It’s 2:49 A.M., more or less my bedtime, and I’m about to put on my Sleep Shepherd hat, a device designed to help the wearer go gentle into unconsciousness ($149.99). The hat is a stretchy black beanie, but where you might normally find a pompom there’s a plastic box the size of a Triscuit. If I were an alien, this would be the port through which I’d receive my instructions from the mother ship. The box has an on-off switch, and I’m going to turn it on so that the mechanism can commune with my head.
The hat measures activity in my cerebral cortex through three sensors sewn into the fabric—one covering each ear and a third handling the forehead. There are also built-in speakers that emit pulsing tones mimicking the frequencies of my brain waves. Gradually, the rhythm will slow down and, supposedly, so will my brain, entrained as if by a hypnotist. The noise sounds like the tone you’d expect to hear before a nuclear disaster. It’s supposed to be soothing, and, truth be told, I don’t mind it. The hat was invented by Michael Larson, a mechanical engineer at the University of Colorado. Larson told me, over the phone, that he came up with it to treat his daughter, who had an autoimmune disease that prevented her from getting enough deep sleep. The contraption apparently did the trick.
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