New Technology May Help Insomniacs Sleep

I don’t often write about technology developed to improve sleep. I’m frankly skeptical that most products 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.

Trouble sleeping alleviated with new devices and an appI 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.

High-Tech Earplugs

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.

For details about the procedure and the testing behind it, see my earlier post about Sleep On Cue or go directly to the product website.

Snoring Partner? Get Help Now

Can this marriage be saved?

You: prone to insomnia and sensitive to noise. Cat fights and flushing toilets wake you up at night. Thunder jolts you awake to a pounding heart.

Your mate: considerate, generous, perfect in every way except one: snoring.

snoring mate | vocal exercises reduce snoringCan this marriage be saved?

You: prone to insomnia and sensitive to noise. Cat fights and flushing toilets wake you up at night. Thunder jolts you awake to a pounding heart.

Your mate: considerate, generous, perfect in every way except one: snoring.

No, it’s not sleep apnea. You lie awake with insomnia so you know exactly what your partner sounds like: it’s a steady breathing in and out without pauses or gasps for air. But every intake of breath is a throaty juddering so loud your silicone earplugs may as well be made of gauze.

Eventually the snoring drives you out of the bedroom and onto the living room couch, and you’re fed up. A more permanent solution has begun to feel inevitable: separate bedrooms or, if your bedroom big enough, separate beds (and who knows where that will lead?).

But wait. Oropharyngeal exercises may turn your snoring partner into the quiet sleeper of your dreams.

Oropharyngeal Exercises?!

“Oro” means mouth, and “pharyngeal” refers to the region of the pharynx, where the nasal passages join the mouth and throat. The exercises mainly involve manipulating the mouth and tongue. They’re definitely worth trying, results of a new clinical trial suggest. Wearing snore strips at night and doing oropharyngeal exercises for 3 months significantly reduced the frequency of snoring in study subjects by 36 percent and the total power of snoring by 59 percent.

The exercises are easy and can be done while driving to and from work. Here they are:

  1. With mouth open, place the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth and slide it backward. Repeat 20 times.
  2. Suck the tongue upward so that the entire tongue lies against the roof of the mouth. Repeat 20 times.
  3. Keeping the tongue in contact with the bottom front teeth, force the back of the tongue to lie against the floor of the mouth. Repeat 20 times.
  4. Elevate the back of the roof of the mouth while saying the vowel “A”. Repeat 20 times.
  5. Place a finger in the mouth and press outward on the wall of the cheek. Do this 10 times on each side.
  6. When eating, alternate chewing and swallowing from one side of the mouth to the other.

Would pictures make these instructions easier to follow? Visit ScienceDaily and click on the images to enlarge them.

If your partner is as considerate and generous as we assumed in the beginning, all it should take is a request and some instruction on your part to motivate them to get down to business. If your partner balks, float the idea of separate bedrooms or separate beds. See if the prospect of reduced intimacy brings them to their senses. If not (or if doing the exercises doesn’t help), well, maybe it’s time to invest in another bed.

No matter how good the marriage, a sleeping arrangement that interferes with one partner getting a good night’s rest is ultimately unsustainable. Face the music now.