I have a confession.
I can't sleep.
Maybe it is due to running a company, raising two kids, blogging weekly for you fine folks, or something else. Yet, no matter how tired I am at the end of the day, I lay down and my mind refuses to land. Over the years, I have tried many things to alleviate this issue. My latest attempt has been an almost two-hour “brain drain” ritual where I watch about an hour of TV, followed by getting ready for bed and then reading until my eyes burn. This works sometimes but not always.
Besides just waking up not feeling rested or refreshed, lack of sleep is scary. It has been linked to stroke, depression, obesity, and even the “big players” like heart disease and cancer. A study published in the European Heart Journal in 2011, found that people who only slept six hours or less a night were 48 percent more likely to die from heart disease. Now I'm not going to be able to sleep since I'll be worried about what will happen to me if I don't sleep!
When I came across a press release for the PSiO-an “MP3 Color Player [that] is the first truly self-contained, all-in-one audiovisual stimulation device, and the newest and most technologically advanced AVS unit in the world,” I paused. Could technology actually have the solution for my insomnia?
I continued to read as the manufacturer of the device claimed that “audiovisual stimulation glasses over-stimulate the brain to eliminate brain chatter” and that, “the user is taken on a psychedelic odyssey into a state of relaxation, in which their mind is maintained at the edge of sleep.”
It sounded like a dream (pun intended) and I immediately requested a demonstration unit. Kirstin from Trent and Company quickly responded, agreeing to send the unit out the following business day, and a few days later it arrived.
The packaging wasn't super exciting, arriving in a “Apple-esque” white box with the name and logo. The glasses are a decent weight (a little uncomfortable on the bridge of the nose) with controls on the side for power, volume, and a switch for scrolling through preloaded programs (some in French-the product originated in Belgium). I had a moment of quick disappointment when I realized I could not use my Paradigm Shift ear buds (without an adaptor which was not included with the unit), but anticipation quickly took over as I chose a program, and pressed play.
This is what you see in the glasses:
It really is psychedelic. My children “ooed” and “ahhed” and begged for more, but I quickly remembered that anything “meditation-like” deserves a quiet uninterrupted place in time. (This is not a super easy thing to find in my house and in my life.) My best bet for such an opportunity was before bed, so upon my nightstand it went.
The PSiO's programs are divided into four categories: Music (dazzling and entertaining), Meditation (Voices, Music and sounds of nature), Performance (sound and light that will induce know brain waves to increase learning abilities), and Relaxation (voice, music and sound programs for rebalancing).
Since we were playing with my brain here, and I'd like to avoid any seizures, I'll admit I went to the site to look at what research had been done. Turns out the PSiO is backed by more than 20 years of clinical research. Apparently, multiple scientists have been studying how light and sound affect the brain for over 1,800 years, but it just wasn't until now that an affordable all-in-one solution existed.
At bedtime I lay upon my pillow and put on the magic glasses. Similar to the first 3D glasses that were on the market, they were not extremely comfortable, but much more so when laying down than when sitting. I chose the “Sleep 2” program (there was no “Sleep 1”) and began. This was to be a 30-minute experience, and if you know me, you know how difficult it is for me to stay still for 30 minutes, even at bedtime. The program started with some flashing lights and colors and funky-groovy beats and eventually faded into a rhythmic beat which was intense at first and then faded more and more until its demise.
The system is very contained. My husband could not hear the program, and could only see some light bleed from the glasses. The audio quality was good, but not great. If I owned these I would definitely upgrade the ear buds to over-the-ear headphones, maybe even fancy noise-cancelling headphones. This would surely tune out the world.
The pumping audio and video in the beginning of the program made it very difficult to concentrate on anything else, which I'm guessing, is how it quiets “brain chatter.” This pulsating color blasts make you see shapes and other drug-tripping illusions (so I imagine). As the colors stopped changing and the music faded into a rhythm, your brain follows along. As the volume fades, you find yourself trying harder to hear it, again focusing on this and not tomorrow's to-do list. My eyes did dry out, probably because I wasn't blinking, with my brain so mesmerized by the light show in front of me. Think of it as Fourth of July one inch from your eyeballs. The lights change color and frequency. Like the audio, the visuals are intense at first and calming by the end of the program.
After my 30 minutes, I took off the glasses, kissed my husband, and within a decent amount of time fell asleep.
I wanted more. The next day, mid-afternoon I found a quite place and chose “Energy Source,” which is a 16-minute program. Intensity was cranked up during this one, for sure. Not only did the color and frequency change more often, but also they threw in new brighter colors for different eyes. That's tough for the brain to handle. Instead of calming colors such as lavender, they were complementary colors of red and green and purple and yellow. It made me think about what one could charge for this experience. The audio during “Energy Source” was again more rhythmic at first and then a single beat that would swap ears and change repetition. This was like being on drugs without fear of addiction or being arrested. My eyes never wanted to close, which made them water again.
Alas, I can't say I was more energized after the experience. It was definitely fun, but not life changing. Not the all-in-one-pill that us Americans crave and desire. A very cool device, though, and like nothing I have ever experienced before.
The PSiO continues to intrigue me, and I wish we had more time together. I would love to take it to a yoga class and use it during meditation (since my brain doesn't shut up even then). I could see this unit being used at spas for deeper relaxation, or high-end luxury hotels and first-class air travel to aid with jet-leg. There is also an online store where you can purchase additional programs at $20 each. (Two programs are included at no cost, when you register the device.)
Would I buy one? It would be very difficult for me to carve out the 15 to 30 minutes that it takes to truly benefit from this product. It would have been perfect for my pre-marriage, pre-kids days. I do, however, think this device has a very bright future. In the meantime, I will continue my battle with brain chatter and sleeplessness with my old-fashioned ways.
Device Name: PSiO
What is it? All-in-One Audiovisual Stimulation Device
What does it do? An intense audio and visual experience brought to you via a pair of glasses (that light up with different colors) and ear-buds
How Much: $399.99
Kudos: Extremely easy set up. If nothing else, a fun experience. In my experience did quiet “brain chatter.” Can be used as an “upper” or a “downer.”
Concerns: Glasses are not super comfortable andneed an adaptor (not included) to connect to your own headphones. Hard to tell what some of the programs are for (wouldn't want to do a energy program at bed time!); some are in French.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.