[App Friday] For a good night’s sleep, Neend offers content in regional languages
Sleep is a rare commodity, one that warrants a midnight club to complain about lack of sleep, nightly cravings, and wearing dark circles as a badge of pride, declared my friend in jest, as we pulled off another all-nighter, with little sleep.
No one can claim to see the first rays of the sun two days in a row, she and I thought, though separated by different continents, but united by a lack of sleep.
While such statements may be made in jest, we also realise lack of sleep or chronic sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, stroke and at the other end, obesity, depression, and other ailments. Which is why, we do try to understand how we can change our lifestyles to aid better sleep.
The pandemic has also seen increased reports of sleep disturbances caused by stress, which studies say also act as a trigger for insomnia. One doctor in the US even coined the term ‘coronasomnia’ – increase in sleep problems during the pandemic.
In 2021, Surbhi Jain and her family contracted COVID-19 and literally, lost her sleep over it.
The IIT-Bombay alumna, associated with various startups, as a consultant and venture capitalist says she had always been a sound sleeper till COVID struck.
“Before I got COVID, I was infamous among my friends for sleeping anytime, anywhere. But in the months following my recovery, I was unable to sleep and for the first time, could feel how difficult it is for folks who are not able to sleep in general. This made me research sleep tools, and I understood the scarcity of the right solutions that could solve the problem,” Surbhi says.
Upon research, she found that most sleep apps in the market catered to a Western audience and style of thinking and thus did not resonate with her. She wanted something relatable – whether it was music or stories – very India and one available in Indian languages.
That formed the pain point for Neend, a sleep app that would offer content in regional languages to bring in a sense of familiarity and the ability to ‘passively consume’ when it came to relaxation. In other words, you don’t need to strain or try to understand the content, you just passively consume it and wind down instead of making your brain active.
Navigating the Neend app
Currently available on the Google Play Store and soon coming on the Apple App Store,app is easy to navigate, and the content is free to use. Just sign in and get into a simple, uncluttered interface.
It broadly comprises bedtime stories, sleep meditation, sleep music, and quotes.
Currently, the content is available in English and Hindi. I scrolled the English content, starting with music. The dogs barking outside my balcony do not do justice to music that needs to be heard in relatively silent surroundings. There are rhythms, misty mountains, gentle piano music, rain and thunder, a spa vibe and even a 15-minute meditation music in this category. By the time the dogs are calm, I have gotten the hang of what sound works best for me – it’s a water stream, a gurgling one that reminds of me of home – bel far niente and one that could possibly lull me to sleep.
Not immediately though, but all in good time.
The stories are a mix of mythological tales, of Ekalavya, and Sita and Rishi Agastya and other “soft’ ones like A Magical Potion that is a kind of relaxation walkthrough you’d experience in a therapist’s office. This one is in accented English though, which quite puts you off and defeating the whole purpose of ‘passive consumption’ of content.
This one is an aberration though.
I quite liked a ‘Trip to Kerala’, personal enough to set off on a train journey, reliving some wonderful memories. ‘Cabin in the Woods’ is another sleep story – a travel fiction that takes you into the woods, into the lap of nature, replete with colours and vivid storytelling.
The Hindi content also comprises stories, music, and meditation sounds. Here the stories again are inward-looking. Khushi ki Khoj, Voh Humara Kua, Baat Phoolon Ki all resonate with stories - vivid descriptions and sounds from nature and how we can all benefit from looking around us and finding relaxation in the simplest of things.
There are unwinding techniques on the app too – Aakash Kaushik takes you through an understanding of your own breath, listening to your consciousness – a sleep mantra that apparently leads to sleep.
I liked the Hindi voices and sounds, which are far more powerful and feel they will strike a chord with the audience. Neend has launched content in Marathi on its YouTube channel that will be uploaded on the app by next week. Surbhi informs me other languages (Tamil, Bengali, Telugu) will be added over time, so that the app gets a completely ‘Indian’ feel.
Currently, the app is rated 4.1 on the Google Play Sore, has over 100,000 downloads with a lot of positive feedback on its page from users who claim to have benefited from it. Most reviews are from people who claim to “fall asleep immediately” and commend its free-to-use feature.
It has also raised $700,000 in funding and is planning to build vernacular, more personalised, and outcome-driven products, including a subscription model for personalised solutions driven by experts.
The verdict: The content is relatable since it’s ‘Indianised’ to a large extent. However, I would look forward to more languages on the app for it to make the desired impact. Also, a particular accent seemed jarring to me especially when the app is supposed to be Indian in outlook.
Right now, the app only offers listening opportunities. Guided meditation or guided sleep exercises with experts would help the app deliver a holistic approach. I have used another relaxation app, Headspace, and at Rs 1,499 a year, it’s expensive for an average user. Neend could do very well with making the interface interactive and increase content that is both contemporary and relevant. Adding more languages will make all the difference.
Nothing, I believe can be more soothing than listening to sounds and stories in your mother language as you drift off to sleep.