New app shuffles thoughts to summon sleep

May 9, 2014
New app shuffles thoughts to summon sleep
A new app, mySleepButton, harnesses the power of the imagination to help you nod off.

(Medical Xpress)—If counting sheep can't help you sleep, you could try thinking of an elephant, French toast and scuba diving. Simon Fraser University researcher Luc Beaudoin has created mySleepButton, a first-of-its-kind app that harnesses the power of the imagination to help users nod off.

Distributed by Apple as a free iTunes download, the app incorporates concepts from cognitive science, a multidisciplinary study of the mind and its processes. It works by preventing -interfering thoughts and activating a mechanism that could help trigger sleep.

Based on the "cognitive shuffle" technique developed by Beaudoin, an SFU adjunct education professor, the app works by prompting users to imagine various objects or scenes in rapid succession.

"For example, one moment, users may be directed to think of a baby, then next a football game, then beans, a ball, London and so on," he says.

The method is based on the uniquely incoherent nature of sleep onset "mentation," a term used by Beaudoin that refers to all kinds of mental activity.

"As you fall asleep, you tend to entertain various detached thoughts and images. The app gets users to think in a manner that, like sleep onset, is both visual and random," explains Beaudoin. "In a nutshell, it's a case of 'fake it until you make it.'

"Brain areas involved in controlling sleep detect that sense-making has been suspended. This basically gives them an implicit license to continue the transition to sleep," he says.

Executive functions—brain functions like planning, worrying and problem solving that are vital for helping us make sense of the world during waking hours—can delay sleep when they don't switch off at bed time.

By prompting users to interpret and visualize words, mySleepButton can help deactivate these executive functions.

"While you're thinking about random objects or scenes, you can't think about your mortgage, an important meeting or an impending divorce," says Beaudoin.

"That's because, to a certain extent, we all have one track minds. It's very hard to think about multiple distinct things at the same time."

Beaudoin, an associate member of SFU's cognitive science program, says the app could also help increase cognitive productivity.

"Quality of work decreases when people are sleep-deprived and getting adequate sleep is very important for cognitive performance," he says.

The app has potential applications for industries that employ scientific knowledge workers, such as software and aviation, or for employees on variable schedules who need to be alert, such as transportation workers.

The application is also a valuable research tool for sleep science and , says Beaudoin, who authored the book Cognitive Productivity.

Data collected from consenting users could be used in scientific studies or feed directly into further development of the .

Explore further: Learning in an information overload world

More information: itunes.apple.com/us/app/myslee … ton/id740251957?mt=8

Related Stories

Learning in an information overload world

July 11, 2013
To harness rather than drown in the ocean of knowledge that swamps us daily via the media and the Internet, we've got to become more cognitively productive, says Luc Beaudoin. The Simon Fraser University adjunct education ...

Poor sleep quality linked to cognitive decline in older men

March 31, 2014
A new study of older men found a link between poor sleep quality and the development of cognitive decline over three to four years.

Measuring the quality and quantity of sleep at home

February 7, 2014
Difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking, poor quality of sleep and a variety of sleep-related breathing problems are very common – they afflict approximately a third of the population.

Extreme sleep durations may affect brain health in later life

May 1, 2014
A new research study led by Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in May, shows an association between midlife and later life sleeping habits with memory; and links ...

How to get a great night's sleep: Could less mean more?

February 14, 2013
If you regularly struggle to fall asleep, it might be better to try and restrict rather than extend the amount of time you spend in bed.

Sleep study suggests placebo effect can impact cognitive skills

January 24, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A pair of researchers at Colorado College in College Springs, Colorado has shown that fooling people into believing they've had more or less than average amounts of REM sleep can impact their cognitive ...

Recommended for you

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.