The science driving the CDC’s new report on school start times

Sleep Science • August 10th, 2015

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report outlining the chronic loss of sleep experienced by 2 out of 3 (!) American teenagers due in large part to early school start times. Many people wonder why teens can’t simply adjust their bedtime in order to clock the 9 hours of sleep they need. The answer: establishing an earlier sleep schedule for a teenager involves fighting their biological circadian rhythm.

The brain structure at the core of your circadian rhythm

Circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that regulates biological processes in a 24 hour cycle. The circadian biological clock is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus that respond to light and dark signals.

The SCN ensures certain body functions work in harmony with our sleep-wake cycle. Prior to awakening in the morning, the SCN sends signals to raise body temperature and produce hormones like cortisol, helping the body wake up. In the evening prior to bed, the SCN sends signals to lower body temperature produce hormones such as melatonin, helping the body to go to sleep.

The circadian system generates a “clock dependent alerting process during waking hours,” which basically means that your body produces hormones like cortisol that cause you to feel alert during certain times of the day, as set by your internal biological clock. Trying to sleep during these times leads to worse sleep quality, because you are essentially fighting your biological clock.

Teenager sleeping in class

A later start time should help teenagers have more productive mornings at school

The difficulty of fighting teens’ sleep cycles

Even if a teenager is successful in getting into bed by 9:30 pm (approximately the time a high schooler would need to be asleep to get a full recommended night’s sleep for a 7:30 am school start time), if her biological circadian rhythm has her bedtime pegged at 1 am, then the result will be poor sleep quality. Tacking on a couple of hours of sleep for the night likely won’t lead to much benefit.

While the biological underpinnings of this hormonally late-shifted circadian rhythm are not fully understood, studies indicate that, relative to adults, teenagers are more sensitive to light in the evening/night hours and less sensitive to light in the morning hours. This makes it even harder for them to push their circadian rhythm back to better match their daily schedules.

The effects of sleep deprivation on grades, car accident risk, and mood are indisputable.  Hopefully the CDC report will encourage school districts across the country to adopt schedules that are more compatible with teen’s natural sleep schedules, but here are some other tips for improving sleep in teenagers:

  • Stay away from caffeine and nicotine which are both stimulants after noon. Also avoid alcohol which can disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid heavy studying or computer games right before bed, they can be stimulating and make falling asleep more difficult.
  • Avoid bright light in the evening (this includes the light from electronic devices like computers, cell phones, and tablets), but open blinds or turn on lights as soon as the morning alarm goes off to aid awakening.
  • If necessary, sleep in on the weekend, but no more than 2 or 3 hours later than usual awakening time or it will disrupt the body clock.


How to arrive at your destination jet lag free and feeling good

Sleep Science • July 1st, 2015

Why do I feel so miserable after a long flight?

After a long flight across numerous time zones, you emerge from the airport exhausted and disoriented, a feeling you struggle to shake for the first several days of your trip. What is going on?

This all-too-frequent scenario for people who travel frequently is a result of two things: travel fatigue and jet lag. In this blog post, I will address jet lag, a condition that our smart sleep mask can help you overcome at 3x the natural rate. In a subsequent post, I will talk about travel fatigue and how to combat it.

What causes jet lag?

Jet lag is caused by a misalignment between your body’s hormonally regulated biological clock, or circadian rhythm, and the new time zone you’ve found yourself in. Numerous inputs help set your circadian rhythm, one of the major ones being light, namely sunlight. Light is received by non vision forming cells in your eyes, and this signal is communicated to a part of your brain called the SCN, which releases hormones like melatonin (which makes you sleepy) and cortisol (which helps you stay alert). Since it takes several days to entrain, or set, your circadian rhythm, when you physically step off that plane in a new time zone, your circadian rhythm will take several more days to arrive (typically one per time zone). The result: insomnia, fatigue, inability to concentrate, digestive problems.

