Getting good sleep is vital but not always easy to attain but thanks to a new device called Modius SLEEP recently sent by Neurovalens for review, it may finally be possible without medication. That is, for anybody willing to push electrical signals directly into their brain for 30-minutes every night.
At a retail of $500 on Indiegogo, Modius SLEEP is a tech-savvy wearable that claims to make getting good sleep easier. Now, there are plenty of med-free products on the market that make similar claims. Not all of them are necessarily above-board and it would be easy to discount all such solutions.
Modius SLEEP is different in that it has undergone at least one 30-day study that showed improvement in 95-percent of patients' sleep scores. 85-percent were happier with the quality of their sleep patterns, and 75-percent reported better day-to-day functioning.
The results there are relatively surprising since this is a headband that uses electrodes to accomplish its goal. And my own results throughout my review of the Modius SLEEP align fairly closely with those, although I tested the device for twice the period of time. Neurovalens study ran for 4 weeks. That's two weeks on and two weeks off. My review of Modius SLEEP ran for 4 weeks off and then four weeks on.
The results of that test and review are well worth diving into if you happen to have trouble sleeping.
This is prototype hardware but it's already more comfortable to use than expected
When I first received my Modius SLEEP review unit, my initial impression wasn't great. The box said prototype on the side and the product itself much more closely resembles a medical device than I would have hoped. That also gave the impression it might not be comfortable to wear, especially given the amount of time I was required to wear it for.
It turned out that the impression was poorly informed. Not only does it not matter that Modius SLEEP — at least in prototype — looks like if it works. The device is surprisingly comfortable to wear. It resembles a VR or AR-style headband with lights to indicate when it's on and two wires that attach to electrodes. The lights also serve battery purposes.
As that implies, the ends of the wired lines, coated in thick insulating rubber, are led by a button-style clasp. That's used to attach disposable electrode pads. The underside of one side has a micro-USB plug for charging.
Neurovalens designed ever surface of the device to be comfortable, even the parts that are made of a harder plastic. Those stiffer pieces are floated comfortably over the ears and forehead thanks to the headband's flexible design. Foam lines key parts of the band so that it fits neatly over the ears without causing discomfort even when moving.
That comfort may or may not apply to every wearer since there are differences in head shape. So that should be taken into account. But for my usage, it was more than comfortable enough to wear just before bed for a time.
The nubs at the end of the electrode wires are shaped to make removing and adding those pieces a snap. Those stick to the bone structure just behind the ear. Removing them isn't painful either, though it can be a bit uncomfortable if hair gets snagged.
The ports and other detachable areas are snug but not so snug as to be difficult to manage. The experience of using the hardware was, as a result, smooth and as near to effortless as possible given what this device is designed to do.
The Modius SLEEP battery here isn't all that bad either
Now, I wasn't able to test the battery for this device in quite the same way as I might if this were a pair of headphones or a smartphone. That's because the company actually recommends charging nightly and, because this is technically a medical device, I followed instructions.
During the short period where I forgot to charge the device before use, it lasted for several days. That was for four days, more accurately, before I remembered to charge it up again. It never actually ran out of juice. So the Modius SLEEP should last at least that long between charges if needs be.
The charging port itself is fairly standard micro USB and this prototype, at very least, didn't come with a dedicated charging cable. Since I had plenty of those lying around and a computer with ports to charge from, that wasn't really a problem.
It isn't immediately clear whether the final product will ship with one so that's something to be aware of. Fortunately, micro USB is still relatively common even though it's steadily being replaced by USB Type-C. So that shouldn't be much of a problem in either case. They're also still very affordable at Amazon or any number of other retailers.
The app is intuitive and easy to use
Now the app used during my review of Modius SLEEP is the same as is used for the Modius SLIM. That's a gadget built on the same premise but with weight loss in mind. The key difference here is the amount of time the device is used for — a half-hour here — and the frequencies used.
Because the app used was the same, it's possible that the finalized product will have a different companion app or at least some new options specifically for Modius SLEEP. Regardless, that app was fairly intuitive to use.
The app starts with a home screen that automatically sans for a connected headset — via Bluetooth. Once connected, a start button appears with a timer. Just under that, Neurovalens' app includes a list of statistics for the use of the headset. That includes how many days in a row it's been put to use.
The third tab is the final tab that's going to be specific to this app. That's a built-in social network called "Modius Life" that seems geared toward gamification of the tracking. Users can create a profile and keep tabs on how their progress compares, gaining some motivation to keep moving forward with the device.
The final tab is a profile and account management tab. That contains all of the help, tutorial, and troubleshooting segments as well as support. The Modius app has tucked away notification controls in that app. But it has also included a handy section for re-ordering electrode pads and wipes when users start running low on supplies.
So how does Modius SLEEP work?
The Modius SLEEP prototype unit I received for my review wasn't a final production device but did mirror what should be that gadget's use.
The most immediately noticeable characteristic of it, however, is that this prototype is most definitely a medical-style device. And how it works matches up with that almost perfectly.
Many of the sleep solutions that are available focus on sound and routine. The latter is still present here, with results improving over time as a wearing pattern develops. But there's no focus on white noise here at all. Instead, the device works by sending an almost imperceptible electrical pulse directly through the vestibular nerve and into the hypothalamus.
