Sleep regulator


To make your flight as short as possible, our flight attendants are switching on the sleep regulator, which will regulate your sleeping during the flight.

First, props to screenwriters Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen for absolutely nailing annoying airline doublespeak. “Regulate your sleeping” means “knock you unconscious,” and even when Korben raises a finger to interject, the flight attendant ignores him and presses a button to begin “regulating his sleep.”

Given that ignoring passenger interruptions is standard operating procedure, it’s a nice design feature that the berths are horizontal and less than a meter tall. Even if a passenger was somehow all the way at the top of the berth, the fall to the cushy flooring would likely do them no harm.


The panel has four rounded rectangles: One for each person who might be in the berth? On approach, an amber, underlit toggle button is already on. She presses an adjacent toggle button, which glows yellow, and Korben passes out immediately. Three pairs of steady lights illuminate on the right side of the panel, one pair yellow, the other two red, but it is not clear what these indicate.

On arrival to the planet Fhloston Paradise, the attendants press the yeloow buttons and the passengers awake immediately.


Let me be blunt. The panel is a pretty crap interface, with no labeling to indicate what the buttons mean and no security to prevent mischievous passengers from messing with other passengers. (Imagine the poor kid trapped inside and subject to the button flicking of a sibling.) There’s no clear medical monitoring on the outside, which you’d think would be vital with any interface that affects biology like this. Even if a centralized station had the monitoring details elsewhere on the ship, anyone passing by should get some indication of what’s happening.

Admittedly, this is an interface with complex attention-getting needs. The attendants need to know that the regulator is working, and that bears a light. But the attendants also need to know when something is medically trending poorly or just plain failing, and that also bears a light. It would be important to clearly distinguish these signals, since confusing one for the other could be deadly.

Better would have been a well labeled system-is-operating signal facing the attendant when she is standing at the panel, and another well-labeled, blinking, loud, system-needs-attention signal that can be seen down either end of the hallway. Let us pray that they never, ever remake this film, but if there’s a directors cut, this interface could use a makeover.

4 thoughts on “Sleep regulator

  1. Pingback: Report Card: The Fifth Element | Make It So

  2. The six lights on the right seem to indicate a state for each of the three pods. There are three lines that go left from those lines. The lower line passes under the buttons, possibly indicating that those lights concern the lower pod, the two other lines pass above the buttons, indicating the upper pods.

  3. Great points about needing to monitor vitals and prevent tampering of such a system.

    Perhaps lights do not refer to the sleeper’s state at all. It could be a status display for the bed itself, confirming that an automated monitoring system is functioning correctly.

    For the buttons it is possible that the buttons are merely signaling the presence of the attendant (a human double check (autonomation-like), rather than starting the sleep regulation. Perhaps the sleep regulation system is entirely automated on discount airlines and it is this human touch that adds to the luxury. The only flaw is that the attendants do seem to be waking the passengers manually…

    I would also assume that the deeper horizontal lines on the left hand side of the regulator panel houses a speaker which would sound an audible alarm if there was a problem with a pod/sleeper (different sounds for each would be good as well) and notify a nearby professional or monitoring station, who could use the sound to locate the bed, which is a rather sound design (I had to!).

  4. In the spaceship that is given in the movie The fifth Element, all computerfunctions are fully automated so they hardly need human control buttons.

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