FitTech Insider

Cognitive Gyms for the Mind 2: How does neurofeedback train your brain for better sleep, Guirec Le Lous?

URGOTECH, startup of the French group Urgo, is part of the new wave in sleep training. Their solution URGOnight is designed to train the brain to sleep better using electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements and app-based brain exercises.

Name: URGOnight / Paris, France / Founded in 2015, launched the product in 2020 / Founders: Guirec Le Lous, President of Urgo Medical
LinkedIn: company/urgotech/

“We are using a technology that has been around for 20 years and has its own clinical validation… The only problem with neurofeedback, nowadays is that it’s not very convenient. Since there aren’t many sleep centers equipped in this way… And that’s why we developed UrgoNight so that everyone can have access to neurofeedback in a very easy, simple, and motivating way.” — Guriec Le Lous, Founder URGOnight via Sleepgadgets

Numbers: Privately owned. Revenue is $2.8 million.

Target group: Anyone looking to improve quality of sleep and to fall asleep naturally, without relying on drugs and medications.

Problem: Good sleep is on the basis of optimal health and wellbeing. But sleep disruption is on the rise globally due to a more sedentary lifestyle and increase in screen time. In Germany alone, sleep disorders among working people aged 35 to 65 increased by 66% between 2010 and 2017, with twice as many taking sleeping pills. Stress and anxiety have risen since the pandemic too, also leading to poor sleep. Neurofeedback technology is only available in specific sleep centers and not accessible for many.

Provided solution: Studies have shown that training SMR waves with neurofeedback during the day improves sleep quality at night by decreasing the time to fall asleep and the number of nighttime awakenings. So in four years, Urgo Medical have developed URGOnight: a high-quality, non-invasive solution optimizing your brain to sleep better from the comfort of your home, based on clinical neurofeedback technology.

URGONight is the first daytime Sleep Training Program, combining a brainwave-reading headband with the URGOnight app, offering customized exercises. It uses positive feedback to show which processes and mental activities work best for you to produce the brain waves associated with better sleep. There are three steps involved in this Neurofeedback loop:
  1. You use an Electroencephalography (EEG) headband during the day. It consists of four dry electrodes, two on the top of the head and two behind the ears. It trains you to re-educate your brain to produce SMR (SensoriMotorRhythm) brain waves. Connect with the app and earphones for an immersive experience.
  2. Each session is made up of five exercises of three minutes each, and a one-minute break in between each of them. During the game or exercise, you are assigned tasks (that are triggered when SMR waves are produced) and you see results and scores and in real-time. These range from growing leaves on trees, to drawing relaxing patterns, or herding jellyfish. Notice the visual and audio cues while focusing on your personal strategy– meaning, your thoughts. Certain strategies help you create SMR waves, and it’s up to you to determine which ones. For example: imagine yourself swimming or doing something relaxing; focusing on a single point; focusing on breathing or physical sensations; clearing your mind and pushing away unnecessary thoughts. During the breaks, relax and think of nothing — absorbing all you have learned in the last exercise. You have a virtual coach in the app, explaining the exercises and providing advice on improving scores. Also, programs adjust to you to ensure you are on a constant learning curve, and results continue to improve over time.
  3. You get scores — aka, measurements of SMR waves produced. The more you train and track your progress, the more you can identify and learn which mental strategies or thoughts can work best in generating SMR brain waves. The app anonymously collects sleep evaluation data, including EEG brain activity data, SMR activity data, the theme used, and timestamps.

Wear the device for 20 minutes a day, three times a week, for three months to strengthen your neural network needed for sleep – falling asleep faster, sleep deeper and stay asleep longer. You can expect to fall asleep up to 40% faster.

UrgoNIGHT combines a brainwave-reading headband with an app. It uses positive feedback to show which processes and mental activities produce the brain waves for better sleep. (Source: UrgoNIGHT)

Challenges: The tech was previously only available to clinics and sleep researchers, but it is now available to the public and it costs around 500€. However, research in this field is still new (there are a few studies), so the startup must educate consumers, starting with their marketing and content — with blog posts and webinars, for example. Consumers can read other users’ success stories which are submitted on their website to learn more about URGOnight's direct benefits.

Market trends: Direct competitors in the VR, health tech, and wellness space include Dreem, Sleep Shepherd, and Muse Headbands. The Sleep Tech devices market value will cross $27 billion by 2025, propelled by the escalation of sleeping disorders and rising awareness.