This article is a part of CNN Underscored’s Guide to Sleep, a week-long focus on the best sleep-related products. We’ll be featuring new products and guides all week, so check in every morning to see what’s new and keep your eyes peeled for exclusive deals.
If you’re like myself and countless others, you may have trouble falling asleep at night. Dodow is looking to change that, one insomniac at a time, with its sleep aid that focuses on calm breathing.
The device aims to help you relax and clear your mind as you prepare to fall asleep. It takes the form of a small disk, and tapping on the top will activate a slowly pulsing blue light. This dim light projects onto your ceiling to help you pace your breath.
As it expands, you inhale, and as it contracts, you exhale. When you follow along with this slow breathing, you allow your body to relax and help it enter a calmer neurophysiological state. This is often referred to as “rest and digest,” wherein the muscles relax, heart rate slows and the body generally conserves energy. You can use either an eight-minute or 20-minute light cycle and three levels of brightness.
The Dodow device costs $59 from getdodow. The company also has bundles that shave the individual unit prices.
The sleep aid has a simple, elegant design. The white disk measures a little under 3.5 inches in diameter and about three-quarters of an inch thick.
There is a pattern of small perforations on the top that includes a touch control for starting a light cycle, turning it off and changing the settings. The top also features a small set of LEDs that emit the blue light, and around the edge of this surface is a thin lip that slopes upward.
On the bottom of the device is a light blue disk that serves as a base with grip. The Dodow logo is engraved on it, and below that are two images that show you how to activate the eight-minute or 20-minute light cycles.
Below that, there’s a horizontal divot you can twist to unlock the battery compartment. The device runs on three AAA batteries that you insert in this compartment, which is easy to unlock with a coin or screwdriver. It’s a nice, minimal design with a pleasing color scheme.
PHOTO: Benjamin Levin/CNN
Once you’ve inserted the batteries, you’re ready to start. It’s hard to overstate the simplicity of this device’s operation. For an eight-minute cycle, just tap the top once. For a 20-minute cycle, tap it twice.
From there, all you have to do is focus on the light and match your breathing to it. If you want to manually turn off the light before the cycle ends, you can hold your finger on the surface for three seconds. It will also automically turn off the light once either of the cycle concludes. A pamphlet provides detailed instructions.
Although the light isn’t very bright, you can switch between three brightness settings with ease. While the device is off, hold your finger on the top for three seconds. Once the light turns on, release your finger and then tap the surface to switch between the brightness levels. When you’re happy with the level, hold your finger on the surface for three seconds again to turn it off and save your setting.
I have been using the Dodow for over two months and have not had to replace the batteries. And considering how little power it uses and how infrequently I run it, I don’t anticipate it running out for a long time. Plus, since it runs on batteries (and it’s so small), you can take it with you wherever you go and don’t need a cable.
PHOTO: Benjamin Levin/CNN
Staring at a pulsing light and breathing to the rhythm might sound like an odd ritual, but I found it was easier to get used to than I anticipated.
The light is a gentle color and less than one lux, so it isn’t harsh on the eyes. And it’s easy to get used to the breathing pattern the light dictates. It doesn’t go too fast or too slow, just slow enough to get you relaxing. I found it most helpful not to worry too much about being exactly right — just do your best to follow the pattern. You may want to use the 20-minute cycle when you’re getting started. After a while, it should become easier to sync with the light and easier to fall asleep. After just a few nights, I used the eight-minute cycle and dozed off before it ended.
When I said earlier that I had trouble falling asleep, I meant it. Not only am I a light sleeper, but I often have trouble falling asleep even with a consistent schedule. Using the Dodow has made a noticeable improvement in my ability to fall asleep.
In the pamphlet, Dodow suggests concentrating on your body, in addition to the light, and attempting to breathe with your lower abdomen. I found that this technique, combined with the light, provided me with full, deep breaths as well as a way for my mind to concentrate and tune out distracting thoughts. You can even try, as the pamphlet suggests, reciting “inhale” and “exhale” as you breathe in and out. It’s all about relaxing your body and quieting your mind.
Dodow also advises not “trying” to fall asleep. If you concentrate specifically on trying to fall asleep, you may become occupied with that thought, thus sabotaging yourself. Instead, try to focus on the techniques, and sleep should come naturally. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts don’t work very well. With practice, you should improve.
PHOTO: Benjamin Levin/CNN
If you’re wondering if this is all mumbo jumbo, the science behind it is sound. Deliberately slowing your breathing can, in fact, shift your body into a relaxed state. This state, which operates on circuitry called the parasympathetic nervous system, slows your heart rate, relaxes your muscles and halts the release of excitatory chemicals in your brain. Breathing from your abdomen is also an efficient mode of breathing. And finally, focusing on syncing with the light and your body can help you tune out other thoughts and environmental distractions.
The Dodow sleep aid is a unique and useful device. It helped me fall asleep faster, and more consistently. It isn’t hard to learn to sync your breath with the light, and once you get used to the process, you’ll feel the results. Just breathe in when it expands and out when it contracts.
And it doesn’t hurt to try to breathe from your abdomen, as well as following the other advice included in the pamphlet.
Try one for $59 from Dodow’s site. If you love it, you can buy a bundle on the website that lowers the cost of the individual units, and share your secret for better sleep with family and friends.