As an example, consider my college friend Gabi, a beautiful person and amazing dancer who recently flew from her home in NYC to Poland to kick off a six week dance tour. Bedtime (~11 pm) and waketime (~7 am) in NYC are 5 am and 1 pm in Warsaw, respectively. So when Gabi stepped off her red-eye flight at 7 am, her body thought it was 1:00 am. Worse still, when night fell in Poland, her body felt that it was 3:00 in the afternoon.

What can you do about?

Tips for minimizing jet lag

For eastbound trips, try to get morning sun. For westbound trips, try to get more sun in the evenings.

Prepare yourself: Help yourself out by easing into the new time zone before you depart. If you’re flying east, try to go to bed and wake up an hour earlier each night. For westward travel, stay up and wake up an hour later each day. Light exposure at the appropriate times of day can also help: more early morning bright light will help with eastward travel, whereas late evening bright light can help your body ease into a new later time zone. One issue is that these regimes can be somewhat cumbersome— bright light boxes can deliver the right intensity of light at the right time of day, but finding the time to sit in front of one for an hour each day is often a challenge. We are developing a smart sleep mask based on Stanford technology that can deliver light inputs during sleep in the form of millisecond pulses of light that are more effective than continuous bright light during waking hours.

Pick the right flight: My friend Gabi certainly didn’t help herself out by arriving first thing in the morning in her new time zone, likely exhausted from her all night flight. Many of us choose red-eye flights to try to maximize the time we have at our destination, but if you struggle with jet lag, this can be like shooting yourself in the foot. A better approach is to try to time your flight so that you are arriving in the late afternoon or evening in your new time zone so that there is less time between landing and bed time in your new time zone. This way when travel fatigue sets in, you don’t have to suffer through a day of exhaustion.

Get the right light exposure once you arrive: Daylight is a powerful regulator of the circadian clock, so getting light at the right time of day can help you adjust faster. A simple rule of thumb is to seek morning light for eastward travel and evening light for westbound travel. There are more sophisticated algorithms that predict optimal times to get light exposure to ease yourself into a new time zone, and we are working towards including these with our smart sleep mask to help you beat jet lag faster.

Other tips: Get some exercise, as it can help improve sleep quality…  but not too close to bedtime, as that can make it harder to fall asleep. Be smart about your caffeine and alcohol intake. Caffeine has a 6 hour half-life, so think twice before using it to power through your afternoon. Alcohol can interfere with sleep in a variety of ways, so it may be best to forgo your evening glass of wine while you are adjusting.

Prototyping: A Short History of Alpha Sleepmasks

Product Development • April 2nd, 2015

We have finally assembled 10 masks for local alpha testing! Hoorah! I thought it might be nice to mark the occasion by doing a brief retrospective on the several generations of prototypes that we’ve gone through in the last year. Click the thumbnails to see more!

Alpha version 1: Embedded Arduinos

LumosTech alpha prototype sleepmask v1.0Version 1: We started with Arduino-based hardware components with a nine-volt battery and off-the-shelf LEDs, assembled in a commercial sleep mask (here the hardware components are not yet integrated into the mask itself). The hardware added significant bulk to the mask, making it not especially comfortable for night wear.

LumosTech alpha prototype sleepmask v1.0Version 1.2: We moved from a 9V to coin cell batteries, changed up the Arduino, and integrated the hardware components into the mask.  These improvements reduced the footprint of the hardware considerably and increased the comfort of the mask for extended use.

Biquan modeling an alpha prototype of the LumosTech sleepmask.Biquan models an early version of the mask.

Alpha version 2: Custom circuit boards

LumosTech sleepmask alpha version 2 (top), compared to alpha version 1 (bottom).Version 2.0: A comparison between the Arduino based prototype and an early version of our custom circuit board with rechargeable lithium ion battery and new LEDs (here placed on only one side of the mask). The new LEDs are much brighter, ensuring that the light they emit matches that reported in the original research publications and is thus sufficient to produce the desired shifts in circadian rhythm. The rechargeable battery is also a big improvement over the coin cell and 9V batteries in previous versions.

