I don’t often write about technology developed to improve sleep. I’m frankly skeptical that most products (e.g., sleep trackers) could help me any more than the daily exercise I do and the habits I changed after going through CBT for insomnia.
But a few items have caught my attention recently because they sound like they have genuine potential to help—two I’ve blogged about before and one brand new. See if you agree.
QuietOn Sleep earplugs were designed specifically to block out noises such as snoring and the droning of plane engines.
Earplugs—these or any others—may not interest you if you’re a homebody and/or you share a bed with a quiet sleeper. But if your sleep is often disturbed by a snoring partner or unpleasant, droning noises, these earplugs could be a real boon.
How They Work
QuietOn earplugs contain a microphone that continually samples sound in the environment. They then create a phase-shifted sound that’s played through a speaker, cancelling the exterior noise out. The earplugs are battery powered and come with a carrying case that functions as a charger.
You might not imagine all this technology could fit inside a gadget so small. Apparently, it does. Twenty-one of these earplugs can fit on a single credit card. Encased in soft material, they fit inside the ear canal, neither big enough to hurt you nor small enough to pop out.
The one downside is the price. While limited numbers are available via an Indiegogo campaign at $149 a pair (2 pairs for $199), the full price after product launch will be $239.
A Brain-Calming Headband
At last Ebb Therapeutics has come out with its novel insomnia therapy device, a headband that cools—and so calms—busy brains at night. Here’s why it might improve your sleep.
The brains of normal sleepers are quiet during sleep but insomniac brains are not. In neuroimaging studies, scientists have found evidence of excessive metabolic activity occurring in our brains at night. Some of it occurs in the frontal cortex, located behind the forehead. By cooling the forehead, Ebb Insomnia Therapy reduces activity in the front part of the brain and in turn makes it easier to fall asleep.
How It Works
The headband has a special pad that rests against the forehead. This pad is continuously supplied with cooling fluid via a tube connecting the headband to a temperature regulator that sits on your bedside table.
The circulating fluid eventually evaporates and, after about three months, the temperature regulator alerts you to the fact that the fluid cartridge needs to be replaced. The replacement kit contains a forehead pad and a fluid cartridge.
How and Where to Get One
You need a prescription to get one; they’re not sold over the counter. However, Ebb Therapeutics, planning to market the devices widely, says they’re now available at sleep centers in these cities:
- Atlanta, GA
- Clayton, NC
- Fargo, ND
- Newark, DE
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Raleigh, NC
- Rehobeth Beach, DE
- St. Louis, MO
- St. Petersburg, FL
- Wilmington, DE
- Wilson, NC
For a review of how this device may improve sleep and the tests that went into its development, see my earlier post on Ebb Insomnia Therapy. Contact the company directly to find out how much the device (and replacement kit) costs.
A Sleep Training Smartphone App
You might not think sleep could improve with training. Michael Schwartz thinks otherwise, based on years of work as a sleep technologist and sleep educator. He’s developed an inexpensive smartphone app called Sleep On Cue that can help people fall asleep and fall back to sleep more quickly.
The idea behind the app is this: Chronic insomnia often gives rise to anxiety about sleep, lack of confidence in sleep ability, negative beliefs about sleep, and increased brain activity at night. So it’s easy to lose touch with the feeling of falling asleep. The app essentially retrains you to recognize what falling asleep feels like, alleviating anxiety about sleep and restoring your confidence in your sleep ability.
How the App Works
You conduct your sleep training sessions late in the afternoon or early in the evening after a poor night’s sleep. Lie in bed holding your smartphone. Via a simple call-and-response procedure involving soft tones and movement, the app detects when you’re falling asleep (although you may not).
To the question “Do you think you fell asleep?” you press “yes” or “no.” Then, you leave the bed a few minutes, awaiting the next sleep trial. When you decide to end your session, your phone displays a graph with feedback about your sleep ability and your awareness of your sleep. Gradually you get better at recognizing the feeling of falling asleep.