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About Utah: This app will knock you out

Published: Monday, July 1 2013 10:35 a.m. MDT

The Sleep Genius crew: Colin House, Alex Doman and Jeff Whipple hold up their smart phones displaying the app that will "rock" you to sleep.

Lee Benson

PARK CITY

As most all of us know, even if the details might be a bit fuzzy, the best, most surefire way to get to sleep, way better than Ambien, is to have someone pick you up and rock you.

The problem is that typically stops by the time you’re three or four.

But brain specialist Alex Doman thinks he’s found a way you can still get rocked to sleep – by your smartphone.

In conjunction with Dr. Seth Horowitz, a leading expert in the field of neuroscience and sleep research, Doman, the founder of an Ogden company called Advanced Brain Technologies, has developed a mobile app you can download to your phone or electronic tablet that will help you get to sleep and stay asleep.

They’re calling it Sleep Genius.

“The Sleep Genius app allows your iPhone to cradle you and rock you as if your mother is putting you to sleep,” says Alex.

What a cyber world!

Sleep disorders, Alex points out, are a particular problem in modern America. Statistics show that one in four of us has trouble sleeping and the average American gets almost two hours less than the recommended eight hours of sleep per night (the average is 6.1).

Adverse effects from inadequate sleep include increased risk for everything from heart attack to obesity to grouchiness.

“People with sleep disorders often have a problem with their circadian rhythm – that’s your 24-hour body clock,” Alex explains. “Sleep is what sets that clock and if you have a sleep problem it throws your brain and body out of rhythm. What we’re doing is helping your brain set your sleep rhythm. It’s like setting your thermostat to the right temperature. Sleep is going to do that for the rhythm of your day. This really is a form of brain training.”

The music and sounds played by the new app are an outgrowth of research conducted by Dr. Horowitz when he was funded by NASA to come up with something that would help astronauts sleep while in space.

Not only does the app simulate being rocked, it also plays psychoacoustic music that relaxes your brain and produces a “pink noise” that blocks out distractions and lowers your breathing and heart rate – all of this accompanied by steady binaural beats designed to keep you asleep once you get there.

At least that’s the theory. While the system is yet to be put to the test by astronauts in space, Alex has partnered with Park City-based entrepreneurs Colin House and Jeff Whipple to see how it works here on Earth.

They unveiled their app at the Apple Store last week.

To help get things started, they settled on a special introductory price:

Free.

House says they got 150 downloads the first two days (you can get the app by going to the Apple Store or to sleepgenius.com). Then, after a blogger wrote a positive online review, they had 2,500 downloads on day three followed by 3,000 more downloads on day four.

They may wind up “selling” 50,000 of their apps before Sleep Genius officially opens for business on July 1 and starts charging $4.99 per download.

Their goal, of course, is that 50,000 proves to be just the tip of the iceberg.

“Sleep problems affect a lot of people out there; they have a big impact on health and well-being,” says House, who refers to the death last week of popular actor James Gandolfini as a case in point. Gandolfini died of a heart attack at 51 and numerous news articles have cited his battles with insomnia as a contributing factor.

“We really feel that this is something that can help a lot of people,” adds House. “And it’s simple. Just plug it into your speaker or headphone and close your eyes. That’s all you have to do.”

That, and don’t let your brain in on the detail that it’s not your mom, it’s your phone.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: benson@deseretnews.com

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