On the waves of sleep

At the Open Innovations forum in Skolkovo near Moscow, the public got attracted to a small stand containing plastic cubes of about 10 cm edge. The little thing – despite its modest looks – was an innovative device its inventors called EcoSleep CUBE, promising the user “deep healthy sleep and vivid dreams,” according to the manufacturer’s ads.

Conscious awareness of sleep

The sleep-related startup began when Ilya Blokhin, a physicist and graduate of the National Research University of Electronic Technology (MIET), and researcher of superconductivity at the Lebedev Physical Institute, became passionate about exploring something called lucid dreaming, that is, a state when you sleep and you know you are dreaming. With some training, it is possible to learn how to control the content of one’s dreams, literally “order” the content. Ilya Blokhin also teaches lucid dreaming courses. He has founded the Lucid Dream School and writes books with inspiring titles such as The Stalker of Dreams and The Outland Traveler. But this is a completely different story, and only indirectly relates to the EcoSleep commercial project because Ilya Blokhin once led a group of lucid dreamers. The group members – more than 30 people located in almost all parts of the Earth – wrote him reports about their dreams.

Reading the reports, Ilya Blokhin realized there was a strange synchronism in the group’s dreams: on the same night, people based in different countries saw vivid dreams, and on the next, everyone suddenly got insomnia. The synchronicity of these things happening in different parts of the world ruled out a matter of personal or local circumstances: it was more likely that some external factor interfered – apparently, on a cosmic scale. After some analysis, Ilya came to the conclusion that the reason lies in the fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field.

Resonating with Earth

The search for causes of synchronous insomnia brought Ilya Blokhin to the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Higher Nervous Activity where he met Doctor of Biology Vladimir Dorokhov, Head of the Laboratory of Sleep and Wakefulness and one of the few Russian scientists who understand the impact of geomagnetism on sleep. Now Vladimir Dorokhov is also Academic Advisor at EcoSleep.

Vladimir Dorokhov argues that human sleep is significantly affected by various wave rhythms of Earth’s magnetosphere – in particular, the Schumann resonances (SR), or electromagnetic waves that circulate between Earth’s surface and the ionosphere. All organisms on the planet emerged and evolved to these rhythms, therefore, brain rhythms and cycles of sleep and consciousness are aligned with these rhythms. By the way, Vladimir Dorokhov believes that this is the exact reason why even deepsea fish have similar rhythms of sleep and wakefulness although they live in complete darkness and there is no distinction between night and day in terms of light in their world. Insomnia in humans can be easily triggered by discrepancies between biological cycles and natural cycles – caused, in turn, by geomagnetic storms and the environment. For example, the Schumann resonances can’t reach subway systems. According to Dorokhov, subway is a “hypomagnetic zone” where humans are isolated from the essential rhythms of the magnetosphere. Prolonged exposure to the hypomagnetic zone can even have impact on one’s health.

Lull your brain to sleep

Blokhin and Dorokhov developed a hypothesis that, in order to increase deep sleep stage, one needs to enforce correct rhythms on the brain that will imitate the natural geomagnetic rhythms. The two scientists designed a device which can help people sleep using relevant electromagnetic radiation. This device is a sleeping pill of sorts, but not a usual one. The existing biophysical devices are less convenient because it is necessary to connect them directly to the human body by putting on electrodes or using electric stimulation of the palms.  The device made by Dorokhov and Blokhin is the only remote device of this kind. At first, they manufactured an experimental batch of 50 such devices, which they then tested on volunteers. It helped them find optimal operating modes that would ensure a deep sleep night.

In 2018, the startup became a Skolkovo resident under then name The Center of Neurotechnology of Sleep. The investor of the startup was entrepreneur Oleg Streltsov, who, like Blokhin and Dorokhov, was interested in lucid dreams.

As for medical concerns, according to Dorokhov, the device’s electromagnetic field exposure levels are far below safe limits set by government agencies.

Working towards batch production

The experimental device was used as the basis for creating EcoSleep – a cube to be placed near your bed for sounder sleep.

The device, which costs RUR 15,000 ($236), was presented at last year’s Open Innovations, with Blokhin’s company receiving several hundreds of preorders. Both the company’s office and production facilities are located in Zelenograd outside Moscow. The company Rezonit, established back in the day by graduates of Zelenograd-based National Research University of Electronic Technology, participates in the manufacturing process. Currently the management team of the Center of Neurotechnology of Sleep is considering moving its production facilities to Dubna.

“We are seeking a reliable industrial partner,” Ilya Blokhin says.

The company is planning to increase production to several thousands of devices per month; it already has potential partners in India, South Korea, Japan, and the United States, which have expressed willingness to sell about 500-1,000 devices monthly. In case the company manages to launch series production, the device cost will certainly be lower.  

Is the device indeed efficient? The placebo effect cannot be ruled out – but anyway, up to now every customer has had an opportunity to test the EcoSleep cube during two weeks and those who failed to feel its effects could return it.   

By Konstantin Frumkin

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