Imagine sharing a home with someone whose sleep is routinely disturbed by a disorder that causes fits of unconsolable and extreme distress. During these episodes, known as night terrors, the person (usually a child) seems awake as they cry out, flail their arms and legs and show other signs of panic, yet they never fully gain consciousness and they're unresponsive to attempts to soothe them.
While training to be a physician, I was taught that night terrors were ‘no big deal’ and they would ‘go away on their own.’ However, after seeing my sister and then nephew go through them first hand, I learned they are in fact a huge deal for the entire family.
Rink and engineer Varun Boriah, (also a former Biodesign fellow) worked with Stanford professors of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Christian Guilleminault, MD, and Shannon Sullivan, MD, to learn more about night terrors.
They learned that night terrors often occur in a predictable way in the first part of the sleep cycle, and they can be prevented by partially waking the person up just before the unhealthy sleep pattern begins.
In response, Rink and Boriah developed a vibrating, under-the-bed device that uses an algorithm to learn the child's sleep pattern and identify when the device should wake the child to prevent a night terror.
The device is seemingly simple, but for children and adults affected by night terrors, the impact could be substantial.
Previously: Biodesign fellows take on night terrors in children and Biodesign at Stanford: A whopping success
Photo courtesy of Lully