Advancing the science of sleep through tech
With their sleep monitoring technology, the sleep science pioneers at Dreem intend to leverage new telehealth trends that have emerged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar to how our devices need to be plugged in and charged regularly, humans too, need time to rest and reenergise—eight hours a night to be exact. Both the amount and quality of sleep play a major role in the overall physical and mental health of every individual on the planet. However, for some, sleep disorders are stumbling blocks that stand in the way of a well-deserved rest.
Fortunately, sleep science has come a long way—from analysing sleep patterns and comparing it with other species to uncovering the overall impact of sleep on our body. Based in New York and Paris, neurotechnology company Dreem is taking sleep science a step further by designing technological tools that will help individuals identify sleep disorders and offer them more control over their rest.
To this end, Dreem’s first consumer product, the Dreem Headband, allowed the public access to sleep monitoring technology that acted as a polysomnography (PSG) test traditionally employed by sleep clinics to diagnose sleep disorders. With new CEO Quentin Soulet de Brugière at the helm, the company has been increasingly focused on collaborating with the healthcare sector, researchers, businesses and more.
In the spirit of open innovation, Soulet de Brugière will be featuring Dreem’s technology on the third day of the upcoming TechInnovation 2021, 30 September. Held over three days, TechInnovation 2021 will see industry players and innovators coming together from a range of industries to discuss partnerships and technological solutions to problems like food security and healthcare. Soulet de Brugière’s presentation, entitled “Reshaping Sleep Care with Deep Tech,” will tackle the possibilities that Dreem’s solutions can bring to a changing healthcare sphere.
To prepare you for Soulet de Brugière’s session, we spoke to the Dreem CEO for details on the company’s founding goals and growth journey, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What inspired the founding of Dreem?
We started the company when we were still engineering students and met with a team of neuroscientists who were working on sleep science. Sleep was a huge topic then and it was a problem for a lot of people. We saw how we could use our technology knowledge to develop our own software algorithm that could reshape the tools and technologies that were used in sleep labs.
What pain points were you seeking to address with Dreem?
A lot of people are suffering from insomnia and sleep apnea. Sleep medicine works well, but it only scratches the surface of the problem. We believe that by using technology, we could reach more people and solve more disorders. For example, in a country like the United States, more than 100 million people suffer from either insomnia or sleep apnea. However, only between two to three percent of them are getting the right treatment.
That’s majority of people with untreated sleep disorders. We believe that our technology can scale sleep medicine to help them.
Can you tell us more about the technology behind the Dreem's solutions?
It's a headband that measures brain activity with dry electrode electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors, which is much more convenient than traditional polysomnography. We have also published the fact that with the quality of data processed from our device and our algorithm, we're able to analyse biomarkers like brain activity and heart rate at different stages of sleep.
Our second headband, Dreem 2, is the device that we use for direct-to-consumer business. While our third headband, Dreem 3, is used for medical purposes and clinical research. Today it’s used by more than 350 research labs in the world and 10 pharmaceutical companies for clinical trials.
Over the last seven years, Dreem has grown significantly from a two-man effort to a team of 50. Did you face any challenges when launching Dreem? How did you overcome them?
We initially faced some challenges in the structure of the team and with internal organisation. What you have planned and what worked well for ten people will not work for 50 people. We needed to think about how our team is organised, what processes worked and how we would interact with each other. These changes must happen when the team grows or when we launch a new project or new activities.
Another change occurred when we started building medical devices. We had to validate a lot of things. You've got some regulatory constraints and you've got some compliance—it’s all very different from having a consumer device and needs to actually treat people. One is not easier than the other. Both are very different. And so, we had to adapt constantly.
Dreem has worked with sleep experts from all over the world. Can you tell us more about these collaborations and how they have contributed to the current technology? Are there any future plans for collaboration?
It depends, in most of the collaborations, we focus on two things—the pure technology that we develop and how we apply this technology to do different things.
We are currently working with several different organisations. For example, we are collaborating with Stanford University as well as a few physics and chemistry labs to develop sensors. We also had a partnership with a lab in South Korea to mimic the structure of octopus tentacles as a headband attachment. Unfortunately, we found that the last idea was hard to industrialise.
As healthcare and diagnostic technology progress, why is it important to increase awareness and solutions surrounding sleep disorders? Has it become more important now with COVID-19?
With COVID-19, there’s a lot of anxiety for people. Sleep disorders are very much linked to anxiety, particularly insomnia. The number of people suffering from insomnia has increased. The number of people suffering from sleep apnea has also slightly increased as obesity has risen. Sleep apnea is something that you’ll find more commonly in people with a high BMI.
Additionally, COVID-19 has been a real catalyst for digital health. For us, that is the biggest thing that has changed. It showed the world that digital health, or telehealth, was possible and far more efficient. We've seen the convergence between telehealth, digital health and technology and that will change healthcare.
Who will benefit from Dreem’s technology and how might it affect the medical technology sector and its continuing transformation?
It’s not just us; now you see more and more players integrating deep tech and medicine to reshape complete care pathways and healthcare as a whole. Care is going to be much more integrated in our daily lives, and that for me, is how healthcare will evolve.
Discover at TechInnovation Singapore 2021 how industry leaders like Dreem are taking on healthcare and wellness by advancing digital healthcare technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR), 3D printing, robotics and nanotechnology. Grab your complimentary TechInnovation 2021 delegate pass here.