As seen on the Irish Examiner

Ruth Doris: A wake-up call for the sleep deprived

An Irish entrepreneur is aiming to take the weight of the world off our shoulders by helping wearers of her weighted blanket get a better night’s sleep.

Emer Flannery’s Kocoono launched on crowd-funding platform Kickstarter in mid-October more than doubling its target goal.

Ms Flannery, who has a background in psychology, was working with children with autism back in 2011 when she made a weighted lap pack for one child to help him to stay calm at school.

She moved abroad to work as a behavioural therapist in Saudi Arabia and Australia for a number of years. Returning to Ireland, Ms Flannery was working in the homeless services in Dublin and experienced sleeping issues after coming off nightshifts. A near collapse on a bus was a “wake-up call” for her, prompting her to look closely at the connection between sleep and health.

That’s where Kocoono began. After returning from her job with the Galway Simon Community, she wraps herself in the blanket to calm her body down.

“It grounds me. I don’t twist and turn as much. And I get way better quality sleep.”

The name “Kocoono” comes from cocoon, as the blanket “wraps you up. It’s made to fit your body, not the bed”. She said that “we all have sensory needs” and Kocoono is “about self-care and being able to switch off when you come home”.

These contain tiny glass spheres, and come in three different weights: 5kg, 7kg, 9kg, designed to be 10% of the wearer’s body weight. Kocoono’s product range also includes a shoulder hug and eye mask.

Patent-pending, the blanket is made in Europe and available in two colour combinations. The outer blanket is machine washable with an internal layer made using 30% upcycled materials. It has soft fleece fabric on one side and cotton on the other, chosen to fulfil the sensory needs of the wearer. An additional feature of the blanket is that the strips can be placed in the freezer to provide cooling for sports injuries and hot flushes for women going through menopause.

Ms Flannery said that we store a lot of stress in our shoulder area, and Kocoono is “designed to take the weight of the world off your shoulders by applying pressure.” The blanket has a unique “shoulder embrace” to avoid uncomfortable bunching around the neck area.

She recently appeared as a guest on Today FM and described the response to the show as “eye-opening”. She said that calls she received from elderly people living alone talking about their sleep issues had her “nearly in tears on the phone”.

According to Ms Flannery as well as benefitting children with autism, deep touch pressure can help those with sleep disorders, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and fibromyalgia, among other conditions. She is interested in conducting further research in this area with Kocoono. To this end, she is talking to Dr Johann Issartel of Dublin City University’s School of Health & Human Performance about conducting a sleep study.

Having taken part in a New Frontiers programme at Limerick Institute of Technology in 2018, she continued her work on a prototype, tweaking and user testing which included blind tests with members of the public at Eyre Square Shopping Centre in Galway city.

She was delighted with the response and humbled by the support she received during Kocoono’s recent Kickstarter campaign. After 30 days, Kocoono moved to Indiegogo, where pre-order customers can avail of significant discounts off the full retail prices.

 

By Ruth Doris