Every time I’m back in Asia, it seems like I’m meeting with another sleep mask company. And every time, I wonder aloud about how the technology might ease the soul-grinding 16-hour flight home. Last year, Brinc-backed Silentmode lent me a unit for the long flight, along with a final night in Hong Kong’s notorious Chung King Mansions hostel (long, unfortunate Booking.com story on that one). I liked the idea, but ultimately found the product cumbersome — a particularly egregious issue for someone who already finds its impossible to sleep on planes for longer than a 20-minute stretch.
Straightaway, it’s clear that Dreamlight has a leg up on Silentmode as far as design is concerned. It’s thinner, more streamlined and, for those concerned about such things, just better looking. Though I’m not sure how much that last bit matters to most, as you’re doing your damnedest to get comfortable on a long international flight.
Ultimately, what’s more, interesting to me is the direction the company’s going. Silent mode is very explicitly not designed for meditation. There’s certainly something to be said for focus on doing one thing (sleep) well, but meditation really seems like a no-brainer for these sorts of products. Its founder also mentioned to me that the company didn’t include lights in the device, because who needs to stare at another screen. Again, fair enough, I suppose, but if done well, light therapy is a pretty compelling addition.
All of those things are baked into Dreamlight’s latest product, the Zen, which, as its name implies, is really focused on the meditation crowd. Here the system pulses orange light along with synchronized audio through the embedded headphones. The startup’s got a handful of first-party content preloaded on the device, or you can connect it to your smartphone to use Calm or Headspace.
Unlike Silent mode, which is looking to content subscriptions to help monetize, Dreamlight’s all about the hardware at the moment. The company does appear eager to team with a third-party meditation app to help provide content in the future, but for now, you can just bring your own via Bluetooth.
The design’s really the thing here. The company’s done a fine job creating a comfortable wearable. I can only speak to wearing it in a well-lighted conference room during the day, but it seems like it would be easy enough to fall asleep with the thing on. The eye region, in particular, is well designed, doing a fine job eliminating light leakage without applying any pressure to the eyes.
The Pro version runs ~$300. The new Zen is roughly half that. The company also created a sleep-mask-only version, which strips it of its electronics. That runs $29, a small price to pay for a less miserable marathon flight.