Apple Granted Patent for Sleep Mask Wearable Device

In a world of constant distractions to sleep, we look to tech innovators to come up with solutions. Many people need music to help them sleep, and others need distracting light blocked out. There’s no perfect solution to provide for both of those needs … yet. Apple was granted a patent Tuesday for a device that might address that need. The Cupertino-based company’s description sounds like a sleep mask wearable device, equal parts sleep mask and on-ear headphones.

The Struggle of Wearing Headphones to Bed

Trying to enjoy music while sleeping, without disturbing others, is a real struggle. AirPods fall out, sometimes to get lost or broken. Headphones are sometimes better, but highly uncomfortable. Apple describes this quandary in its patent, granted Tuesday.

Headphones may not, however, be sufficiently comfortable for napping or wearing for long periods of time.,

Cupertino’s proposed solution incorporates speakers or bone conduction transducers into a fabric band. The fabric would have triangular ends that the wearer inserts their ears into, while a “central portion of the fabric between the ends may overlap the user’s eyes.”

Apple Sleep Mask Patent Image - Device Rear Overview
An image in a recent patent, depicting a mask. Triangular inserts at either end could fit over the wearer’s ears and contain speakers or bone conduction transducers for playing audio.

The bone conduction transducer would be particular intriguing, if Apple designs it effectively. Such devices would play audio for you using bone conduction, so they wouldn’t be large enough to cause discomfort when laying on your side.

Adding a Sleep Mask to the Headphones

The next exciting aspect of this patent is the fabric overlapping the wearer’s eyes. Apple describes using light-blocking fabric to aid in going to sleep, but it doesn’t stop there. The patent proposes inserting LEDs, lined up with the user’s eyes. These could be used to influence the sleep cycle, as part of a light therapy regimen, or as an alarm.

Apple Sleep Mask Patent Image - Device Front Overview
The proposed sleep mask wearable device would cover the eyes, but house LEDs to provide light stimulation when needed.

Cupertino describes using stretchy fabric, to help in keeping the wearable in place while also maximizing comfort. The patent also describes incorporating biometric sensors to gather health data, presumably to display in Apple’s Health app and including sleep quality analysis. Some of the described sensors include microphones to monitor snoring and provide active noise cancellation.

Other sensors would gather data on eye movements, movement, blood pressure sensors, heart rate sensors, and more. All of the data would pass over to your iPhone, where you could access it and see the trends of your sleep cycles.

The iMask, Perhaps?

We’ve known Apple to innovate constantly, filing patent applications that never come into production. This, though, is a product many of us have dreamed of. Being able to listen to music, podcasts, or other audio in bed without disturbing our sleep partners would be awesome enough. Add to that the capability to block ambient light while you sleep, but provide you light stimulus to wake you up, and you’ve got a product I’d be eager to purchase immediately, if not sooner.

Would Cupertino call it the iMask, perhaps? Or maybe the Apple Mask, since the company moved away from that appellation after revealing the iPad. Maybe the AirSnooze. Whatever they call it, I want it.

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