Did you even know there was such a thing as a “sleep headband”? Sounds like a silly infomercial gimmick, right? Like something you can purchase in payment installments to go with your snake oil and one of those belts that give you abs while sitting on the couch.
A sleep headband is exactly what its name implies. It’s a band that is to be worn around your head — your forehead, specifically — while you sleep. And the advantages of it are not just for “better sleep.” According to research, there are actually legitimate longterm health benefits gained from using one consistently. They’re said to help you actually fall asleep faster and fall into a deeper sleep, collecting data of your brain's activity that will in turn also help you learn more about your health and how to improve your rest even more. You probably already don’t need to be convinced that deeper, more quality sleep would have a multitude of longterm health benefits, so can you be sold to believe one of these things actually works? They can run up to $500, so you’re not going to spend your money unless you’re convinced it’s worth it, right?
We have different phases of sleep that we cycle through throughout the night — rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) — in four distinct stages. NREM makes up the first three stages of sleep, with each getting progressively deeper. The third stage, N3, is the deepest of the three and often referred to as “slow wave” sleep. The brain is now less responsive to outside stimuli and we are most difficult to wake up at this point. Heart rate and breathing both slow down, blood pressure falls, and even muscle activity slows. Although many associate REM sleep as the most important, it is actually slow wave sleep that revitalizes our body the most and leaves us feeling refreshed when we wake up the next day. During REM, our heart rate starts to pick back up during vivid dreams and our body is put back to work, essentially starting the cycle all over again.
Studies show that slow wave sleep is when the brain goes into recovery mode. The frequency of our brain waves slow down and get wider, being produced at a frequency at least 10 times slower than the fastest brain waves. Cortisol is reduced (the stress hormone) and hormones like prolactin and growth hormone are produced, supporting the adaptive immune system, which in turn helps us fight infection.
Knowing all this about slow wave sleep, it’s clear the more of it you can get the better. Sleep headbands work by monitoring your sleep and your brain waves. When your brain moves into producing slow wave frequencies a sleep headband creates sounds that increase the amplitude and frequency of those widest, slowest waves. The soft audio tones, in turn, help your brain increase the production of those same slow waves that keep you in your deepest and most productive stage of sleep.