#14 Chroma Developing New Thermal Cold Sleep Products
Going beyond 1st order effects of photons so you can get the best sleep
We finally have some completely new products in the works! So this should be one of the more interesting issues of this newsletter that we have had in a while. We will start with framing the problem in context, and then dive into the product development journey. It's a sort of "building in public" approach as we took with the development of the Chroma LEDs. We have prototypes you can pre-order today and will ship in about 6 weeks, and we will continue to refine and expand these new product lines in the months to come.
If you don't want to read through this lengthy spiel, you can just check out the product and preorder at coldbed.com. Tight Lights are also now available for pre-order as we work on finalizing our first production batch at TheTightLight.com. Latest batch of Ironforges and D-Lights is only a week or two out, and as always, you can purchase those and other Chroma products at getchroma.co.
Conceptual background on hot/cold exposure
Chroma has its origins in solving the problems related to catastrophic health and human performance problems that have arisen in the past ten thousand years ever since we shifted from an outdoor nomadic lifestyle to an indoor lifestyle filled with articial biological signals. The most obvious problem was that of artificial light, which we were able to mostly solve with the dark red lens of the Carbonshade glasses. We then went on to deconstruct the various spectral components of sunlight and develop products to effectively deliver these as a supplement to real sunlight and to mitigate the effects of living inside toxic buildings, or high latitudes.
However, the impact of sunlight between day and night and between seasons goes well beyond the biochemical process that are initiated by photons. Photons also carry energy with them, which dissipates as heat. During the day, and when the Sun hits directly, it is warmer. When it is night time, or the angle of the Sun is more shallow (winter) it becomes much colder. It turns out that both extremes are critical for heat, and the mix of indoor heating and AC is similar to the problem of it being too dark indoors during the day and then far too bright at night.
If you subscribe to this newsletter you probably are at least vaguely familiar with the health and performance benefits of heat exposure and cold exposure. Building tolerance to heat involves the release of heat shock proteins and increase in blood plasma volume, while cold exposure has numerous metabolic benefits, including upregulation of brown fat, enabling the body to more effectively metabolize fat. I speculate that cold exposure has a similar effect as aerobic exercise due upregulating the AMPK-pathway and it may help shift the respiratory coefficient (measure of the ratio of fat oxidation to glucose oxidation), a key metric in fat adaption that is of interest to endurance athletes and those interested in higher fat ways of eating such as keto or carnivory.
Sidenote: there are quite a few people who become interested in heat exposure as well as the sort of near-infrared/red light therapy LED products that we make, and then they get rather confused about which is which, resulting in the purchase of what we consider a rather foolish system: the "infrared sauna", which does a very poor job of both functions. These are low cost saunas, which seem like a great deal until you realize they don't get as hot as the standard type. It seems like a bunch of useful light, but the broad spectrum has nothing to do with the red and near-infrared light from narrowband LEDs -- you might be thinking, but the sun is not an LED, how can you say a narrowband output is superior to the sun's broad spectrum!
Good question, but the reason white light is considered "5600 K" is because 5600 Kelvin (9620 degrees Fhrenheit) is the temperature an object must be at to produce that spectrum from blackbody radiation, and broad spectrum infrared lights do not have a high concentration of the far red (~660nm) and near-infrared (~800-900nm) near-infrared light that is biologically active as demonstrated not just indirectly, but also via absorption spectra of the cytochrome c-oxidase within the mitochondria itself so we REALLY know that that is the range in which to focus.
Regardless, many authors have written about the various chronic benefits in depth so I will not waste more time reiterating on that. We are more concerned here with the acute effects of heat and cold as they pertain to circadian rhythms and the ability to rest soundly during sleep, and we will consider the long term effects separate from the improved sleep itself just a bonus. When considering the factors that allow for good sleep, we can briefly summarize them as darkness, absence of excess digestion activity (though carbs can have a sedative effect and transitioning to low carb can initially lead to some restlessness), and a cold environment. It is hard to say definitively how these rank because there is no common unit. You cannot say how many pounds of beef equals N number of blue light photons delivered to the eyes at a certain rate, nor can either of these directly match up to an influx of heat.
Instead, I would say it makes sense to consider all of them individually and think about the idea of marginal return. If you already wear Uvex orange glasses every night, will you really get all that much of a benefit switching to Carbonshades? -- probably not -- and if you wear Uvex glasses at neat, but eat dinner at 10 pm or a bunch of late night snacks, dropping those will certainly be orders of magnitude more impactful. The various Chroma products allow to optimize your daytime and nighttime light exposure for healthy sleep patterns, and when you eat is on you, but solving for temperature is by far the hardest problem because of just how energy intensive it is.
