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High-tech mask could be a sweet dream

December 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
If you're like many people, the perfect holiday present would be a restful night's sleep. One British company says its high-tech mask could be the sweet dream insomniacs have been hoping for. It's new technology employing an old sleep trick.Getting more than three or four hours of sleep would be a luxury for "Mich" Fried. She goes to bed when most of us are awake.

"Since I started nursing, I've been working the night shift, which goes from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.," said Mich.

Odd hours, but she suffers the usual sleep problems -- getting to sleep and staying asleep.

"I tend to think a lot, and that can be disruptive and it can inhibit my ability to fall asleep," said Mich.

"Ten-to-15-percent of Americans have chronic insomnia," said Dr. Michael Stevenson of the Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

Short-term sleep problems can be helped with medication.

"But chronic long term insomnia is best addressed using cognitive behavioral techniques that actually teach people to sleep better," said Dr. Stevenson.

Dr. Stevenson helped Eyewitness News test one device designed to do just that. GLOtoSleep is a foam mask with built-in glowing bars. The idea is that you lie there and stare at them.

The GLOtoSleep utilizes a well-known technique called paradoxical intention. Paradoxical intention is one of the oldest tricks in the sleep book -- it's when you try to distract yourself in the hopes that your body falls asleep, because experts say you can't force yourself to sleep.

"When you think about sleep, that actually keeps you awake. Sleep is 100 percent involuntary, because if you try to go to sleep it just keeps you awake," explained Dr. Stevenson.

While you can do this same technique using a fluorescent sticker on the ceiling, Dr. Stevenson found the $60 GLOtoSleep device to be quite soothing and good for travel. The only drawback was that he charged the bars too long.

"When I did wake up and I looked at the light, it seemed too bright," said Dr. Stevenson.

Mich also tried out the device in the hospital's sleep lab.

"I took off the mask and I couldn't believe it. Got six straight hours and I felt so rested yesterday," said Mich. "It's certainly unusual for me. I haven't slept six straight hours in the entire year that I have been working."

That may be a glowing recommendation, but Dr. Stevenson says you can't rely on one thing to get sleep. His advice is to get regular exercise, sleep at the same time each night and de-stressing before you hit the sack.

It's something many Americans need to re-learn.

We spoke to Mich again after she tried the mask for a few nights and she said she continued to see results. To find out more about the science behind the sleep mask, visit the Web site for GLOtoSleep.


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