LumosTech alpha sleepmasks version 2.1.Version 2.1: The most current version of our sleep mask: final version of our custom board with blue tooth, rechargeable battery, and new smaller LEDs, assembled in custom made sleep masks. The smaller hardware components can now be fully integrated into the custom mask, ensuring maximum comfort. And yes, the striking colors and patterns are for alpha units only while we test for functionality and comfort (unless we hear a lot of demand for more leopard spots!)

The LumosTech team assembling alpha prototype sleepmasks

 We had fun putting these together.

Next steps

We’ve already identified some additional features we’d like to include in our next version, and we are looking forward to hearing what else we can improve from our initial testers. Once our alpha tests are complete, we’ll be reaching out to those of you who signed up as early beta testers, so keep an eye out for more updates!

Revisiting my Social Jet Lag

Product Development • December 18th, 2014

In an earlier post I wrote about my struggles to wake up gracefully with my early rising toddler and using our technology to nudge my sleep schedule into alignment with his— and I am extremely excited to convey the results!

Brightening My Mornings

A happy toddler greets you at 5:10am...

Even this happy face can be tough to appreciate if you’re not ready to wake up.

Honestly, the mask exceeded my expectations in terms of effectiveness, although not so much in terms of the physical design and comfort (more on that below). Before using the mask most mornings went something like this: I would groggily open my eyes and implore Radimir (my son) to please let mommy sleep for a little bit longer, and then, inevitably 5 minutes later, end up dragging myself grumpily out of bed to retrieve him from his crib. The first night I used the mask, I went to bed at around 10 pm, not daring to hope that the following morning would be any better.  To my extreme delight, just as early morning sunshine streaming through your bedroom windows can soften the beep of your alarm clock, the early morning light exposure from the mask made it considerably easier to rouse myself to the early morning cries of ‘Mama! Mama!’ emanating from across the room.  It was remarkable.

I continued to use the mask for the next few nights, each time with a similar result, and a corresponding desire to head to bed a bit earlier in the evening.  This meant that mornings with my almost-2-year-old contained a lot more fun— reading books, playing with cars, snuggles— and a lot less of me lying on the floor pretending to still be in bed. My son also seems much happier and less fussy as a result of having me more fully awake during our early mornings together!

Room for Improvement

Here’s what I didn’t love: right now the electronic components (LEDs and circuit board) are built into a commercial sleep mask that just is not ideal for me. I found the amount of padding to be too much and the Velcro straps were insufficient to keep the mask from sliding around. On the fourth or fifth night of wearing the mask, I woke in the middle of the night to find that it had migrated to my forehead— obviously not ideal for delivering short pulses of light to my eyes. So even though I really liked the result of feeling more refreshed in the morning, I didn’t relish the idea of putting the mask on at bedtime. Clearly, we have some work to do there.

Another inconvenience: during this time the smartphone app was not ready for use, so the mask had to be programmed through the LightBlue app, which is not especially convenient, particularly compared to the syncing  process promised by our own custom app. As we are starting to test the alpha version of our app, we are discovering a number of places to make usability improvements throughout the user interface. This is outside the litany of desired features we are excited to add both to the app and to the mask: dawn simulation, sleep tracking, browser plug-ins, …

Even with the work that remains to be done, this hands-on experience with the mask has me feeling excited to using the mask again to help with jet lag in our upcoming holiday travels to the east coast! Maybe I’ll even share it with my husband…

Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Quality

Sleep Science • October 27th, 2014

In an early grant we co-wrote with our scientific advisor, Jaime Zeitzer, was this gem of a sentence: “A misalignment between the circadian clock and the need for sleep leads to fatigue and concomitant physical and mental impairment.” In this blog post I want to unpack this statement and address why the circadian clock is fundamental to sleep quality.

