Case Studies


Engineering a better night’s sleep

Ever wondered why you wake up at roughly the same time each morning whether or not your alarm clock is on?

Your body is programmed by circadian rhythms that dictate your sleeping and waking patterns. When these rhythms are disturbed, as may be the case with shift work, or international travel and time zones changes, the result is often insomnia. Disturbed sleep or insomnia is common, with up to 20% of Australians suffering the condition sporadically and 10% suffering chronic sleeplessness. As sleep is fundamental to our health and wellbeing with a lack of, or poor quality sleep affecting motor skills, memory and mental health, this was a problem worth tackling.

With over 25 years of research into sleep and sleep disorders, clinical psychologists Professor Leon Lack and Dr Helen Wright are world experts in falling asleep, staying asleep and the effects of not sleeping enough. Their in-depth and comprehensive research into sleep and sleep disorders has led to the development of a new, drug-free, means of reprogramming the body’s circadian rhythms using wearable light technology. “Wearable light’ enables users to go about their daily lives whilst gaining the benefits of light therapy. Because the light source moves with the wearer, the angle at which the light is delivered remains optimised at all times during usage.

To translate over 25 years of sleep research into a tangible new technology required over 2 years of device development with ophthalmologists and design specialists. Taking a working prototype from the Flinders Sleep Research Laboratory to market also required the expertise of an industry partner who could engineer and manufacturer the product at scale.

After partnering with a local, Adelaide-based, automotive supplier, SMR Technologies, Re-Timer was launched as a world first in wearable sleep technology. Applications for the technology include Seasonal Affective Disorder, jet lag and shift work sleep disturbances, with customers around the world reporting profound positive effects from their use of the device.

Within two years, Re-Timer has become a market- leader in wearable light therapy devices, is an export success with 85% of production sent from Australia to export markets and is profitable, highlighting the real benefits of University-Industry partnership in Australia.

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