The Deep Sleep Cocoon. Built for the first missions to Mars. And winner of WIRED Gear of the Year 2019.
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Built to help you sleep anywhere on Earth or in outer-space, the Deep Sleep Cocoon is a self-contained microhabitat that’s a cross between a cocoon and a spacesuit. However advanced we become, the human body needs rest and sleep in order to function at a high level, and this will become even more critical as we travel off our planet. But when you’re trapped in an environment you can’t control, and it’s cabin crew, scientific protocol or deep space deciding what light, sound and ambient temperature you’re exposed to, sleeping can be hard. Long-haul flights, the International Space Station and the first flights bound for Mars are not designed for sleep. So we turned to nature to design a microhabitat for a human being – mimicking adaptable and protective structures like the exoskeleton of a woodlouse and the cocoons spun by moths and caterpillars. Designed for physical and psychological comfort in inhospitable places, the cocoon strips out light like an isolation tank, has space for noise cancelling headphones, reduces your exposure to unnecessary stimulus, and while you can see out, no-one can see in.
Size + fit
On Earth we shot the Deep Sleep Cocoon on snowboarder, kitesurfer and runner Rein Langeveld who is 6ft 1 / 185cm and is wearing size large.
In space we shot the Deep Sleep Cocoon on Commander Oselaka Obi who is 6ft 2 / 189cm and is wearing size XL.
For more advice on sizing, check our size guide or ask us for help with sizing. And don’t worry if you order something and it doesn’t fit – we have a free, no hassle 30 day return and exchange period.
The harsh realities of sleeping in space
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed back onto the Eagle to return to Earth after the moon landing, sleep was out of the question. The noise of pumps filled their tiny cabin, bright warning lights couldn’t be dimmed, and even the window shades were glowing as intense sunlight shot through them. While closing their space helmets shut out the noise, it activated the cooling systems that had been vital on the moon’s surface but now kept them too cold to sleep. The sleeping conditions we take for granted on Earth, like quiet and darkness, are far from guaranteed in space.
The human body is the most fragile system in space
Of all the systems that will be launched into the solar system over the next century, the human body is one of the weakest and most fragile. While every other system – from a spaceship and Mars Rover to an asteroid mining craft and lunar lander – is specifically designed to exist in space, the human body is not. It may be extraordinarily adaptable back on Earth, but in space it’s a liability. It needs food, water, oxygen, companionship, purpose, sleep, light, dark, mental stimulation and physical activity. It can’t lie dormant and gathering space dust, and then be expected to work on cue.
Why deep sleep is important
We’re making prototype clothing for space travel with a simple mission – to create the optimum state for someone to be able to perform successfully in space. Sleep is as critical as food, water and air. It helps restore the body’s immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems, and these in turn maintain your mood, memory and cognitive function. This restoration takes place mostly during deep sleep, when your body temperature, heart rate and brain’s oxygen consumption decrease. Sleep deprivation on the other hand shortens your attention span, increases anxiety and impairs your memory.
Sleep deprivation on the journey to Mars
Any crew heading to Mars or beyond face hundreds of consecutive days in isolation and outside of Earth’s rhythm of day and night. In 2010 the Mars-500 Mission sealed six participants in an isolation chamber in Russia for 520 days to simulate a full mission. Four of the six developed sleeping problems, and the one who suffered the most chronic sleep deprivation was singled out as being responsible for the majority of mistakes made on tests used to measure concentration and alertness. The risk of accidents in a real-life situation with a ship millions of miles from Earth is of course much higher.
Built to help you control your environment
Sleeping can become extremely difficult when you’re in an environment that you can’t control, with cabin crew, scientific protocol, or deep space deciding what light, sound and ambient temperature you are exposed to. To combat this you need to create a micro-environment that gives you physical and psychological comfort. To solve this engineering challenge with a single piece of clothing we turned to nature and looked at structures that are highly adaptable, protective, and allow creatures to metamorphose from one state to the next.
Based on the protective exoskeleton of the woodlouse
The shape and functionality of the Deep Sleep Cocoon are based on the woodlouse. Thanks to their segmented and shell-like exoskeleton, woodlice can use their own body as a protective shield to create a barrier between themselves and the world. With a hood that can fold over on itself and transform into a ball, and three articulated layers of material on the back of the jacket, the Deep Sleep Cocoon mimics the woodlouse’s exoskeleton. From an engineering perspective it makes the jacket a cross between a woodlouse and a space helmet.
The hood folds over like a space helmet
Like the visor on a space helmet, the hood is built from five different segments which can fold down and over your face when you need to rest or sleep. While the hood is soft, it holds its shape to create space around your face. The hood fastens with four sets of magnets which are built into the material and simply snap into place. As a self-contained environment that you can take with you anywhere, it brings routine, warmth and comfort without having to rely on a specific set up – like a bed, a sleeping bag or night-time.
It works like a normal jacket during the day
You can wear the Deep Sleep Cocoon like any normal jacket when you’re not resting – just like a woodlouse can happily walk around in its protective suit. Depending on your needs, the hood can be fastened into a series of different positions. The visor can be clipped back and away inside the hood. The collar can be left open with the visor down. You can also undo the side snappers so that hood and visor fold away entirely. But its adaptable engineering helps you transition fast when you want to turn the lights out.
