I’ve had chronic insomnia for as long as I can remember. And not just the occasional night spent staring at the ceiling, but more like I’ve counted and named every sheep in New Zealand – and there’s 26 million of them.
I know I’m not alone. Sleep deprivation - whether from stress, children, illness, caffeine addiction or – ahem – snoring partners – impacts about a third of us every year.
The stats get worse as we get older, and women get the short end of the stick. Our lifetime risk of insomnia is as much as 40% higher than men.
Given the ease with which my husband passes out on the sofa in the middle of the day, this comes as no surprise. Give him five minutes and he’s dead to the world, while I watch jealously and definitely don’t plan elaborate ways to draw on his face.
The first thing that comes up when Googling for solutions to our slumbering stresses is ‘sleep hygiene’ – which basically means having a healthy bedtime routine. And technology use is named as one of the Big Bad Guys when it comes to entering dreamland.
But not all tech is keeping us awake – in fact, it might just be the answer we’re looking for.
And Bose’s Noise-Masking Sleepbuds are just one perfect example.
I got the second generation of these nifty little buds about six months ago, and their cute round silver case has been on my bedside table ever since. I admit that me and my 26 million sheep were sceptical. I’ve shared a bed with more meditation apps than I can count. I’ve tried following all the rules – no caffeine after lunchtime, managing light exposure, going to bed at the same time each night. But, no dice.
In the last 70 years, we’ve reduced our average nightly sleep by 13%. I don’t know about you, but I want my 13% back. And Bose’s tech might just be the answer. The true wireless Sleepbuds are linked to the dedicated Bose Sleep app, which I dutifully downloaded. From here you can choose from a variety of white noise, soothing nature scenes and meditative music, which is then transferred to the buds. After trialling a few, I found my favourite is one called ‘Warm Static,’ which I hope isn’t a reflection on the general state of what’s between my ears.
Because the Sleepbuds are a uniquely designed sleep tool and not a general listening device, they therefore utilise these uniquely designed soundscapes. There’s plenty of choice, with more being added to the library in successive software updates. Not only does this prevent accidentally-on-purpose listening to one more episode of your fave podcast or other brain-stimulating behaviour, but all the sounds have been developed and optimised to play consistently, at just the right mix of frequencies to make unwanted noises less perceptible to your brain. How cool is that?!
It’s important to note that the buds are noise-masking, not active noise-cancelling. ANC uses a microphone to actively capture low-frequency sound, deliver it to an amplifier, and generate waves that counteract or invert outside noise. In contrast, the Sleepbuds first passively block your ear canal with their comfy, low-profile silicone tips, and then deliver their specially crafted sounds. What this means is you shouldn’t be bothered by spousal snoring, but you will be able to hear important noises like children crying, a fire alarm, or an emergency alert on your phone.
One of the main concerns I had with trying the Sleepbuds was comfort level. Prior to getting them, I’d been using a cheap pair of wired, in-ear, plastic headphones. Not only did I routinely strangle myself and yank them out by rolling over, I’m a side-sleeper – and this method was really Not Ideal. That is to say, it pretty much always resulted in me waking up with sore ears and fighting off an imaginary tentacle monster.
Luckily, Bose is smarter than me. The Sleepbuds’ tiny speaker is encased by soft silicone that forms both the inner-ear tip, and the flexible fin that keeps the little suckers locked in place all night long. Plus, the low profile means you should be able to curl into the foetal position with ease (important for both reading soppy romance, and stealth-snacking on peanut M&Ms without your partner realising. I mean, not that I do that, I’m just guessing… from experience… Look, I just don’t like sharing my sugar fix, OK? Judge away).
It did take me a few nights of use to get everything just right. I tried out all three tip sizes, and in the process discovered that my ears are asymmetrical (don’t ask me about it, I’m still coming to terms with this revelation). What’s cool is, I can use a different tip size for each ear to get the perfect fit. I spent time listening to all the available sounds and gave some an overnight test drive. Ultimately, I kept coming back to Warm Static. There’s probably something about that that’s psychosomatic – sending a warm fuzzy message to my brain – either way, it gets results. My former flock of millions have dwindled to a much more manageable hobby farm.
And it’s not just me. A clinical sleep study had 82% of paticipants reporting an overall improvement in sleep quality when using the Sleepbuds. 86% fell asleep more easily and 76% felt it easier to stay in dreamland.
That’s super important, because every hour of sleep we get is vital to our mental and physical wellbeing. Sleep deprivation can cause increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory failure, occasional homicidal tendencies…
In fact, the World Health Organisation goes as far as calling disruptive night-shift work a ‘carcinogen.’
So, if losing sleep is like poison… are Bose’s Sleepbuds part of your antidote?