This Pillow Was Designed Specifically For Text Neck
April 18th, 2022 at 6:05 am
From text neck to pandemic posture, these bodily aches and pains of the modern era did not exist when conventional pillows were designed back in the 1970s. We may have more information on how to take care of our posture and health better, but today’s fast-paced world has also made it easier for us to forget about our body’s basic needs.
People have been cutting back on sleep in an attempt to increase efficiency; however, scientific studies and statistics show that prioritising sleep can help improve work performance. “The notion of ‘work hard, play hard’ has to be balanced with ‘sleep well’ too. Even billionaire, Elon Musk, has publicly sworn by sleep in attributing his success,” says GIRAFthepillow Founder, Ken Leong.
Getting quality sleep sounds simple, but the wrong pillow will prevent you from falling asleep and affect your focus throughout the day. GIRAFthepillow is a Sleep Wellness Engineering startup that launched the 2022 GIRAF Advanced Composites Sleeping Pillow – an innovative pillow engineered specifically to help relieve the troubles of modern slouch-over-smartphone lifestyle.
We spoke to the founder, Ken Leong, about how the World’s First Composites Technology Sleep Pillow delivers superior comfort and support.
What was your journey towards starting GIRAFthepillow with your team?
“An Ex-Singapore MOE ASEAN scholar, I’m a trained engineer with an MEng Mechanical Engineering (Honours) degree from the University of Nottingham, UK.
“You sleep when I study, you sleep when I sleep”, said my boarding school roommate during my scholarship days. From a young age, I realised how important sleep has been to me and more specifically to my success. So when I found out that my pillow was giving me sleepless nights rolling in bed and headaches, the urge was to improve it. None of the ones being sold did the job, so the only choice was to make a new one myself. I was very lucky to have been under one of the top experts in composites in the UK during university, and had always been fascinated by the possibilities. As a polymath, it led me to try applying it to the pillow. Over the years, more people came on board to make this a team effort. I met an American Posture Institute certified posture expert who helped tune the product. Later on, more people were brought in to scale. Efforts to commercialise GIRAFthepillow as a high performance sleep pillow targeting posture-recovery and full R.E.M sleep cycle recuperation started in 2020, just before the pandemic hit. In total, it’s a journey of more than 17 years.”
What were the industry gaps you noticed and how do you aim to make a better solution available to help others facing the same issues?
“First of all, the concept of a pillow has not changed for more than 2000 years since the Romans invented our modern pillow, it’s still the same practice of stuffing a pile of soft material into a bag and calling it a pillow. They all have limited material capabilities, which is restricted by the single block of material stuffed into it, be it feather, cotton, memory foam, etc. So when the opportunity came to reinvent the pillow from scratch, we ditched that conventional idea and used all the modern engineering tools and technology available to us to innovate.”
How did you innovate GIRAFthepillow to be able to provide users with the best possible experience with sleep posture? How does this affect full sleep cycles for both mental and physical recuperation?
“First, we had to look at what the person does when they sleep and what is the natural neutral posture when lying down. After that, we use F1 Racing technology to find the fit for the human body, and use exact calculations to produce the shape of the pillow such that the user is able to attain the desired sleep posture. Sleep is divided into physical and physical recuperation, whilst your physical body is recuperating when you relax and stop moving, your mind requires the full sleep cycle to get the recuperation it needs. Research has shown that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep works as a detox to flush out the toxins in the brain. REM is the final stage in a full sleep cycle. We aim to give the user an uninterrupted sleep so that they are able to achieve this through two ways:
- To use scientific ways to relax, we are able to manipulate composites material to recreate a cuddle, which works as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), that is scientifically shown to produce a calming and relaxing effect.
- We also engineer the pillow to seamlessly support the user in different sleeping positions as they move around in bed, to avoid having a jolt that wakes them up which also stops them from achieving the full sleep cycle.”
What was the technology behind creating and designing the GIRAFthepillow? What was the inspiration behind the design?
“The main two areas involved are Advanced Composites Material and Human Factors Ergonomics Engineering. A lot of it comes from Automotive areas, especially F1 racing where they are testing the limits and hence use the best solutions. But also areas such as airline business class cabins where they try to make the passenger as comfortable as they can on long hour journeys. If you think about it, sleep is quite similar, long hours and all. As a polymath, I enjoy connecting the dots and using unconventional ideas.”
How long did you spend just on the research of materials and understanding users’ pain points? Why is this important?
“The overall journey was more than 17 years. Getting to know the root cause of problems is important in engineering, as well as continuous improvement. Actually a lot of it is just logic – you can’t solve a problem if you don’t even know what it is, correct? So it’s a process of trial and error and iteration, as per many great inventions out there such as Dyson.”
For those who are hesitant about spending money on a pillow, why is it an important investment?
“Let’s break down the numbers, if you spread the cost over 365 days (1 year), it’s only RM1+ a day, which is less than a cup of coffee. And imagine if you get better sleep – you have higher productivity, you get a pay rise, you perform better and live a better life. The benefits far outweigh the costs. It’s an affordable way to boost your life. You’d probably lose RM399 to medical bills anyway if you don’t sleep properly.”
How are you encouraging consumers to purchase pillows online rather than a physical store?
“Whilst the pandemic has affected our operations, the shift in purchasing behaviour has also helped us in going the online route. People are now more willing to buy things online. And we communicate directly with our customers and that provides value to them and us. Many times, even when buying in a physical store, you’re dealing with a salesperson who is more interested in taking your cash, and you may not get the proper answer to your questions if you get it at all. Most likely you’ll hear what they think you want to hear, as long as you part with your cash. Our products come with Free Delivery, a 2 year warranty and also a Lease to Own option for easy affordability. We make it as smooth and convenient as possible for the customer.”
How does GIRAFthepillow take into consideration the different preferences and comfort of consumers?
“In designing GIRAFthepillow, we provide an experience that adheres to what the general population perceives as comfort. If you like sleeping on a piece of wood, then perhaps that would be an extreme that we are not able to cater for, but in general everyone is happy.
It’s like saying I like lamb more than chicken or fish, but what if there is an engineered meat that is tasty for the majority but doesn’t taste like any of the above. We are that engineered meat.
Granted some people get a higher level of satisfaction compared to others, it is still an above average experience for most. We also have a special bespoke custom fit service, which is a very time consuming process, and is only available by special appointment as a premium service to current users who desire an even better experience from their sleep.”
What were the challenges and successes you faced along the way since starting this entrepreneurial endeavour?
“There have been attempts to copy what we do, but I see it as a compliment that we are doing something right. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
The proudest success has to be the overwhelming feedback from our users on how we actually changed their lives for the better, and how surprised they were that there is actually a great product such as ours out there. This fuels us to do better and help more people out there.”
What is the future of GIRAFthepillow and what users can look forward to in the next 1-2 years?
“We look to continue doing great things by using technology to disrupt the sleep industry and see the future of sleep as an integral part of the healthtech space. Also many eager customers are now waiting for our product to be launched into their home country and we aim to make that a reality.”
You can purchase the 2022 GIRAF Advanced Composites Sleeping Pillow on their website.
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