In the last couple of years we've seen a flurry of new technologies to improve our sleep and dream lives. From sleep-tracking apps, to wake-up lights, to relaxation sounds, to mass market lucid dream inducers, these gadgets are designed to create better quality sleep - which is good for all of us, and especially for lucid dreamers. Check out the top 10 bestselling, most intriguing, and downright weirdest gizmos to keep by your bedside.
Most of us wake to the sound of a jarring alarm clock in the mornings. This causes an immediate stress response, shocking us out of our safe sleeping place and sharply into our daily routine. It's a poor way to start the day.
To overcome this rude awakening, the Philips HF3520 Wake-Up Light simulates the sunrise in your bedroom over 20-40 minutes - so that you wake up naturally with red-to-orange-to-white light. 92% of users agree it makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning. What's more, the sunset function helps you fall asleep by gradually decreasing light and sound.
This approach of bringing light slowly into your bedroom at your desired wake-up time helps to reprogram your Circadian rhythms. Light is the most powerful factor involved in this process, so a sunrise simulator can help you sync your internal body clock and create much better quality sleep all night.
Omvana is a free iOS app that brings you hundreds of high quality audios for meditation, relaxation and sleep.
What's unique is that many of these audios can be customized - meaning you can mix-and-match hypnotic narratives with your choice of ambient music. You can even take an inspiring speech or poem and turn it into a meditation before bed.
For help silencing the mind-chatter, practicing visualization, or incubating a lucid dream, Omvana offers a library of world class relaxation audios - including our very own Pete Casale's Dream Escape featured under Relaxation Sounds. Created by MindValley, the giant of the self-help genre.
Fitbit is a tiny portable gadget that helps you be active, sleep well and eat smarter.
During the day, it tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, and stairs climbed. Come nightfall, slip it into your wrist band and the makers claim it can measure your sleep cycles to help you see how to sleep better. It can even wake you (and not your partner) in the morning with a silent vibrating alarm.
Your statistics upload wirelessly to computer or mobile device via Bluetooth 4.0 and you can track your progress with charts and graphs. The system even keeps you incentivized by awarding badges and connecting with friends for support and competition. A bestselling fitness tracker on Amazon, Fitbit has a neat design and is unique in its altimeter feature.
This kids' alarm clock is a bestseller on Amazon, functioning as an alarm clock, time-teaching tool and night light. Like the Wake-Up light mentioned earlier, this also provides a soft yellow night light glow which shifts to green in the morning, programmable to the alarm time. This tells the child when it's ok to come and see mom and dad.
As the child grows, there's an interactive time-teaching game with adjustable skill levels which helps them read both digital and analogue time. Because of these market leading features, it won the Creative Toy Awards Product of The Year in 2008 and apparently no competing product has come out since.
Now here's a bit of old-school lucid gadgetry: The REM Dreamer is the best value lucid dream mask that actually detects REM sleep (via infra-red sensors) and flashes lights at your closed eyelids while you dream. These lights will naturally penetrate your dreamworld and, with some training, this will become your instant lucidity trigger.
In terms of functionality, The REM Dreamer is a close cousin of Dr Stephen LaBerge's famous NovaDreamer, which is no longer in production. It offers two-way communication (so the dreamer can lucidly "talk" to the mask with eye movements to shut down the flashing light cues). And most importantly it has REM detection, unlike cheaper lucidity masks like The Remee which attempt to catch your dream sleep by chance.https://amzn.to/1WkdfdK
This sound and night light won the Infant/Toddler Toy of The Year award in 2013, yet Cloud B Tranquil Turtle has proven to be a hit among adults, too.
Tranquil Turtle is an effective relaxation aid, helping to calm and unwind busy minds at bedtime. It has two light modes: projecting mesmerizing static or moving 3-dimensional wave patterns on the ceiling and walls. It also has two complimentary sound modes: ocean waves and a tranquil melody on loop. We got this as a baby night light to begin with and it continues to enchant us all by night, months later. Definitely the best night light in which I've ever invested.
Would you ever want to forget the time you rode a flying Yeti? That's the tag line of the DreamCatcher Project - an iOS app featuring speech-to-text functionality, converting your spoken dream narratives into digital written records.
The appeal of this app is being able to lay still in the dark while recording your dreams - the memories of which may strike you at any time in the night, not just the morning - and not disturb your sleeping partner. It's also shown to aid recall, since movement causes motor neurons to fire in the brain, overwriting your dream memories.
Users can make their dreams public and gain access to worldwide dream data, as well as improve their overall dream recall - a skill that is essential for frequent lucid dreaming.
If it takes a while for you to nod off at night, the Sound Oasis can help by creating a calming atmosphere - playing soothing sound effects and melodies which fade out after you fall asleep. If you want to mask outside noises, soothe a restless child, relieve tinnitus, or just cut through restless mind-chatter, this is a simple gadget for all ages that provides high quality audio. As a bonus, it can also fade-in to wake you with gentle sound effects in morning.
I like this because it's idiot-proof and provides excellent sound quality (beware of cheap sound machines that are all too tinny) besides offering a large range of soothing effects and soundtracks. Great if you don't have a smartphone but want the functionality of a relaxation music app.
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is an iOS sleep tracker app combined with alarm clock. It's designed a bit like a scaled down Zeo - both in terms of functionality and price.
The makers claim that, since you move differently in bed during different sleep stages, the Sleep Cycle app can exploit the accelerometer (movement detector) in your iPhone to monitor your sleep cycles. The app then selects a phase of light sleep closest to your usual wake-up time to trigger its alarm, helping you start your day more relaxed and refreshed.
However, critics of accelerometer-based sleep apps point out some fundamental flaws in the premise. "The problem is three-fold," says app developer Matthew Silber. "First, the micro-movements tracked by an accelerometer could have come from anywhere: a breeze in the hallway, your own snoring, a subway train, a pet moving in the bedroom, and so on."
"Second, while a transition in sleep stages does imply bodily movement, the reverse is not always true: a movement does not always imply a transition in sleep stages. That's a big problem when it's the key indicator of sleep stages not to mention the main function of your app."
"And third, everyone sleeps differently, every night, and there is no good way to translate your individual body's movement into sleep stages, even if they were accurately detected."
In short, Silber claims that the only way to accurately detect REM sleep is with an EEG headband. An example of this is Bill Murphy's DreamNET.
Despite this criticism, the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock has proven popular on iTunes, receiving an average of 4.5 stars across 70,000+ user ratings.
The Zeo Sleep Manager Pro (alas, discontinued in 2013 - see below) was one of the next generation sleep gadgets that first got the world talking about their sleep. Through a headband, it monitored your sleep patterns and provided reams of personalized sleep data.
This data was sent to your smartphone in the morning and used to produce detailed graphs showing your time spent in deep sleep, light sleep and REM sleep. It issued you with a ZQ sleep score along with insights like how many times you awoke in the night, how much time you spent in deep sleep and how much time in REM sleep. This kind of accurate data helped you time your WILD and WBTB lucid dream attempts to coincide with REM sleep. Most practically, Zeo woke you the next morning at the optimum time, as opposed to mid-cycle, so that you woke up on the right side of the bed.
Unfortunately, after four years on the market, Zeo is now sleeping the big sleep. The CEO, Dave Dickinson, cited flaws in the capital-intensive business model and low profit margins - there was never a weakness in the product itself. Which is why I think the Zeo Sleep Manager Pro deserves a place in our hall of fame despite its graveyard status.