How Rise Science Founder Jeff Kahn Manages Sleep Debt
As an 18-year-old college student at Northwestern University, Jeff Kahn, then an engineering student, followed roughly the typical college sleep schedule. He stayed up late working on the problem, but had to get up early in the morning. Then he passed out coming back from his class. “I thought it was normal because that’s what everyone else was doing,” he told his Sleepopolis.
But unlike the others, he was very much aware that there had to be something “wrong.”
“I was really tired and not only did I wake up, but I was feeling down during the day,” he says. Basically everything was in bad shape and my physical health was in bad shape. I am aware of that. This is unlikely as Rise Science and he is the co-founder and CEO of the RISE sleep app, but now we’re just using that definition.
Eventually, he contacted a professor and began doing independent research with him in lieu of classes that were not offered in his specialty, sleep science. Thirteen years later, he is on a mission to help others. Method is as follows.
Making Athlete’s Sleep “Cool” and to the World
Sleep health wasn’t cool until recently, according to Kahn, but luckily it was around the time he started developing the app with co-founder Leon Sasson, whom he met in college. But they didn’t jump on the breakthrough app from sleep research. First, they delved into the health potential of sleep in elite athletes.
Khan remembers reaching out to former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis when he was working with Northwestern University’s football program to learn about how sleep can improve performance. .
“I think I was like a junior in college. Marvin Lewis was on the phone saying, ‘Would you like to come over and help us?'” So he went to Cincinnati Head over and talk to your team about sleep health and schedules. He eventually worked with the Patriots, Alabama, Clemson, and others.
At first, pitching a pro athlete a simple concept like sleep health would “get him laughed out of the locker room.” But when we talked about the performance, everyone was listening. Everyone wanted the edge that this new (but very old) phenomenon called sleep could supposedly offer in the field.
“Like when I get home after a long weekend of travel, I want to have more energy during practice and come back with my family and kids and want to be the best father I can be. It meant a lot to them,” says Khan.
But Khan is all about the big picture, so helping athletes was far from the end goal. I don’t know how long we have left, but we should really spend the time to make as much impact as possible, no matter how long it takes us.”
Birth of Rise Science
Backed by the investors behind Fitbit and Peloton, the product launched in late 2020. Kahn takes customer feedback seriously, reading both glowing and critical reviews and learning as much as she can from each. Now, years later, he has nearly 100,000 users worldwide tracking their sleep with Rise.
First, users take a 3-minute onboarding quiz to understand their sleep needs. It then helps the app understand multiple sleep data points.
“We tell them their sleep debt, their circadian rhythm (the optimal time to sleep or wake up) so that they can set up an appropriate routine,” he says. “Set smart alarms to help you wake up at the right time…and give you a set of habits you can set. What should be your meal routine, what should your morning routine be, When to stop drinking coffee, and integrate it into their calendar so that peak times when they should do the most important tasks and other less important tasks, such as taking a walk outside. It helps me know when to meditate.”
He says he learns from every customer who provides feedback, from an 18-year-old in war-torn Ukraine to a 60-year-old woman in Ghana who uses the product. Their goal is to make the app work for people with “very different needs.” “We basically fail and people tell us what went wrong, so that helps us improve.”
One user recently wrote from Romania: This is her one of the few apps that really helps you live a better life. It helps me stay on track with my routine, provides insight into my sleep and energy, and describes my daytime behavior very well. Why are there no monthly subscriptions? ”
The app can also communicate with wearables like FitBit and Apple Watch, or smartphones to determine how much sleep you need. For those who don’t have a wearable, you can use your phone’s movements from your nightstand to track your sleep. “We actually use machine learning algorithms to identify sounds like coughs and seat rustles to figure out what sounds are being made, rather than actually recording them with a microphone,” he says. says Kahn.
The app offers a 7-day free trial and a 30-day paid trial, after which it’s $60 per year.
Must-see sleep tips he learned along the way
These decades of sleep knowledge have been translated into solid sleep skills that Khan is ready to share with others. As a father of two young children, he can’t escape the sleep debt he records daily. He knows how what happens to him in the middle of the night with his daughter affects his own habits the next day. “Should I sleep more tonight? Should I watch another show?” The data guides his next choice, along with the following practices he recommends.
Warmth and darkness before bed
Khan takes hot showers, baths, and saunas. He does this in completely dim, black or red light, and wears glasses that block out blue light. In college, he would walk around with candles at 9pm and shower by candlelight. “You’ll be amazed at how sleepy you get,” he says. He then spaced his showers 30 minutes apart from his bedtime, giving his body a chance to cool off from the warmth of his activity.
Block out noise and light
It can be hard to disturb Khan’s sleep – just ask his wife.
go out first thing in the morning
When he wakes up, he and his 7-month-old son get outside as soon as possible to go for a walk, letting his circadian rhythm know it’s a new day. He says this is also related to the stronger melatonin release that night.
Limit caffeine to a specific time frame
Kahn relies on an app to cut her love of coffee, finish it around 11:30 am, and switch to decaffeinated coffee. Don’t knock it until you try it. He says there are some very good decaf coffees out there.
Apply the same to your child
Khan prides herself on being the parent who ends the ceremony early when it means sticking to her child’s sleep habits. We believe in sleep training to optimize your health.
Never Miss a Power Nap
Khan points out that a 20-minute nap can have a powerful effect, with the same cognitive benefits as drinking multiple cups of coffee. “It’s a tool if you have a significant amount of sleep debt.”
Kahn’s team won’t stop working until more people are having their best nights and their best days.
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor with a focus on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from keyboards, Alex is also the mother of her four sons under the age of seven. Over her decade, she has helped publications and companies connect with their audiences and deliver quality information and research in a friendly voice. She has been published in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Parents Today, Readers Her Digest, Parents, Women’s Health, and Insider.