In very simplistic terms, sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock.

Sleep/wake homeostasis is a fancy way of saying that we get tired when we have been awake for a long period of time- this is your basic need for sleep.  If this were to only process regulating our sleep patterns, then it would mean that we would be most alert as our day was starting out, and that the longer we were awake, the more we would feel like sleeping.

But it’s obviously not as simple as this, as anyone who has struggled to fall asleep at night has experienced, and that is because our circadian biological clock regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. So if you’ve ever felt more sleepy in the early afternoon than 11 pm, that’s most likely a result of your circadian rhythm.

Graph of the typical daily rhythm of a normal sleep-wake cycle

Normal circadian sleep rhythm. Sleep urge (circadian biological clock) is greatest at night with a small increase at mid-day. Sleep need (sleep homeostasis) increases throughout the waking hours and is replenished during sleep.source

The circadian system generates a “clock dependent alerting process during waking hours,” which basically means that your body produces hormones like cortisol that cause you to feel alert during certain times of the day, as set by your internal biological clock. Trying to sleep during these times leads to worse sleep quality, because you are essentially fighting your biological clock. For instance, if you are an extreme night owl (perhaps you even have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome), this means that trying to force yourself to go to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 6 am is likely to result in poorer sleep quality than if you go to bed and wake up according to your own circadian rhythm, say going to bed at 2 am and waking up at 10 am.  Many, many teenagers have issues related to the conflict between their hormonally delayed circadian rhythm and biologically ill-advised early school start times (See here for more on adolescent sleep needs).

Adjusting Your Sleep-Cycle

One of the most effective ways to adjust your circadian rhythm is through the use of bright light, because light naturally regulates the circadian clock. As I wrote about in a previous post, light activates specialized non-vision forming cells in your eye called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (iPRGs), which then communicate with a region in your hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) to control the release of hormones like melatonin and cortisol.

Changing your circadian rhythm can be easy or extremely difficult, depending on your specific biology- it can be as simple as getting more sunlight at appropriate points during the day, or require a considerable amount of effort. Currently, all commercially available light-based approaches to regulating circadian rhythm involve the use of continuous bright light, which typically involves sitting in front of a bright light box for 1-3 hours per day. We are looking change that with technology that was discovered and clinically validated by Stanford researchers, and we are excited to offer a product that can not only collect sleep data, but can use this data to help shift your circadian cycle to optimize sleep quality.

So soon, you will be able to easily reset your circadian rhythm to meet the demands of your daily schedule!  Happy sleeping!

Prototype Test with Vanessa: Shifting 17 Hours Forward

Product Development • October 1st, 2014

Our CEO, Vanessa Burns, had a recent opportunity to do some prototype-testing with our smart sleep mask in one of the most common scenarios disrupting people’s circadian rhythms: international travel. Here are her notes and thoughts on the experience:

I recently returned from a trip to Australia, which heralded the first international use of our sleep mask! I was pretty excited to use it for jet lag— Australia is 17 hours ahead of my local time (Silicon Valley), meaning it could take almost two weeks for my circadian rhythm to fully adjust to local time in Sydney! That was pretty much the full duration of the course I was taking, and I definitely didn’t want to spend the entire trip up all night and tired every day.

Vanessa using the LumosTech Smart Sleep Mask on flight to Australia

Vanessa takes the sleep mask on its first international field-test against a 17-hour shift (and a middle seat in coach!)

I was on an overnight flight from San Francisco to Sydney. Following the usual suggestions, I tried to stay up late on the plane and then sleep as much as possible later in the flight so that when I arrived in Sydney in the morning, it would (kind of) feel like morning. As usual, I had trouble sleeping on the plane, so I didn’t use the lights in the mask since I worried that the millisecond flashes of light would been annoying when I was awake (a potential feature we’re working on is to use an accelerometer in the mask to automatically delay light pulses during restless periods of the night, eliminating this concern). However, it was great to have the mask to block out a lot of the ambient light and distractions. Nevertheless, I ended up only getting about 4 to 5 hours of restless dozing. It didn’t help that I was sitting in a middle seat in coach.