Users wear the Modius SLEEP band, with electrodes attached to the bone behind the ear, for 30 minutes before sleep. The company includes enough materials to complete 75 sessions with the gadget. It can then be taken off. I noted that on some nights I became more tired than usual within the first 20 minutes. But getting in less than 30 minutes of use did seem to impact effectiveness.
The strength of the electrical signal and length of use are controlled via the above-mentioned application. But the exact frequency is tuned to impact sleep by default.
I tested this for four weeks off and four weeks on
Now, I used this device four a longer-than-normal period. More directly, I kept it off for four weeks and monitored my sleep prior to testing.
For the purposes of this test, I was using a Huawei-built Honor Band 5. The device tracks sleep across several metrics including longevity, length of deep sleep as well as light and REM sleep, deep sleep continuity, how many times I wake up, and the quality of my breathing. All of that is accumulated into an overall score that's applicable by day, week, month, or year.
Over the course of my first four weeks, there were several issues in my sleep pattern. That's nothing out of the ordinary for me since I do suffer from insomnia. Specifically, over the course of the month, my sleep fluctuated a lot. In one night I might sleep almost 8 hours while another I might sleep just short of 4 hours. My shortest period was just 42 minutes.
I also fluctuated a lot in terms of quality of that sleep but there was a pattern there. On average, my sleep continuity scores were lower than might be hoped. I woke up quite a lot too, with my average being relatively high according to my fitness tracker. My bedtime regularity and time spent in light sleep tended to be much higher than would be desired.
Overall, my score was 72 out of 100, with daily averages sometimes dipping well below the 70-point mark. My lowest nightly score was 54 points.
That gives plenty of contrast to make when starting to ask the question of whether Modius SLEEP actually works. But whether Modius SLEEP worked for me in my review and will, therefore, work for everybody else is less certain. I noted after finishing reviewing my results that they actually track well with expectations based on Neurovalens's study. But they should be taken with a grain of salt since they'll still vary from person to person.
But does it work in the real world?
Modius has already conducted several clinical trials of its SLEEP-branded product prior to my use and review of the prototype. So it is known that in 30-day tests, 95-percent of users saw an improvement in their insomnia severity index score. That's a good thing because this product isn't cheap. Having said that, I wanted to see how well it improved my sleep across every metric I could measure.
For this test, I not only gauged on my own how well-rested I felt. I also utilized a Huawei-built HONOR Band 5. That measures how long I slept, deep sleep and light sleep, REM sleep duration, the continuity of deep sleep, how many times I woke up — consciously or otherwise — and the quality of my breathing. The gadget also provides a readout of what time I went to sleep and got up.
Summarily, Modius SLEEP did seem to do that. The only metric that didn't seem to change in terms of my sleep patterns was my continuity of breathing. As an asthma sufferer, that's hardly surprising at all. But every other metric improved over the four weeks I was using the device.
Now, that doesn't mean it all improved right away, either, or that my sleep became perfect. But sleep is incredibly important so that's neither here nor there. I noticed, to begin with, that within the first week the device was helping me get to sleep faster. By week two, the amount of sleep was beginning to stabilize, with more regular waking and sleeping times.
By week three, my sleep continuity was improving and by week four, all of the measurable metrics aside from breathing were beginning to improve.
How well that improves and what improves first will undoubtedly vary from person to person. Whether it works at all most likely will too since there is that 5-percent of clinical test users who didn't see the positive benefits. But for those this does work for, it does.
Sleep regularity and the amount of time I spent asleep overall improved the most. Sleep continuity and other metrics rose to normal levels for most nights.
Of course, there were still nights where those metrics were out of the normal range but those became the exception instead of the norm. At most, I noted one or two nights of abnormalities for every two weeks of tracking — approximately once per week.
Across the board, my sleep metrics all slowly shifted to land within the "normal" range according to my sleep tracking band. That's a massive improvement.
Does this review of Modius SLEEP show it's worth the cost?
Now, I dove into this review of Modius SLEEP with a fair dose of skepticism and it may still be the case that there was a placebo effect at work here. More to the point, it may be that my desire to sleep well using this device impacted my results. This was hardly a scientific study that I was conducting.
But that can be said of just about any device or medication intended to help with any number of conditions. Sleep solutions do not stand alone on that front.
With that said, Neurovalens designed this device from the ground up using the latest technology and with plenty of testing to back its claims up. As shown throughout my review, this is still very much a prototype device. But it also works exceedingly well for a device that will not be landing on the market.
That gives a sense that the finalized device will probably be even better in terms of comfort, styling, and maybe even how well it works.
The one complaint I had about Modius SLEEP is a fairly significant one, dropping this device from a five-star to four-star rating without any doubt. Namely, it was difficult to remember to wear the device, to begin with.
That comes back to design and the fact that I had to manually attach the sticky segment of the electrodes. Those are going to be an ongoing cost here too, albeit likely not an expensive one. But the inconvenience of having to prepare the skin, attach the ends, and then place them on the body on a daily basis is going to be a sticking point for some users. It's just a hassle.
The key takeaway here, however, is that this device should work to help just about anybody get better sleep. That's especially true where problems like insomnia are prevalent. So whether or not the device will be worth the cost is going to come down to whether or not sleeping well has been a problem. If it has been a problem and a solution is needed, Neurovalens Modius SLEEP will likely be well worth every penny.