Hi-Tech 101: Sleeping like a baby

Using MP3 player to help us sleep?

There’s a conspiracy afoot – to keep us awake! TV, iPods, the barrage of email, cellphone calls and messaging – they’ve all got “important messages” for us, information we can’t do without. Or so we believe. Either way, most of us can’t sleep knowing that there’s something we need to know, but don’t. Hence the late nights spent reading messages, looking at Web sites, and checking out cute cat videos on Youtube that our friends tell us are “the funniest” things they ever saw. The result? We chuckle at those funny cats, but we’re also bleary-eyed the next morning – and every morning! What sweet revenge it would be if we could use the implements of our insomnia to turn the tables – to harness the power of the computer, the cellphone, and the MP3 player to help us go to sleep! Well, if it’s revenge you seek, read on – we’ve got a collection of programs and applications that, with the help of your computer and communication devices, will have you sleeping like a baby in no time!
The Call of Nature: Imagine finding yourself in a calm, cool forest. The wind is blowing, the trees wave in the breeze, and you’re about to drift off in the calmness of it all. You sit down on a log, ready to nod off – wait a minute, dammit, you just got bitten by a bug! Okay, so maybe “real” nature isn’t so relaxing, but when nature is captured, tamed, and encapsulated in an MP3 file, you get all the calmness of a forest rainfall without getting wet – or bitten. Thanks to modern MP3 technology, we can enjoy that encapsulated relaxation of the Great Outdoors on our computers and smart phones, without the mess!
WINDOWS AND MAC users can download nature sounds from http://www.virtualdreamer.com/, which has some basic files you can play in an MP3 device. Files have names like “The Stormy Beach,” “Wind Chime Garden,” “A Bedtime Storm” – you get the idea. Mac users get their own program with similar sounds, called iSerenity (http://www.iserenity.com). The problem with both these sites, however, is that they’re a bit pricey, compared to the cheaper deals you can get on a cellphone. iPhone users (along with BlackBerry and Android owners) can download a program called Ambiance (http://ambiance.urbanapps.com/), which has a whole boatload of sound features and tricks (create customized sound mixes, cycle through playlists, wake up to relaxing sounds, etc.). For $2.99, you get access to over 1,000 sounds, the vast majority of which are designed to relax you and send you off into the land of Nod before you even realize what’s happening. Nokia users have their own sleep aid app in Relaxus (http://tinyurl.com/38rhy2g), with the same type of relaxing nature sound themes Ambiance has.
Get the Beat: Many people will find the aforementioned nature sounds relaxing, but others, like the more nervous Type-As, won’t be able to get that bug out of their minds, imaginary as it might be (as a certified Type-A, take my word for it). For them, something a bit more powerful may be required; something that will “mess with their minds” – like binaural beats.
Based on a 19th-century theory of mind messing, binaural beats consist of pulses of two different frequencies being played in each ear at the same time. The pulses, in the 1,000 to 1,500 hertz range, have slight differences between them – less than 30 hertz. Depending on the differences in the pulses, the brain can be manipulated to generate specific moods – like relaxation, to the point of putting someone to sleep.
That’s the theory, at least, and it apparently works for many people – as evidenced by the huge popularity of Pzizz (http://www.pzizz.com/). Available for PCs and Macs, tens of thousands swear by Pzizz when it comes to relaxing and sleeping. Pzizz generates sounds based on the brain wave pulses appropriate for relaxation (http://www.pzizz.com/about-pzizz/scientific), and comes up with a different combination every time (thus preventing your mind from getting used to the sounds and “defaulting” to its preferred awake state). Add to that voice instructions (based on neuro-linguistic principles), and you’ve got a one-two punch that’s sure to knock you right out!
Pzizz offers many options for listening and relaxing, but at $59.95 the program’s price is a bit steep for some pockets. Fortunately, there’s a cheaper option on-line for listening to binaural beats that will help you to relax. The i-Dose site (http://www.i-dose.us/) will help you relax or put you into a deep sleep, if you download the appropriate binaural beat file. Actually, the site offers many different files, each designed to help you improve in one way or another. Some of the streams on the site, like Aspirin (to be used in case of headaches), Coffee Break, Focus, and others.
If you want a truly exotic beat experience, however, head off to http://www.i-doser.com/, the site that promises to make you as high as a kite – or as close as to it as is legally possible. IDoser’s researchers have determined which combinations of binaural beats best simulate various “illicit experiences.” With names like “acid,” “peyote,” “trip,” “ecstasy,” and a host of others, you might decide to skip sleep in favor of an allnight binaural beat “rave,” courtesy of i-Doser!