After proving themselves by quickly becoming Europe’s best reviewed mattress, Simba wanted to go further to improve people’s sleep. I worked with a team of freelancers to explore what technology could do to help.
What are the problems that people commonly experience with sleep and how could we help them improve their sleep using technology.
We interviewed over 40 people in cities and suburban areas around the UK. Spending time with them in their homes revealed things we could never have predicted. We learned about all the hacks that people use to help them get to sleep and stay asleep. We also learned about the uncontrollable factors they had to live with, such as road or construction noise, and the controllable factors that didn’t help them such as using technology in bed.
The science of sleep
We read several books on the subject of sleep and partnered with a sleep expert. Diving deep into the science of sleep we quickly learned that it’s not so much what you do when you’re asleep that improves it but rather everything else. This includes, diet, physical activity, screen time and the bedroom environment itself.
Defining the problem
We could have tackled any number of issues to help people improve their sleep. The markets for dieting, exercise, and mental wellbeing are all pretty crowded places. We didn’t want to directly compete with the likes of My Fitness Pal or Headspace. Especially because we were doing it in pursuit of a tangential benefit; a better night’s sleep.
We also didn’t want to mimic the current sleep app landscape, which typically attempts to map out a user’s sleep using a mix of inputs from people’s phones. They’re inaccurate and don’t really help change behaviour but rather create a hyper-alertness by revealing the data of an unconscious experience—we spoke with one user of a sleep tracking app who had used it every night for 10 years but was unsure about whether it actually helped her sleep. She conceded that looking at the data had just become a habit but she wasn’t sure what to do about the data.
We focused in on a particular area that we called the ‘wind-down routine’. Our research revealed it to be the most problematic period of day, when people seemed to be doing all the wrong things to prepare themselves for a good night’s sleep. Common problems that we observed included:
- Working late right up until bed time.
- Staring at screens and phones before bed and in bed. In particular using social media.
- Eating heavy foods and too close to bedtime.
- General daily stresses, mostly related to work.
We wanted to see if we could help people adopt new routines in the evening that would promote a better night’s sleep. What I quite liked about this approach is that despite trying to do this via an app we could still advise that people keep their phones away from the bedroom at night.
Change is hard
Designing for behavioural change is hard. We worked with sleep expert Vicki Culpin to better understand how to coach people to a better night’s sleep. We employed popular behavioural science and habit hacking techniques, such as BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits. We put all this learning into several prototypes, testing them early and iterating often.
We developed a concept for Simba’s first app that sits at the centre of a wider technology strategy.
The app was designed to tackle a real problem, to help users create an evening routine that is conducive to better sleep. We took a radically user-centred approach that put user needs over tech innovation to creating something truly beneficial.
Liat Wassershtrom · Product Manager Sam Judge · Product Designer Karina Sakanaka · Research lead Jack Bedford · Illustrator Vicki Culpin · Sleep Expert Christopher Lewis · CPO