Tech to the Rescue for Insomnia
More than 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia, according to the National Institutes of Health, and over 55 million prescriptions for sleep-aid drugs are written each year. But there's an interesting technology that may do the job even better, without pills. Read on to learn about binaural sleep aids...
What are Binaural Sleep Aids?
High school student Jessica Larson was one of those who tried pills to help her sleep. “The doctor put me on some prescription drugs that made me feel strange - jittery and nauseous, and the pills were so large I had to cut them up," says Larson, now 19 and a college student. "They weren't effective for me and made me so nauseous that I couldn't eat. I lost 20 pounds and ended up in the hospital last year."
Her father, Michael Larson, wanted a safer treatment for his daughter, and he happens to have the expertise to build one. Michael is the El Pomar chair of engineering and innovation at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and he had developed several cutting-edge medical devices. He set to work on a new one for Jessica.
The result is the Sleep Shepherd, a deceptively simple-looking knitted cap. It contains electronics that monitor brain waves and generate a pulsating “binaural” tone that is played through paper-thin speakers near the ears. As the tone’s pulsation gradually slows, the sound causes the brain’s electrical activity to slow to a nice, relaxed, sleepy level.
This technique of “brain entrainment” using binaural tones is not new. Sleep therapists have studied its efficacy in elite youth soccer players. It is proven to promote faster falling asleep, longer and more restorative sleep, and increased vitality and concentration upon awakening.
The Sleep Shepherd costs $150 and has a mix of 1-star ("Didn't work for me") and 5-star ("Best thing ever!") reviews on Amazon. The Sharper Image and Brookstone will soon be selling the Sleep Shepherd, too, so we can assume that the price is too high. Fortunately, there are similar sleep aids that don’t cost much, if anything.
There's An App For That...
A number of “binaural tone” apps for smartphones are available. They generate tones through the phone’s audio circuitry and feed the sound to your brain via earbuds. There’s no brain activity monitoring or feedback mechanism like the Sleep Shepherd’s, so the tones’ pulsations are fixed instead of following the frequencies of the brain’s activity. But many users report improvements in their sleep anyway, and some of these smartphone apps are more versatile than Sleep Shepherd.
The Binaural Beats Therapy app for Android has seven preset “beats,” each of which is supposed to entrain your brain into a different desired state. In addition to “Sleep Induction” the app claims that you can entrain your brain to achieve peak mental performance, counteract ADHD, enhance concentration and memory for study periods, induce release of morphine-like natural painkillers, and even hypnotize yourself with suggestions such as “I no longer smoke.” (Perhaps a future version will teach you Mandarin Chinese while you sleep.)
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But the app is free, so you have nothing to lose by trying it out – unless, as the app’s description warns, you are subject to seizures or epilepsy; have a heart pacemaker; suffer from any heart disorders; or take stimulants, psychoactive drugs, or tranquilizers.
A Google search on “binaural beats app” returns 381,000 results. Such apps are available for iOS as well as Android. A lot of them are free. I would not pay for one without a satisfactory test drive.
Larson’s Sleep Shepherd device is pricey, but it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked. If you’re serious about getting some sleep, it "sounds like" the Sleep Shepherd may be the way to go. I have no connection to the company, and I've not tried this device, or any of the related apps. But I'm interested to hear from readers who have.
If you suffer from insomnia, would you try (or have you tried) a binaural sleep gadget (or app) instead of prescription sleeping pills? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Jul 2015
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
Is Windows 10 WiFi Sense Nonsense?
The Top Twenty
Geekly Update - 22 Jul 2015
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- Tech to the Rescue for Insomnia (Posted: 21 Jul 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved