Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Improved Bed

The bed is a common device in the western world, as a supportive surface for sleeping, but it's not the universally preferred place to sleep. There are other cultures that sleep in hammocks, or on the ground, or on a chair, or perhaps by some other means. (Propped against a wall, perhaps?) But in America, a person sleeping on the ground is either a hobo or a drunk, hammocks are used only really for a nap outdoors or sleeping while camping. A few Americans sleep in a large supportive chair, but I'd say a bed is the most common way to sleep.

Most beds are fixed furniture, staying very much where they are installed. A mattress softens the impact of the sleeper's weight, sheets increase the smooth feeling, blankets keep the sleeper warm, and pillows support the sleeper's head. Beds may have a few other components, such as a drawer for commonly needed materials (sleeping pills, perhaps, or maybe a place to store eyeglasses or dentures), but most bed improvements have been incremental changes to one of those components. (Even hammock and floor cultures often have pillows or blankets of some kind.)

Well, what if instead, a sudden redesign replaced the whole thing with a much better version? I'm not the best industrial designer, so there are probably intellectual errors with this version that maybe can't be corrected, but why the hell not redesign a bed? If you wanted sane engineering, you'd ask a university or engineering firm, not this blog.

Let's start with Skinner's special crib. B.F. Skinner was a pychologist famous for studies involving rats in boxes. So when he built a special crib for his daughter, his critics started this insane story about the crib being a "skinner box," and that she hated him. This story is untrue -- the crib was not a skinner box of any kind, it was a special design for her comfort and his daughter actually still loves him very much. But the crib was an important starting point, because it was warm and immensely comfortable.

The crib has a closeable door with glass or plexiglass windows, sealed roof, and feeds warmed air into the sleeping compartment. In hot climates, cooled air could be substituted, of course. Since it is warm (or cool), blankets are not needed, and because it's finely controllable, the subject will likely neither sweat nor shiver. Skinner used a cloth mesh and that was pretty much it, since warm and comfy is all a baby needs, but let's not stop there. Adults like luxury.

The bottom should have a padded, memory foam surface that can easily be washed. (Because even if you don't sweat, you still shed a bit, both hair and skin. That and if somebody goes to bed after not showering all day....) Probably preferably detachable. A vibration source should be mounted beneath the mattress or foam pad, and when it is activated, it will massage the user. A control inside the box should activate or deactivate the vibration. Or, with a computer, have sophisticated vibration patterns activated by voice recognition.

A speaker wired to an MP3 player can play pleasing and relaxing music, chosen ahead of time. The speaker should play about at 30-40 dB. This would also allow a wakeup function, be it the gentle Zen method of bells that slowly get louder until the sleeper awakens, or by the traditional Alarm clock method that makes an irritating noise until deactivated. If the MP3 player is more of an embedded computer, this might even be arbitrarily selectable, although one does not want to encourage people to hit the snooze button repeatedly.

Sleepers fond of sleeping late will enjoy curtains. This would be an unwise choice for those that sleep in through school or work. Curtains will also grant the sleeper privacy if need be.

For the truly lazy, food or water could be kept in a tank outside the heated part and piped in through eating tubes. I think this should be discouraged before they have tubes built in to remove the waste afterwards, which, frankly, ick.

A number of drawers should be available, since people like to keep certain accessories near them when they sleep, such as their glasses, or dentures, or sleeping pills.

The circulation should replace all the air in the chamber within 2 minutes, and the exhaust air should be sterilized, perhaps with ultraviolet light. This would help sick sleepers to recover faster, since any bacteria they give of would not manage to return to their body, and all the air they breathe would be perfectly clean. Also, for maximum airflow, the input valve should face the output valve.

To Do:

* Find out more efficient way to temperature control than an incandescent bulb. Must maintain exact temperature for less watts. Also, controllable, because some people want to sleep at 30C, some want 20C, and a few want 10C. Lastly, reversible in case of hot climate and/or out of control summer.

* More comfortable sleeping surface than memory foam

* Somehow manage auto-cleaning when no human is in the chamber, such as at 11am every morning. No human will be in the chamber then, right?

* Make sure vibrating undermatress can't be clogged by, say, dropping one's keys, or the midnight snack in it.

* Determine a way to strap people to the mattress in order to adapt it for airplanes.

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