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The Dodow: the latest sleep aid looks like a wheel of brie – I wake up starving

This week we turn our attention to a light metronome, called Dodow, that claims to be able to train your brain to fall asleep. This sounds similar to the fantastical pseudo-science that promised us x-ray specs 30 years ago, but stick with it. The LED device projects a ring of blue light on to the ceiling that shrinks and expands. Synchronising your breathing with it stimulates the baroreflex, a physiological mechanism that slows the metabolism and the secretion of neurotransmitters. Basically, breathe in and chill out.

Dodow is “designed by insomniacs”, which doesn’t sound like something to boast about. Whenever I check my phone after a sleepless night, the Notes app is full of unfathomable fragments that struck me as very important at 3am. Stuff such as “Velcro is immortal” and “Am I making blood all the time?”

This addled nonsense proves that good sleep is the most crucial element of any attempt at wellness, or normal functioning. It is something I have struggled with for much of my life, and Dodow understands. The box has the Proustian inscription “Only the insomniac knows the relief of sleep regained” along its edge, in case you didn’t realise it was made by a French company.

As a side note, I am uncertain of the correct way to say Dodow. Here are my best guesses. 1) De-doe: like the sound you hear when you launch Netflix, or the noise Scooby-Doo makes when he is scared. 2) Dodo, as in: “Dead as a …” Is it possible to sleep too soundly? If you are medically dead, then yes. 3) Doo-dau: Relating to the proper pronunciation of “tao”, Chinese symbol for “the path”. Given the product’s philosophical leaning, my money is on this.

With everything to play for, I whack the doo-hickey and prepare to bust some ZZZs. Then I remember this kind of extroverted, stimulating behaviour is best avoided at bedtime. Instead, I gently place the device on my nightstand and double-tap its textured top, which activates the 20-minute programme; a single tap initiates an eight-minute version.

I am initially disappointed by the circle on the ceiling. I had pictured a spotlight; the kind that might pick out Daniel Craig in the opening of Casino Royale. Sadly, it is less tightly defined than that, producing more of a pulsing, ambient glow. It lights up the objects near it, which is distracting, as I am sensitive to the smallest particle of light in the bedroom. (If I ever have a visitor, I tell them, please, no photons.)

The device’s throbbing blue light, however, is really quite strong. A bit like an ambulance has stopped in your street and you have opened the curtains to have a look. I turn the brightness to its lowest setting and try an exercise from the booklet: attempting to focus 50% of my attention on synchronous breathing, plus two lots of 25% on sensations in my lower navel and surrounding environment. I have never been good at maths, though. If one train leaves Leeds at 11am at 100mph and another leaves London at noon, how long until I can stop doing homework in my head? This freaky blue light can do-do one.

Over the 20 minutes, something shifts. The ersatz moonshine surges blue and pacific; I start to feel less caught up in mental chatter. I can’t say much more than that, because organised thoughts are not part of the rice-pudding-y brainwave I have slipped into and I am unconscious before the cycle is up. The next night, I am awake to see the light turn off, but fall asleep shortly after. I am not sure how Dodow would cope with my insomnia at its height, yet it is humbling to feel what reliable organisms we are, that simply slowing breathing has a real effect. I can also imagine it being helpful during a panic attack or night terrors.

It does confirm my suspicion that good sleep hygiene is punishingly tedious. I think I actually enjoy a bit of mental chatter, for the company, and I won’t be changing my routine: I still prefer a sleep mask and the lull of a Radio 4 documentary, because, even if I don’t drop off, at least I have learned something about terracotta owls, or whatever. But it feels reassuring to have the Dodow nearby. Another arrow in the quiver to slay the monster of insomnia. Or at least bore it into submission.

The lowlight

In semi-darkness, the device looks like a wheel of brie left next to the bed. I woke up starving.

Wellness or hellness?

Come on Scooby Doo, where are you? We’ve got some work to Dodow. 4/5

Source: TheGuardian