Take a look at the thermal image of a house at night.
This house is a massive thermal battery. During the day it soaks up heat from sunlight and at night, it radiates this heat back out at you. It's not too dissimilar from how we directly or indirectly collect photons from the Sun and turn them into energy sources we use to emit light indoors at night. Except with this radiative heat there's no off switch. There are three categories of heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation, and unfortunately, this last one seems to be largely neglected.
An air conditioning system cools down air and then convectively and conductively cools down the rest of the house. The only problem with this is that air has extremely low density compared to your house an the objects in it. The heat capacity of air is comparable to that of your house on a mass basis, but a cubic meter of air only has about 2.5 pounds of mass. So you're going to have to cool that air over and over again before it puts a dent in the house, all the while, the radiation is hitting your body. This is partly why a house that is heated to 68 F will feel much colder in the winter than one that is cooled to 68 F in the summer.
If you haven't picked up by now, we need to get cold at night to optimize our sleep and almost no one is getting cold enough, especially given that you can make your body adapt to feel comfortable at cooler temperatures. Take whatever environment would be so cold it would disrupt your sleep, and then dial it back a notch -- that's the ideal setting, and one that few get to enjoy. I was fortunate enough to encounter such a setting while I was doing the van life, and this was what helped me understand just how critical temperature is. A van weighs a whole lot less than a house. Mine had the advantage of being poorly insulated, and finally, the steel structure is an excellent conductor of heat so it can quickly fall close to the outdoor temperature even without air flow (in comparison, you can have tons of ventilation in a house that remains at a much higher than outdoor temperature throughout the night).
Consider a natural outdoor environment: it would be a lot closer to the steel van. Living in a cave or a hut, you are directly exposed to massive heat sinks. I was walking in the pacific northwest the other day on a rather hot day and as soon as I entered the cover of forest, I immediately felt far cooler. But the greatest feeling was as I climbed down between two large granite boulders. Standing there observing the texture of the rock, I felt the heat being surreally sucked out of my body and drawn into the cool rock. Houses do not usually achieve these sorts of effects. Of course, the simple solution, conceptually speaking, would be to add stupendous amounts of concrete to the construction of a house so it can act like a cave, but that gets expensive. An alternate solution would be to fill the walls of a house with water, and I mean a lot of water.
I want several inches of water thickness throughout the walls, not some tiny tubes and heat spreaders. Stage 2: connect this massive thermal battery / damper to an underground reservoir, which will stay perfectly cold throughout the day, allowing you to quickly get your house as cold as you want. Stage 3: connect a parallel system to a set of thin wall tanks that absorb sunlight throughout the day for passive heating since you don't want only cooling. Bonus: have your hot system connected to a liquid cooling system for some bitcoin miners.
Our heat sinking solutions for better sleep
Ok, we are going off on a somewhat irrelevant tangent since obviously I am not in the business of building sci-fi houses and no one else is going to give this a stab anytime so soon. So let's look at the interim solutions I'm building. I actually had this idea a while ago and never got around to building it in part because living in a van I already had such a good solution. But this summer I've been living in one of those lousy normie buildings and with the heat waves looming, I was on the clock to get a prototype for myself built. In summary, it is simply a large passive heat sink for the entire body that rests on the bed as a mattress topper, and the passivity is key as compared to other products that are readily available. Take a gander:
This pad is filled with a thick, solid layer of water -- except it doesn't feel like you are lying on a thin water bed -- instead, there is an interior gel (elastomer) grid, which provides almost all of the mechanical support for your body, and conforms to your mattress underneath. This first one I built for testing purposes was about 3 cm thick.
Enjoying Chroma? Subscribe for free to stay in the loop on new product product developments.
In comparison, the typical products on the market use thin tubes through which water is flowing that connects to a module that sits on the floor next to your bed. Some of these systems only work with WiFi, and they all have pumps and fans, which are rather quiet, but represent more potential failure modes, whereas the only thing that can go wrong with a passive system is if you stab it with something sharp and rupture the outer layer. Based on reviews and talking to a number of people, it seems that the higher end versions of these have enough cooling power for the majority of people with those that want it colder being a small minority, especially given that those that are unhappy about the cooling power we can expect to be overrepresented as they would be more vocal than a content customer. The tubes however are something that people seem to begrudgingly accept as they are almost universally found to be stiff and uncomfortable.
