Pillow insert inflates to stop snoring when detected. Money-back guarantee.
Might wake you up. Can't flip or squeeze your pillow. Pricey.
- Bottom Line
The Smart Nora can help you stop snoring, but it's a bit obtrusive if you're a pillow hugger or a light sleeper.
The Smart Nora is a $299 device designed to help you stop snoring. It contains a pump, an insert that slides into a pillowcase, and a mouse-like gadget that sits on a bedside table to listen for snores. When the bedside device hears a snore it uses Bluetooth to send a signal to the pump, which then inflates the insert. The idea is that by raising your head while snoring, the muscles of your throat are engaged and the snoring stops. In practice the device does inflate when snores or other loud sounds trigger it, but the experience was enough to wake me and my husband, which stopped the snoring, but didn't lead to a good night's rest. Depending on how how you sleep, you might have a better experience.
Features and Design
The Smart Nora is a beautiful and well-designed smart home device. The pump, which reminds me of a breast pump apparatus, is housed in a wool two-tone gray box with a fold-over top. Inside the box there's a smaller control dial that has inputs for plugging in the listening device, the charger, and the tube that pushes air to the pillow insert. The controls are simple, with a power button and a high/low setting option that dictates how much the insert will inflate.
The high setting inflates the insert by about four inches. Low inflates the insert by roughly three inches. I kept mine on low after finding the high setting fairly disruptive in the middle of the night. The box also has a battery that enables the pump to function for 24 hours without being plugged in. There's a slot for carrying the pillow insert and the listening device, which makes it fairly easy to pack for travel. Although at 10 by 7 by 4 inches (HWD), the overall footprint isn't exactly small.
The pillow insert is plastic and I can see it becoming worn with age, although in a month of testing it held up just fine. The microphone that sits by your bed looks like an elegant Magic Mouse and has several features including the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone, a Bluetooth button to manually inflate the insert, and an on/off button. There's also an LED that communicates the status of the whole apparatus. Finally, there's a holder for the listening device in case there's not a spot near your bed or you need to keep it close because snoring is soft. In the latter case the company recommends you place the listening device above your head on a wall or headboard.
This isn't a tough device to master. While it does use Bluetooth, there is no app. The radio connectivity is only between the microphone and the pump. To set it up, you connect a tube from the pump to the pillow insert, then connect the pump to the listening device, which will charge the listening device and establish the Bluetooth connection between the two. Finally, you connect the power cord to the pump and plug it in. As mentioned the pump has a battery that will run for 24 hours for travel, but in general the company recommends you leave it plugged in even for regular home use.
Slide the pillow insert into your pillow. Flip the pump on and engage the listening device with the press of a button. The final step is to set your mic's sensitivity and the inflation setting. The company recommends a medium sensitivity setting for most people. If you have a white noise machine or get a lot of traffic noise in your bedroom, use the low sensitivity. If your snoring is what I like to call "deep breathing" and the room is quiet, then consider a more sensitive setting.
During my tests I experimented with it on all of the settings. As a fairly light snorer/deep breather, I noticed the best results when the mic was on the high sensitivity setting.
The Smart Nora comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, and the company recommends you sleep with it for at least two weeks before deciding. It does require a bit of an adjustment. There is a slight noise from the pump to inflate the pillow insert once snoring is detected, but my partner couldn't hear it next to me. I could hear it while laying there, though. You can set the listening device to a 30-minute delay so you have time to fall asleep before the Smart Nora starts working. I did that on most nights because otherwise the pump had my head bobbing up and down every time I asked my husband if he took out the trash, or whatever else popped into mind just before bed.
Far more distracting for me is that the insert means you can't hug, flip over, or really mush your pillow during the night. I do all three. Flipping is my favorite, because in Texas it's hot and flipping the pillow to a cool side is comforting. Also, sometimes I drool, which makes flipping a necessity.
After a few nights sleeping on it, I was used to everything except for the inability to flip. The raising and lowering of the pillow is also distracting, even after a week. Again, I'm a light sleeper and Smart Nora's makers say that most people become accustomed to it over time.
So does Nora help with snoring? During the two weeks I used it, it did from my partner's perspective, but it was mostly because I kept waking up when the pillow insert inflated. Or I was waking up because I accidentally tried to flip my pillow and got the air tube all askew.
The other challenge was that my snoring in some cases didn't always trigger the listening device, which meant there was a delay between me starting to snore and the Smart Nora catching on. And I never thought I'd be someone who asked for another app on my phone, but I would have liked to have one so I could see when the device went off at night. Some nights I slept well, but I didn't know if the Nora ever went off, or if I snored.
However, if you're a deep sleeper, and don't like to maul your pillow, I think the Smart Nora might work to reduce snoring somewhat. Whether that's worth $300 depends on just how bad you snore, and just how much your partner can stand it.
Stacey Higginbotham is a freelance writer who has spent the last 15 years covering technology and finance for publications such as Fortune, Gigaom, The Deal, The Bond Buyer and BusinessWeek. Stacey covers the Internet of things, semiconductors, and artificial intelligence. She is particularly excited to discover new ways technology is changing the world. When she's not installing connected gadgets in her home in Austin, Texas, she's likely trying new vegetarian recipes. More »
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