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Summary

University students often struggle with sleep deprivation. After a day of continuous stimuli, connectedness, and screen time, many students reported that their minds become too active when they go to bed.
 

To address this issue, I developed a product called "Catharsis" that helps students unwind before bed. The mechanism requires them to disconnect from technology by inserting their distracting devices, such as phones, to open the candle lids and initiate a relaxing experience.

Role

Research & Design

Date

Year 2020 - 2021

Methodology

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Surveys

Interviews

Generative
Sessions

A/B Testing

Interaction
Vision

Creative
Prototyping

Field Tests

I took a hands-on approach, learning through the creation of low-fi prototypes and conducting tests. 

 Analysis  
Aimed at understanding how university students perceive and experience sleep.

 Generation  
I explored various aspects of the experience by creating prototypes.

 Synthesis  

I refined my concept and created a final working prototype, which I then tested overnight with users from my target group.

Analysis

What is the root of the problem?

I began by creating a mind map. It made me realize that I had a bias in assuming that poor routines and habits were the main causes of sleep deprivation. So I decided to reach out to people and listened to their stories.

Survey and interviews

I conducted structured surveys with 30 mixed-group participants and interviewed 5 individuals to gather information about their habits and sleep quality.

Generative Sessions​

In two separate sessions, I encouraged discussions on sleep using a game and facilitated an online session using 100 images and 100 words.

Cards created for research

Session 2

Research session

Results

My target group

  • My target group of university students heavily relies on electronic devices for work, entertainment, and social interactions.

  • The pandemic has increased stress and feelings of isolation, making it challenging for students to establish and maintain a routine.

Their context

  • Many students have limited space, shared common areas, and house rules.

  • The pandemic limited the possibilities for outside activities.

  • The COVID lockdowns also led to indoor areas becoming increasingly multifunctional.

Image representing a student room

"When do I wake up? Depends on the day..."

"When I turn off the light, all kinds of thoughts about the day and worries come to my mind"

“My thoughts follow me to bed”

The problem

  • Many students experience racing thoughts when trying to fall asleep.

  • Factors such as constant connectivity and anxiety contribute to this situation.

  • While some students find this phenomenon "scary," "annoying," or even "enjoyable," they all agree that it impairs their ability to rest.

Solutions

  • According to Helsestart's 2022 survey, 29% of people in this age group suffer from insomnia.

  • A future solution could be marketed to individual consumers, student houses, or universities.

  • To explore existing solutions, I researched the following options:

Calm app
dudou device
Bedtime tea

Apps

These apps offer many features like guided meditation.
BUT
Users 
remain connected to their screens and exposed to blue light, messages, and emails, which can hinder relaxation.

Body rhythm

Devices that synchronize your breath or your circadian rhythms can help people relax.
BUT
Their
 experience is limited, 

requiring users to be ready to sleep and focused. 

Teas and medication

Traditional solutions like tea and medication are effective for many people.
BUT

They can lose their effect. It is a constant investment and users still need to actively relax.

I aimed to develop a holistic solution that addresses the entire sleep experience. Through extensive brainstorming, I created an Interaction Vision. From this vision, I identified three pillars: providing guidance and relaxation, but also the management of thoughts.

Fallera, link to article

Let it burn

Interaction Vision

Replicating the experience of Falleras, who remove their elaborated attire and hairstyle after the five-day festivities. 

The experience should feel...
Alleviating​

  • Decrease in weight and tension.

Relaxing

  • A warm, quiet, and private moment

Progressive​

  • Slow tempo, layers to remove.

Nostalgic

  • A finishing period, delicate materials.

Ideation

I delved deeper into the problem by studying theories such as Cognitive Behavioral Theory for Insomnia (CBT-i). Leveraging this knowledge, I created several low-fidelity tests involving fragrances, textures, games, and many discussions

Relaxation

For a calm and gradual experience candles are a great fit. Their natural warmth, fragrance, and slow tempo are very appealing.

Guidance

To achieve real disconnection users must distance themselves from electronic devices. The subtle cues provided by the candles melting are a natural time indicator

Thought management

The design should accommodate the diversity of needs, providing advice but giving that person enough space to disconnect in their own way.

First test, testing sensations
Third test, exploring how people manage their thoughts

Creative Prototyping

Having an initial direction, I researched the candle experience creating over 20 low-fi yet more complex prototypes. My goal was to create an enchanting mechanism that is both effective and motivating to use.

Prototype
Prototype
Prototype
Prototype
Prototype
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I fully immersed myself in the exploration phase, creating my own candles and testing mechanisms to play with the melting wax. In the process, an innocent table almost nearly caught fire. Collateral damages of the iterative process...

Accident prototyping, burned table

Sacrifice your enemies

The idea:
I envisioned an unwinding mechanism where students would symbolically sacrifice their distracting devices, disconnecting from the world and connecting with themselves. They embark on a slow pace activity determined through the candles.

I created two mechanisms following this idea and A/B tested them overnight with 5 users from the target group.

Prototype A

Prototype A

The tailored candles offered the perfect tempo, and users appreciated the ability to set their own time.

However...

  • Candle lids occasionally failed to open completely, causing safety concerns.

  • Residual wax was difficult to remove from glued glasses.

  • The design lacked built-in storage for the candles.

Prototype B

This design addressed the previous concerns, featuring sturdier construction, built-in candle storage, and candle lids positioned away from the fire.  

However...

  • The phone was easily accessible.

  • The aesthetics were appealing.

  • The candlelight was barely visible, losing its guiding effect.

Prototype B

I developed a brand-new design that incorporated all the feedback.

I constructed a final fully-functional prototype and distributed it among university students to be used overnight. The results were positive, with users feeling calm and able to allocate dedicated time for relaxation without distractions.

Final results and reflection

The participants expressed high satisfaction with the experience, indicating that it met the design goals and embodied the envisioned interaction qualities. The final concept boasted an eye-catching and playful design that could be adapted to various routines, needs, and spaces.

How much does it improve sleep?

To evaluate the concept's impact on sleep and motivation, further testing with a larger participant group is necessary. Self-assessment methods could be employed for evaluation. Additionally, advanced usability testing would enhance the final product's quality. The research process was open and experimental, which I enjoyed, but incorporating a more structured procedure earlier on would have optimized time and resources, potentially requiring fewer iterations.

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