Astronauts on the International Space Station experience 16 sunrises a day
Alongside eye masks and earplugs every ISS crew member has a cupboard-sized sleeping pod with a sleeping bag fixed to the wall with a bungee cord to combat microgravity and air currents. The onboard lighting produces different light spectra, from daytime light, to blue-enriched light to increase alertness or shift circadian rhythms, and blue-depleted light for before sleep. Despite this, 75% of crew report using sleeping pills which induce sedation rather than deep sleep. And this impacts cognitive ability and alertness in space, where there’s little room for error.
Why it’s hard to sleep in hostile environments
Sleep disturbance is a universal problem for people in extreme environments – from polar explorers and researchers to astronauts on space shuttle flights and on the ISS. The foundations of good sleep, like avoiding bright lights, creating routines, avoiding stress, getting enough exposure to sunlight early in the morning, and finding dark, quiet and cool places may all be impossible. Your circadian rhythm which regulates your body’s sleep and wake cycles is easily thrown off by light exposure, isolation and confinement, all of which are waiting for us in space.
The Deep Sleep Cocoon acts like an isolation tank
If you’re experiencing 16 sunrises a day and the cabin lights are controlled by a computer, you’ll want to be able to control when your body and mind think it’s night-time. The Deep Sleep Cocoon is built to reduce your exposure to unnecessary stimulus. The hood leaves plenty of space for noise cancelling headphones. With the visor entirely closed the Deep Sleep Cocoon strips out light like an isolation tank, turning day into night. And creating your own space shields you from the psychological pressure of being in a metal cabin for several years.
Why we’ll need cocoons in space
Travelling to Mars and beyond might not look as Star Trek as we imagine. Confinement and cramped conditions on the journeys are likely. And we may well end up living in lava tunnels like space rabbits when we get there, simply to escape the radiation. It’s certainly not conducive to sleep. So to build a microhabitat for humans, we took inspiration from creatures who already have to change from one state to another in tight spaces and high risk environments. Like moths and caterpillars which spin silk cocoons to give them the protection they need to go through metamorphosis in the crack of a tree or under a leaf.
The visor means you can see out but no-one can see in
While the face of the hood looks identical to the rest of the jacket it’s actually a blacked-out visor based on the outer layers of a cocoon. It’s made from a soft, breathable and stretchy mesh fabric that allows you to see out, but no-one to see in. This shot was taken through the visor to show you how much visibility you’ll have when you’re looking through it. You’ll still be able to see out well enough to use your phone or laptop, but it strips out light to make daylight feel more like dusk or night-time. When you’re not using it, the visor can be clipped away underneath the hood.
Light has the most profound impact on sleep
We haven’t always slept like we do today. Before the introduction of artificial light during the Industrial Revolution, sleeping twice a day was common. Many nomadic and hunter gatherer societies still sleep on and off during day and night, and under experimental conditions people sleep and wake more frequently. With our internal circadian clock profoundly influenced by changes in light, even small amounts of light at night can suppress melatonin secretion and increase how awake you are. So the Deep Sleep Cocoon is built for shift-pattern sleeping that we may well revert back to in space.
Why we are building clothing for space
As we begin to explore new worlds millions of miles from our own planet, we will need to think about clothing in new ways. As something that’s always attached to us, clothing is uniquely suited to solve some of the simplest as well as most complex questions that will arise as we go intergalactic. It will become our breathing system, our doctor, sleep aid, source of comfort, food and hydration. Tackling the vast number of questions that space travel has created over the last 50 years has led to engineering solutions that have unexpected impacts back on Earth. Clothing will be no different.
How it works for travel on Earth
We’re not quite ready for Mars yet, so the Deep Sleep Cocoon is built for travelling and testing during journeys back on Earth too. Zipping the cocoon up on a plane flight is like hanging up a Do Not Disturb sign. Bright lights disappear. Everything gets quieter. And people leave you alone. The jacket is insulated which makes it ideal for the temperature drops on overnight flights, and the hood is large enough to fit any headphones underneath.
Made from Swiss materials to help you sleep anywhere
The Deep Sleep Cocoon is built from an advanced three-layer fabric designed and built in Switzerland. The outer layer is extremely abrasion resistant. The middle layer has a waterproof and windproof membrane. And the layer next to your skin is a soft nylon. It means that while we’re waiting for the first flights to Mars, it can cope with harsh training conditions here on Earth – from sleeping on the rocky floors of lava caves and sparse Arctic stations, to trucks and planes in transit. Built for inhospitable and unpredictable environments, it’s designed to help you sleep anywhere.
Five pockets and metal detailing
The Deep Sleep Cocoon comes with five pockets. There are two side pockets on the outside of the jacket, one internal pocket, and two hidden pockets, one on the left chest and one just to the right of the front zip. The two-way front zipper lets you undo the jacket from the top and the bottom at the same time, allowing you to decide just how cocooned you want to be. Metal adjusters on the inside hem let you tighten the jacket at the waist, and come with cord adjusters built from Cordura. The cuffs are fitted with metal snap fasteners.
The Deep Sleep Cocoon is just the start of human hibernation
We’re not the only ones looking at forms of human hibernation for the mission to Mars. Another idea being explored is something called ‘torpor-induced hibernation’, a medically-induced hypothermia which slows biological functions. It’s already used in trauma surgery to cool and metabolically supress patients, giving surgeons extra time. The idea behind torpor – or keeping astronauts in a freezer – is that it would save on space and supplies, and they’d arrive well rested having escaped the monotony of the journey. Of course it relies on someone waking you up at the other end.
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