Now, I actually did get something in evaluating this that was dead wrong, and I hate to admit it, but it is a bit embarrasing. When estimating the cooling power of the thermoelectric peltier coolers used in the modules for the systems on the market, I was looking at efficiency metrics based on turning a heat gradient into electricity (~5% efficient) rather than the other way around. Oops. Anyway, the real coefficient of performance / efficiency is more like 25-30%, which explains why the pad I made, even when filled with about an inch of water, was only mildly cool by the time I awoke from heat saturation. Though to by fair, thus far I have only had the chance to use the pad during a heat wave with indoor temperature that were on the warm side in the 70s, or even low 80s during the peak of a heat wave. I can at least confidently say it would have been far worse without this pad. One thing I can't comment on is how pleasant people will find it atop a soft mattress since the mattress I tested this on was extremely firm.
Nonetheless, the pad I was using was also a bit on the narrow side. So doubling the thickness and increasing the width from 0.9m to 1.2m would put it on par with one of those EightSleep or ChiliPad Docker Pro pads over the course of a night (considering the correct efficiency numbers), and in fact could end up being too cold (I recall reading that classic water beds were capable of inducing hypothermia if their heaters were not running). I suspect there is a happy medium that makes this approach work, and if it is too cold, the pad can simply be underfilled or used with a blanket on top. The challenge becomes that with increasing thickness, the surface begins to acquire the feel of the gel grid (similar to a Purple mattress) and less of the feel of the underlying mattress, which could potentially defeat the entire purpose of shifting away from tubes to increase comfort. Regardless, I think more experimentation is necessary.
After the slight letdown with the pad, I realized the exact same approach could be applied to construct a pillow, and unlike a mattress pad, a pillow is inherently much thicker so the amount of cooling you get per square inch of contact area is way higher. The "state of the art" is also rather lacking in this area to a more extreme degree since there are exactly zero serious cooling pillows on the market today. There are pillows with thin gel pads, or holes for air, but as we discussed with the HVAC, air doesn't do much and your cooling is proportional to mass if its passive. Water is not only extremely heavy, it also has a particular high specific heat (the amount of energy to raise a certain mass of said substance by a certain temperature). The other nice thing about a pillow is you don't have to worry about compatibility with mattress in terms of comfort, and it's way easier to setup since you can carry it to your bed (though petite women may struggle with this) rather than having to fill up at the bed. It's a smaller, lower cost product, certainly much lower than a ChiliPad or an EightSleep.
Plus, the head and neck can dump a massive amount of heat. Of course, if you are standing naked in chilled air, your head and neck dissipate heat proportionally to their area for the most part, but the metrics of "40% heat loss from head" actually are valid if the entire body is well insulated, which is effectively the case when you are lying in a normal bed with your head on a pillow filled with water. Plus, if you are a serious athlete or biohacker and are really looking for peak performance, you can leave the pillow in a fridge during the day for maximal cooling power. I'm really excited to get some pillow samples made and decided to open up the sample production batch with a round of pre-orders. Given that I'm working with the same manufacturer to as the pad to build this, I expect we can get this delivered in 6-8 weeks.
In other news, we are going forward with a production batch of Tight Lights using extremely thick, tough borosilicate glass for the outer cylinder. So get your pre-orders in for those as well.
And as always, every order helps keep us alive since this is a side project for me to pay the bills as I try to do other things. (Though someone recently joined who knows marketing and might actually get this to scale -- check out the Chroma instagram, can you tell when he joined? haha) Previously it was commercializing the strongest materials in the universe, now it is accelerating the downfall of the fiat institutions that fail to deliver basic health solutions and instead have led humanity to the worst health conditions in all of human history. People who are professionals in healthcare that myopically focus on narrow metrics while oblivious to what is happening at a macro scale... well, it is now abundantly clear that these people are seriously mentally ill. There will no doubt be interesting working for psycho-historians in the decades to come.
Anyway, the specific thing I am working on to accelerate the transition is building tools that make it easier to use (use as in spend) bitcoin in your day to day life, while ending up with more bitcoin. A requirement of such a platform is we are building out the world's lowest fee bitcoin-only exchange, and to further attract people (since I know how to get simple hardware built as you know from Chroma) we are going to be running a very low margin bitcoin hardware store that members of our exchange have exclusive access to. If you want to know more about that check out the Caliber website and consider signing up to the wait list.
You can also follow Caliber on Twitter (Chroma is on twitter too), and I also have another newsletter focused on my broader thoughts on bitcoin, technology, and civilization you can check out: Astigmatic.