeping.  

What unmet need are you responding to? 

Patient populations that refuse patient care through not wearing a nasal cannula have no alternative for receiving treatment while sleeping. 

What solution do you offer? 

The Sleep Easy Oxygen Pillow offers an alternative method for treating patients that refuse care or have new upper respiratory diseases. The pillow is a blow-by system that directs the oxygen concentrated air into a patient's face without them even realizing that they are receiving treatment.

Who is on your team and helping you bring this idea to life?

Milagros Ramirez is my partner. We met through an event where business ideas are brought to the forefront and students with ideas could pitch to the student body. Milagros has an industrial design background as well as some experience doing CPAPS. Another person that has worked on Sleep Easy with me is my younger brother, Aaron. 

What is your status for funding/support/recognition for Sleep Easy? 

Sleep Easy’s first prototype was built in December of 2019 and a provisional patent was filed in March of 2020. I definitely would like to generate other iterations of this idea in the future. The Sleep Easy Pillow is currently in the pre-accelerator with Notre Dame and the Elkhart accelerator program. Accomplishment wise, I was fortunate enough to take 2nd at the Ideas that Matter Pitch Competition as well as receive Healthcare Award at the One Minute Pitch Competition. 

What are the next steps for Sleep Easy? 

Currently, the Sleep Easy pillow is about 70% done. The pillow design is completed, and my team and I are working on verifying that the pillow performs how we want. By the end of ESTEEM, I hope to receive enough funding with the oxygen pillow to pursue it as a full-time job. In addition, I am not totally set on a company or product name yet. I have been calling the pillow Sleep Easy, but that is already pretty commonly used. 

Do you have any other ideas you would like to pursue? 

Definitely. I feel that Sleep Easy is easier to bring to market than my other ideas, so I feel that it could generate revenue to eventually pay and pave the way for my other ideas. Some ideas I had were 1) A car seat pad that can cool off the car for children, or 2) While serving as a scientist at GE, I had the idea of building a sauna in the back of a trailer. Before coming to ESTEEM, I actually built most of the sauna, so it was incredible to have that experience. My problem is that I have a lot of ideas, but do not have the business know-how. 

How has the IDEA Center helped you to carry out your endeavor further? 

The IDEA Center has afforded me the opportunity to receive several mentors that have been wonderful coaches. The mentors are from entering the IDEA Center’s McCloskey Competition. 

Overall, the IDEA Center atmosphere is great. I spend a lot of my time in the Innovation Lab, where I am always at work with something, especially 3D Printing. I have really enjoyed experiencing ESTEEM in-person, since entrepreneurship is all about creating relationships.