Syncing up with Sydney

When I arrived in Sydney, I spent most of the day wandering around and seeing the sights, but I was definitely affected by travel fatigue and jet lag. I tried to get bright light during the morning, minimize my caffeine, etc… but by 5:00 pm local time, I was beat. I tried to stay up as late as I could, but I still ended up going to sleep around 7:00 pm, several hours earlier than normal. I used the mask that night, with a program to advance my sleep for 3 hours, meaning I would get millisecond flashes of light early in the night, shifting my circadian rhythm forward. By morning I’d be 3 hours closer to synchronization with the local time, keeping me from feeling so tired before my typical bedtime that night. The short light pulses didn’t affect my sleep at all, and I didn’t wake up during the night.

I woke up a bit earlier than usual the next day, around 6:00 am, though I tried to stay in bed for a bit longer. I had a full day of classes, but was feeling surprisingly chipper as the evening progressed. At 7:00 pm, which had been my limit the day before, I was only just starting to get tired. I ended up going to sleep around 10:00 pm— only slightly earlier than normal. The next morning I easily slept until 8:00 am, when my alarm went off. In contrast, most of the other students I was travelling with were still complaining about significant effects of jet lag— they reported feeling exhausted by about 8:00 pm on the second evening, and several people woke up at 4:30 or 5:00 am the following morning and were unable to go back to sleep.

I continued to use the mask for another night, and by the end of only the third day in Sydney, I felt totally adjusted. It took some of my colleagues 5 to 6 days before they could stop going to bed early and waking up at 5:00 am. My recovery from jet lag was faster than expected from the clinical studies with this technology would predict, but in addition to our smart sleep mask, I had age, knowledge about jet lag, and no caffeine addictions (I don’t like coffee) on my side, all combining to make the circadian shift that much smoother.

Shifting back to California

As a control*, I decided to not use the mask at all coming back… bad decision. I was waking up in the middle of the night hungry for lunch 2 nights in a row, and feeling nauseous if I tried to stay up late and brute-force the adjustment back to San Francisco-time. It took at least 4 to 5 days before I was back to anything resembling my normal sleep schedule. I continued to stick it out to see how long it would take, but the short version? It was awful.

From the clinical studies that have been done with our technology, I was confident that the mask would work in adjusting my body clock to the new time zone. But since it had been some time since I had traveled across this many time zones, what I had not fully appreciated was what a difference it would make in my quality of life in those first several days of adjustment. Experiencing the difference, now I don’t want to travel without it, even for short trips— why waste even a day suffering when we have such a great, easy solution?



*As a scientist, I want to be clear that this is not the best control. It is estimated that most people will adjust approximately 2 hours of time change/day with Westward travel and 1.5 hours of time change/day with Eastward travel (1). Other clinicians have stated it is best to give yourself one day for every one hour of time change. There also is individual variability with all of these numbers.

Notes on Progress

Product Development • September 16th, 2014

We’re happy to report that work is beginning this week on the mechatronic components (LEDs, circuit board, blue tooth, etc) of our smart sleep mask! While it’s been great testing and tinkering with our own prototypes, we are very excited to be working with John and his talented team at Pocobor to really begin refining and optimizing these key components.

LumosTech Smart Sleep Mask app in progress

Currently a work-in-progress, the app will allow you to quickly set up a custom sleep program to use with the sleep mask.

Smart Phone App

We’ve also been making great progress on our companion smart phone app. The app will be the user’s primary point of contact, taking user data and calculating the optimal time for the mask to deliver millisecond pulses of light for maximal circadian rhythm shift.

We’ve gotten a lot of great responses from people all over the globe about how they would use our mask to flight jet lag and/or optimize their sleep cycle for better sleep, and we are so excited to be moving closer to having prototypes that we can put into the hands of beta testers.

