thinkpublic designed and launched a new social enterprise to support people's mental health and sleep. The sound asleep club provides live online bedtime classes to help people to get into a relaxed state of mind before bed and have a smooth passage to the land of nod.
The sound asleep club was inspired by the need and desire to help NHS frontline workers and communities deal with the anxiety, stress and sleepless nights Covid-19 lockdowns created in the UK.
A King's College London research study found that 63% of people said their sleep has been worse since Covid began. It's well known there's a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health.
At thinkpublic we wanted to do something to help others, so Deborah Szebeko, our founder, combined her professional experience of designing healthcare services with her passion for playing the gong and holistic practices. To launch a weekly online sleep sound spas designed to help people deal with the anxieties and pressures of lockdown, providing this free of charge to all NHS frontline workers across the UK. This was the seed that inspired the launch of the new social enterprise aound asleep club in November 2020, focused on helping people unwind their minds before bed and helping to support a natural night's sleep.
We have designed an online community of care where people come together in a supportive environment and learn different holistic practices including breathwork, sound meditation, yoga, qigong, mindfulness and journaling all from the privacy and comfort of their own home. It's been a total pleasure to help put over 2000 people so far to bed, helping them let go of the day and drift off to sleep.
The club has received some amazing feedback:
"Your soothing, calming voice and then the amazing sound of that stunning gong gave me the deepest, most refreshing sleep that I can remember" - Karen
"Thank you for offering this to key workers, encouraging people to schedule time out to meditate, there couldn't be a better thing to do" - Sarah (NHS doctor)
It was very restful and helpful to distract the mind from the current situation and feel more secure and a great aid to sleep. I really enjoyed the animal meeting part as well. - Emily
We are now working with Carers UK to roll the sound asleep club out to carers across the UK, so ensure they have easy access to look after their own mental health and wellbeing.
The sound asleep club is a great example of how we can use our design skills to identify a need or opportunity and rapidly design, test and launch social ventures and services that can have a positive social impact.
2020 was the year that rapidly changed all our lives, we lost the simple human connections that we took for granted each day including the freedom to move, shake hands, go to work, see friends, hug, go out for dinner and more.
Covid-19 has had a massive impact on our nation's mental health, which was already under strain for example research from the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) found that every week, 1 in 6 adults experiences a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression. This challenge has only been accelerated by Covid-19 and its ongoing disruption to people's daily lives, also putting additional pressure on people that may previously have not suffered with mental health challenges.
In November 2020 the MHF reported that almost half (45%) of the UK population had felt anxious or worried, which rose to 64% of respondents who have a pre-existing mental health condition. More than ever, we need to explore and develop scalable solutions to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing.
Millions of people suffered from insomnia before the coronavirus, and unfortunately, the pandemic creates a host of new challenges — even for people who previously had no sleeping problems. Sleep is critical to physical health and effective functioning of the immune system. It's also a key promoter of emotional wellness and mental health, helping to beat back stress, depression, and anxiety.
This project was developed in response to the overwhelming need to support a nation struggling with anxiety, loneliness and sleepless nights as a result of the pandemic and its lockdowns which started in March 2020.
At thinkpublic we reviewed our team's skill sets, resources and network to see how we could help support the NHS and wider community in some way. We identified that many people were struggling to relax and sleep, with people that didn't usually experience mental health or sleep problems starting to struggle, including our design team and families.
We decided to focus on Deborah Szebeko's passion and experience of working with holistic health practices, in particular her work with sound and meditation. We decided to develop the idea of live online bedtime classes to help people relax, let go of their worries and sleep, with the aim of launching a working prototype as quickly as possible to meet the growing need.
We rapidly designed and built a web platform and promoted the idea of sleep sound spa via a range of social media channels. We decided to charge a small fee of £4 to have a value exchange and offer it free to NHS staff and frontline key workers.
What is a sound spa?
A sound spa (also known as a Gong Bath) is a powerful sonic meditation that enables deep relaxation to bring about peace and wellbeing for improved health. The vibrations from the gongs assist the release of emotional and energy blockages in the body and stimulate deep healing on a cellular level.
The gong slows the brainwaves, inducing a dreamlike state and opening us up to take an inner journey where our sense of time disappears and we are left to simply 'be' and vibrate with the gong. A sound spa relaxes the mind and body resulting in improved quality of sleep.
I hadn't ever considered a Sound Spa, but like many others, I suffer from the usual struggles of feeling stressed and tired, so felt it was worth a go. It's been a revelation! Taking time for myself to relax and focus has been great, and I find the sounds extremely relaxing. - Jules
I really enjoyed the session last night. I was concerned that the online experience may be lacking in the powerful resonance of a live session, but the gongs in particular still managed to give a feeling of vibration within the body. As well as the gongs, I particularly liked the wave sounds at the beginning, as I find the sound of waves very soothing. - Janet
"I wanted to send you a huge thank you for my first sound bath. It was amazing...I fell asleep in the middle and the next day all the tension I'd been holding in my right shoulder had gone! Thank you thank you" - Rebekah
Once we had launched the weekly session we were overwhelmed with the positive response, including being contacted by Rape Crisis a charity that helps and supports after rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse to support women in need, alongside being asked to offer free spaces to a few other smaller mental health charities too.
Let's launch a sleep club
Inspired by the positive uptake of the weekly sleep sound spas we wanted to test if we could extend the service offer to develop a virtual sleep club. An important element of the service design was that classes were 'live', as having the real time collective energy enhances the overall experience and helps to build a supportive caring community.
We co-designing the user experience and touchpoints with existing users and engaged a sleep scientist, researching the best holistic practices to support relaxation and sleep. This project has been through many design iterations and sprints, as we can quickly test out new ideas and get feedback from our growing community of users.
A key component in our design process was developing a social business model that allows the club to become sustainable, scale and make money to create an ongoing positive impact. We developed a pay monthly subscription model, alongside a pay-as-you-go offer to allow us to learn which worked best. We also decided to give away free memberships to people struggling with their mental health for every new member, as it's important to us that the classes are accessible to all.
We officially launched the sound asleep club in November 2020 with a range of live online bedtime classes, designed to appeal to people that may not have experienced these types of practices before. The classes are curated to help people's mental wellbeing, without making that core and centre to the marketing. We have discovered that sleep is a really accessible starting point for many people to think about how they can better look after themselves and their mental health.
The classes the club runs include
Yoga for sleep - Calming slow yogic practice to drift the day away ready for bed
Sleepy sound spa - Journey to the land of nod with soothing sounds & guided meditation
Breathwork for total calm - Relax and breathe your way to calm before sleep
Classical music & mindfulness – Time to slow down with mindfulness meditation & calming classical piano melodies
Restorative sounds & yoga nidra - Journey of healthy sleep through the ancient art of yoga nidra & alchemy singing bowls
Listening to the feedback from our users we decided to also create an on-demand video library of classes for people that can't make a live class.
The sound asleep club was born out of the idea of helping people in lockdown but its potential reach has now expanded to other areas in health and social care. We are currently prototyping with Carers UK to roll out the club to carers across the UK, so support them in looking after their own mental health and wellbeing. We're also now exploring working with universities, a brain cancer charity and social services to support a wide range of people struggling with their mental health and sleep. We want the sound asleep club to be open to all.
Over the last year we have helped over 2000 people drift off to sleep and have plans to expand our impact in 2021. We still have loads to learn, do, design and test, but feel as a team we have achieved a lot in a short amount of time, whilst most importantly making a positive difference to many people's daily lives and bedtimes. Watch this space.