Rose-gold Nike fuel bands aside, much of the fashion world is dubious about wearable technology. But how about a bracelet that actually may help with sleep? Philip Stein, a company that rose to fame after Oprah included the brand’s “feel good watches” on her Favorite Things list three times, professes to have just the thing: the Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet, which costs $395, supposedly helps induce better sleep by harnessing “frequencies.”
“What’s a frequency?” you ask. I had the same question, and after popping over to YouTube to see if I still hate REM’s song “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” (I do), I tried to figure it out.
“Natural frequencies are all around us and always have been," Will Stein, a co-founder of Philip Stein, told me. "They are typically caused by spontaneous phenomena such as lightning striking the Earth, which happens, on average, ten times a second. Because there is a cavity between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere, the frequencies generated by these natural phenomena are trapped and propagate throughout the world. We are all exposed to them.”
The Sleep Bracelet, which looks a lot like a watch without a face, contains a metal disc to harness these frequencies. “It picks up natural frequencies and channels them from the environment to our body for our personal benefit,” Stein said.
Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep specialist, did some early research on the bracelet and recommends it to his patients. (He’s not a spokesperson for the brand.)
“It is based on the idea of a tuning fork. As the frequency resonates from the bracelet, the body naturally tunes to it, aligning sleep,” Dr. Breus said. “Frequency is a wave form that is emitted from the bracelet itself, like a sound wave.”
A recent study of the technology showed that “a human cell line exposed to Philip Stein’s Natural Frequency Technology produced melatonin, a hormone that is associated with sleep onset, at levels approximately 20% higher than those exposed to controls.” Which basically means that cells in a petri dish produced melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycles. But how does that translate to a three-dimensional person? I had to try it.
I have to admit I had a hard time coming to terms with invisible rays going through a tiny metal disc and messing with my hormones. I totally get why people take medications and supplements to try to sleep, and I’ve even tested out a ton of them myself. Drugs are tangible things with pathways I understand. Frequencies are not. In short: I was skeptical of the sleep bracelet.
I strapped on the bracelet 30 minutes before bed, and was immediately confronted with the first challenge. The bracelet has a traditional watch strap with a buckle and it was not that comfortable. Not to mention I was already wearing a Jawbone (to measure how I slept) on one wrist, so I felt a bit like Wonder Woman with her magic bracelets. After a night or two I got used to it, though. I didn’t feel any sort of sensation while it was on, which was disappointing. I was sort of hoping for a minor zap or jolt, or even a tingle, but it just felt like a watch.
After using the bracelet for about five weeks, I honestly haven’t noticed any sort of improvement in my sleep. But, to be fair, my sleep issues are subtle: I’m not at the point of desperation and in the grips of insomnia every night like so many people I know. I still get between five and seven hours of sleep a night. I wake up once or twice. It takes me anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to fall asleep. Many mornings I feel like crap when I wake up, though some I feel fine.
Perhaps my extreme skepticism produced frequencies that overpowered the sleep-inducing frequencies. Stein was careful to point out to me that not everyone experiences a benefit, and that sometimes the benefit is subtle. Dr. Breus has used it successfully with many patients, and Stein pointed out that the company has sold over 10,000 bracelets since 2011 with very few returned for dissatisfaction. Fair enough.
There could also be a significant placebo effect, in which case, who cares if it actually increases your melatonin levels or not? As long as you’re sleeping, right? In the big scheme of things, it might be worth a $400 gamble.