Stay tuned!

Me and my social jet lag

Sleep Science • August 20th, 2014

There has been a bit of buzz around social jet lag on the internets over the last couple weeks, mostly from this piece that the Huffington Post picked up from Since social jet lag is something that our technology can help with, I thought I would write about my own experiences with social jet lag.
What the heck is social jet lag?

Before I co-founded LumosTech, social jet lag was not in my active vocabulary, although I have definitely suffered from it on and off since I was a teenager. Put simply, social jet lag describes ongoing mismatch between circadian rhythms and social clocks- the schedule your daily life requires of you. If you routinely have trouble falling asleep before midnight, and wake up groggy and tired at 6 am that would be social jet lag.

There’s a really nice article on about it, which I will defer to for a more complete description, but here are some key points: I am not unique in my social jet lag; nearly 70% of people suffer from at least one hour of social jet lag, over 30% suffer from two or more hours of social jet lag. The cumulative effect of this mismatch is not good- from decreased concentration and memory all the way to a higher risk of heart disease and obesity. The epidemic of social jet lag researchers are seeing today may be tied to how much time we spend indoors, where even the brightest of office lighting pales in comparison to the intensity of the sun (although there may be ways to change that).

The cutest kind of social jet lag?

Three images of a toddler wearing a sleep mask

…if only our sleep-cycles matched up better.

My current manifestation of the mismatch between my sleep cycle and my ‘social’ obligations takes a very cute form: my 17 mo son.

I’m naturally more of a lark than a night owl- I naturally wake up around 7 am. My son takes this whole lark business to a new level, with a strong preference for wake-up times around 5:30 am- and nothing and no one is really that cute to me at that hour. And while I can usually get to sleep by 11 pm, if I try to fall asleep around 10 pm (which would put me at a respectable 7hr 30min), I usually toss and turn, stare at the ceiling, or, worst of all, mentally review my day for a good while before finally nodding off. While a very small subset of people is highly functional on 6 or fewer hours of sleep a night, I am not one of them. Less than seven hours of sleep makes for a rather grumpy mommy- you don’t even want to see my rendition of “Moo, Baa, La La La” on those early mornings. Nobody, even my usually sanguine son, is very happy in that situation! Having read a good deal of the sleep research that indicates that skimping on a full night’s sleep (even by as little as 20 minutes!) impairs performance and memory the next day, I became more aware of how my work was suffering on the especially early mornings, and, conversely, how much more productive and creative I was on those magical days where he slept in until close to 7 am.

I’m currently testing how our sleep mask improves this situation, which I will tell you about in future blog posts!

Are you dealing with social jet lag? Find out more about your chronotype here: Munich Chronotype Questionnaire

The science behind adjusting your circadian rhythm

Sleep Science • July 21st, 2014

In very simplistic terms, sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock.

Sleep/wake homeostasis is a fancy way of saying that we get tired when we have been awake for a long period of time. If this were to only process regulating our sleep patterns, then it would mean that we would be most alert as our day was starting out, and that the longer we were awake, the more we would feel like sleeping.

But it’s obviously not as simple as this, as anyone who has struggled to fall asleep at night has experienced, and that is in part due to the fact that our circadian biological clock regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. So if you’ve ever felt more sleepy at 3 in the afternoon than midnight, that’s most likely a result of your circadian rhythm.

Diagram of how light passes through the eye to the Suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain

Ganglion cells in your eye that activate the Suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain

How the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus sets your circadian rhythm

The circadian biological clock is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus that respond to light and dark signals.

As it turns out, the retina of the eye contains “classical” photoreceptors (“rods” and “cones”), which are used for conventional vision. But it also contains specialized ganglion cells that are directly photosensitive and project directly to the SCN where they help regulate this master circadian clock. In the mornings prior to awakening, the SCN sends signals to raise body temperature and produce hormones like cortisol, helping the body wake up. In the evening prior to bed, the SCN sends signals to lower body temperature produce hormones such as melatonin, helping the body to go to sleep.

