This SleepHub device claims to retrain your brain for better sleep. Here is our verdict

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After almost 18 months of having my much-loved sleep punctuated by the two to three hour demands of a little human, a miraculous thing happened: this little human started waking up just once a night to feed. And then zero times a night. But strangely, I still woke up every time I heard him stir and then it took me hours to go back to sleep. It felt like my body had forgotten how to get quality sleep.

It was in this state of sleep deprivation that I started using SleepHub$1,495, a device developed by Cambridge Sleep Science which aims to restore natural sleep patterns through sound technology. It has four main settings – Deep Sleep, Easy Sleep, Fall Asleep, and Power Nap – with plenty of other ways to customize your experience. Honestly, I didn’t have much confidence when I installed the device (which looks like a Google home hub) and two speakers (one on each side of the bed). I programmed it to “Easy Sleep”, added some pink noise and woke up the next morning not noticing a difference. I still continued to use it. The FAQ explained that it may take “several weeks to feel a benefit”.

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It has now been five months since I started using SleepHub. Interestingly, I notice the biggest difference when I forget to turn it on because I wake up feeling tired – that’s how I realized it worked for me. And during those times when my little human is going through sleep regression (funny), with the SleepHub on it puts me back to sleep quickly after I get up to feed her, which means I get better quality sleep on the whole, even during periods when it is interrupted. Even though I don’t have hard data to show the changes (I stopped wearing trackers in bed to minimize distractions), I feel different (read: less grumpy because I sleep much better).

SleepHub is now an integral part of my bedtime routine. But I still didn’t understand exactly how the device was retraining my brain for better sleep, so I reached out to SleepHub CEO Bart Evers to answer a few questions.

Could you give us an analogy to explain how the SleepHub device works?

Evers: “During a good night’s sleep, our brain goes through five sleep cycles. Sleep data shows that in adults, normal and healthy sleep cycles are remarkably similar, with sleep phases consistently in a specific sequence.

Within each cycle, specific sleep stages and electrical brain wave patterns occur. By harnessing the brain’s natural response to certain sound frequencies, SleepHub guides the brain through good quality sleep cycles in the right order, helping to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.

Through two finely tuned speakers, SleepHub plays psychoacoustic sounds with sine waveforms. These sounds, which we call Sleep Sounds, are heard through our auditory pathways and received by our brain during sleep. Sleep sounds mimic the brain activity that occurs during optimal sleep cycles and thus guide our brain through healthy sleep cycles.

When it comes to sleep, you can compare the brain to our muscles and the sound of sleep to gym equipment or an exercise routine. When we regularly do a specific exercise or lift a particular weight, our muscles are trained and developed to perform that function. Certain things happen in our muscles that allow us to lift a particular weight or move in a particular way. If we stop doing this exercise or lifting weights, over time our muscle will lose its ability to lift weights or do the exercise. We would need to retrain ourselves so that our muscles regain the same function as before.

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Although sleep seems like something that should come naturally, our brains can gradually get out of sync with healthy sleep cycles. In today’s world, we have demanding lifestyles, lighting, devices, stresses and anxieties that are not conducive to healthy sleep. All of these can contribute to causing us to fall into unhealthy sleep patterns and cycles. Much like exercise equipment at the gym, SleepHub helps retrain your brain to develop good sleep behavior, correcting bad sleep habits and replacing them with good sleep habits.

How is this different from just white noise playing in the background while you sleep?

Evers: “A white noise machine, or any type of repetitive sound used to help people fall asleep, such as nature sounds, can be effective in putting people into a relaxed, sleep-ready state. These sounds are also used to mask noises from your environment that could prevent you from falling asleep.White noise remains constant and does not change.
SleepHub sleep sounds change throughout the night and work to guide your brain through healthy sleep cycles in the right order.

Along with the sleep sounds that make SleepHub unique and the sounds that guide your brain through healthy sleep cycles, SleepHub also offers a range of soundscapes. These sounds can be played in conjunction with SleepHub sleep sounds and help you relax and take your focus away from sleep sounds. You can choose from soundscapes ranging from ocean waves and wind to white, pink and brown noise.

Why does the Deep Sleep setting have a fixed alarm time? What’s the idea behind why this can’t be changed?

Evers: “Eight hours of sleep every night is the widely recommended amount of sleep we should aim for. Based on this, SleepHub developed the Deep Sleep mode, which cycles for exactly 8 hours.

Besides the fixed alarm time, what is the difference between deep sleep and easy sleep settings?

Evers: “The only difference between the Deep Sleep and Easy Sleep features is that you can set your own alarm time in the Easy Sleep feature. This feature is ideal for those who don’t have or want exactly eight hours of sleep. In the Easy Sleep feature, SleepHub will set the best cycles based on your alarm time and includes the 20-minute wake-up cycle.

SleepHub sounds (both sleep sounds and soundscapes) will work for up to eight hours. If you are using Easy Sleep and you have set the alarm for more than eight hours, say nine hours from the time you press play, the alarm will sound in nine hours, but the sounds will end after eight hours. (By the way, too much sleep has been found to have negative effects and could signal other health issues that should be investigated.)”

How do you recommend getting the most out of SleepHub?

Evers: “Just as bad sleep can be learned over time, healthy sleep can be relearned!” The best way to break any bad habit is to repeat a good habit. Returning to your natural sleep cycle is like training for any sport: the more you let your brain “train” back to natural sleep patterns using SleepHub, the better your experience will be. We recommend regular and repeated use of SleepHub for best results for healthy sleep.

Once you’ve established good sleep patterns, SleepHub can become part of your sleep routine to keep your sleep on track, especially when you’re going through circumstances that can affect your sleep quality. Jet lag, shift work, things that cause stress and anxiety can all disrupt our sleep patterns and cycles.

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