When Ali Habib went to his optometrist in 2010, he was prescribed a warm compress treatment — whereby patients apply warm, wet towels to their eyelids for five to 10 minutes daily to help with symptoms of digital eye strain.
He did it once. Lying on his bed with water dripping into his ears and soaking his pillow, the Umay Care founder and CEO thought there’s no way he was doing this again.
Warm compresses are commonly prescribed for the symptoms of digital eye strain which include, itchy, watery, red, tired and dry eyes — but like Ali, most patients drop out after a few attempts.
“The whole issue is that it’s really inconvenient,” he says.
Partnering with his sister, optometrist Dr. Sharmin Habib, the entrepreneur began exploring ways to better integrate thermal therapy into his lifestyle.
The resulting device, called Umay Rest, was recently named a 2019 CES Innovation Award Honoree for Tech for a Better World. It works to reset the effects of screen time on the user’s eyes and overall health.
Digital eye strain is one of the most common ocular problems in the world — becoming more prevalent over the past decade, due to an increase in digital device use. On average, North Americans spend more than 10 hours in front of a screen every day.
Screen use reduces blink rates (how often we blink) and blink completeness (whether the eyelid completely closes), which can throw off the chemical composition of an individual’s tears.
“What people don’t realize is that every time we blink there are these tiny glands that release a goblet of oil that covers the surface of our eye to prevent tears from evaporating too quickly,” Ali explains. “Because our eyes spend so much time open, these glands get blocked.”
Umay Rest is designed to help reset the effects of screen time through a process called Thermal Meditation™. The wellness device maintains a consistent temperature across the eyelid, melting the crystalized oil and restoring proper gland function. Through proprietary “meditative heat,” Umay Rest also helps to actively disengage at day’s end — promoting better sleep and restoring the natural function of the eyes.
While testing the product, Sharmin noted that patients would comment less on their ocular symptoms and more on how relaxed they felt.
“We realized this is way bigger than dry eye,” she says.
Users can select a meditative setting that will guide them through a breathing exercise meant to lower the respiratory rate and improve quality of sleep. Minute temperature changes between the eyes also encourages active disengagement.
Umay Rest is on display at the Innovation Awards Showcase at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, from Jan. 8-11. The product is currently being manufactured in Spain and will be available for purchase in mid-2019.
Written by Michelle Ferguson