Using light to reset your circadian clock

Using light to regulate circadian rhythm is not new or novel, in fact, it is well established and there are numerous products already available that do just that. But these “traditional” light therapy devices use continuous bright light, much like the light you would get from natural sunshine, and require sitting in very close proximity to bright light for an hour or more every day. I briefly used a light box a couple years ago, and it was really annoying. In the end, I gave up because I was busy and couldn’t find the time to use it enough to be effective. This experience is not atypical- in several studies the attrition rate for light therapy is between 20- 50%, even in instances where an individual had previously found light therapy to be effective!

Our technology is distinct in that it exploits another feature of the neural pathways that regulate your circadian clock: the specialized photosensitive ganglion cells that talk to the SCN turn on in response to light very quickly and turn off quite slowly. This means that a short pulse of bright light (as short as 2 milliseconds) will fully activate these cells and cause them to start sending signals to the brain, which they will continue to do without any further input for an extended period of time (in this case, ~1 min, or 100,000 times the duration of the light pulse itself). So millisecond pulses of light separated by relatively long intervals can be used to reset your circadian clock, and that is exactly what our technology does.

Because light can penetrate your eyelids while you sleep, and because these millisecond pulses are too short to disrupt sleep (demonstrated in clinical trials done at Stanford), short light pulses can be used while you are sleeping and during the time when your circadian rhythm is naturally very sensitive. When introduced in a sleep mask, this provides a highly effective, convenient, and portable alternative to traditional light boxes, and something we believe has the potential to change the way people approach sleep and travel.

The LumosTech team as I know them

Company/Team • July 2nd, 2014

If you’ve been to our team profile page, you will have met our team, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to introduce them again here from my perspective:

Vanessa BurnsVanessa

Vanessa is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met- I feel very fortunate to be working with her on this project. I am inspired by her easy confidence, sharp intellect, and killer instincts. When we were first starting out, we were trying to figure out how we could cheaply build some prototypes of our eye masks for user testing. Someone suggested using Arduinos. Vanessa took on this challenge having only tinkered with Arduinos as an undergraduate at Caltech and in about a weekend had built our first prototype. And that’s just the way she rolls- she tackles challenges head on and executes them with efficiency and grace. She’s also a killer photographer.

Biquan LuoBiquan

Biquan (or just ‘B’ for short) is the heart of our team, and provided the inspiration for developing this technology into a consumer product. Her positive and upbeat nature is invaluable in team meetings, where her infectious enthusiasm fosters a sense of community and cohesion within the team. She is also genius at leveraging the tools we have at our disposal to help us grow our company, and is incredible at building our network. For instance, once B convinced Vanessa to go spend a day with her at SFO showing our prototype to people in the international terminal- and began populating our closed beta tester list. Like Vanessa, B is unafraid to tackle new challenges as they arise, but also helps to create a team environment where everyone in the team feels supported as they push past their comfort zones to make this product a reality.

Gucci GuGucci

In addition to contributing to the creative vision of LumosTech, Gucci’s calm and quiet demeanor means that she sometimes fills the role of mediator at team meetings, making sure that all voices are heard. Her interest in start-ups well predates LumosTech, and she has been working on an advisory role at several companies since her graduate days in Sweden.

I still remember the day we first assembled as a team in the Clark Center at Stanford. It is crazy to look back at that day now and think about how far we have come. Many, many people espouse the virtues of a good team and good team dynamics when starting a company (like Jessica Livingston at Y Combinator and Steve Blank ), and it makes complete sense, because I could not imagine pouring my heart, soul, and most of my free time into this company without these three people working beside me.


You may have also noticed that we are a team of four women—  pretty unusual in this space, but I think it contributes to our awesome team dynamic, something I will write about in a future blog post.