Can’t Sleep? Seven Devices That Might Solve Your Coronasomnia
We tested a lulling light display, a wearable sleep lab and a robot that trains you to breathe your way to slumber.
We tested a lulling light display, a wearable sleep lab and a robot that trains you to breathe your way to slumber.
IT’S BEEN A MONTH since we sprang forward, but if you’re still slugging down extra coffee to cope, you’re not alone. Daylight savings is always hard on our bodies, said Dr. Nicole Avena, associate professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, but Covid-19 has made the shift more difficult than usual. Dr. Abhinav Singh, a physician at Indiana Sleep Center, says about 40% of people have experienced sleep problems, what he calls “coronosomnia,” during the pandemic. Working from home has disrupted our circadian cues for maintaining what Dr. Singh calls a healthy sleep-wake rhythm (think: irregular meal and exercise times, reduced sunlight exposure).
For those looking to get things back on track, several companies are offering products that promise to get you to sleep faster, stay asleep more consistently and wake up easier, improving overall sleep health. Seattle area surgery scheduler Genny Coleman, 46, who’s struggled with insomnia since contracting Covid-19 last summer, recently tried one such product on the urging of a friend with a newborn: the Hatch Restore. Released in May 2020, it doubles as a white-noise machine to help you sleep and a sunrise alarm clock to wake you up with gentle light and sound. “There are still some nights [I] may not sleep perfectly, but the Hatch definitely helps [me] to get better rest,” said Ms. Coleman. Other new sleep solutions range from wearable patches to breathable robots. We tested the following seven.
Claim to Fame: This rechargeable LED light is designed to help you create a nightly routine. Once you’ve used the app to dial in some settings, it’s easy to use. When you’re ready for bed, flip the light over to turn it on. Depending on the “dimming time” you’ve selected, the light will slowly fade over a period between 15 and 90 minutes. The beacon serves as a helpful nudge, reminding you it’s time to put away your phone (and its sleep-compromising blue light) and wind down.
Test Results: This became a staple on my nightstand. I crawled into bed and read until the decrescendo alerted me it was time to close my eyes. This might not help much if you have serious insomnia, but for the mildly sleep-challenged, it’s enough.
Best For: Page-turners who stay up late and regret it in the morning. approx. $175, Casper.com
Claim to Fame: Using your phone as an alarm clock is a bad idea—picking it up before bed is certain to induce scrolling. This minimalist clock, introduced in 2021, will gently nudge you awake in the morning. Waking songs currently include exclusive compositions by Jon Natchez from rock band the War on Drugs. The company bets that you’ll appreciate waking up to these atmospheric, invigorating pieces more than some of the cacophonies your iPhone spews.
Test Results: The modern equivalent of waking up to soft AM radio: comforting, calming, familiar. It was nice to start my day with music without needing to grab my phone to find the right Spotify playlist. A fair warning: The device’s many buttons lack labels. That makes setup tricky, but ultimately, learnable. Just don’t skip the online FAQ.
Best For: Melophiles ready to break up with bedtime blue light for good. approx. $4o0, OneClock.co
Claim to Fame: Dutch inventor Julian Jagtenberg began creating the Sleep Robot in 2015 with a team of other sleep-deprived engineers to help his mother overcome insomnia without medication. As you hold the 1.3kg rechargeable jelly bean to your chest, like a teddy bear, its soft in-and-out movement and sounds are designed to encourage deeper breathing.
Test Results: Cuddling a robot is weird, yet effective. It reminded me of holding a delicate baby, but more relaxing. Downloading its app enables nearly two dozen sounds (or you can stream your own audio through Bluetooth) and lets you set your own breathing program. When you’re awake, Somnox also works as the best stress ball ever: Just hold it in your lap at your desk. One downside: Given the price, it was disappointing that the washable cover pilled quickly.
Best For: Anxious adults who wish their bed was still covered in a menagerie of stuffed animals. approx. $807, Somnox.com
Claim to Fame: This system turns your bedroom into a sleep lab, providing granular data you can’t get from most wearables. After snoozing for at least three nights with its crescent-shaped patches stuck to your chest and stomach, you schedule an initial video consultation with a sleep specialist on the app. He or she analyzes your results to pinpoint problems like sleep apnea.
Test Results: While my report didn’t find any issues, it helped me tweak my schedule to complete full sleep cycles. Impressive results, given I’d never heard of “sleep cycles” before trying the Wesper.
Best For: Anyone with serious sleep challenges or biohackers. approx. $270 plus $13/month after first month, Wesper.co
Claim to Fame: Measuring a little over 3 inches in diameter, this flat, white puck uses a pulsating light to coach your breathing at night. Tap the top as you climb into bed, and the battery-operated device projects a blue circle onto your ceiling. You inhale when it expands and exhale when it retracts, a breathing technique that relies on a mind-body therapy called cardiac coherence to control heart rate variability and help you fall asleep faster.
Test Results: Promising, but many will find the Dodow a bit awkward to use. It’s difficult to see the blue light unless your room is pitch black. And since the light appears on the ceiling, it’s hard to see unless you sleep on your back. You trigger the device through a series of taps, but I had to reread the instructions a few times and practice just to get the right “touch.” That said, watching a pulsing light is so boring that it’s bound to make you drift off eventually.
Best For: Back sleepers who’ve tried everything else, $80, mydodow.com
Claim to Fame: Loftie believes its three-in-one digital alarm clock, white noise machine and nightlight will finally convince you to stop sleeping with your phone on your nightstand. You can use buttons on the Loftie to set alarms and launch breathwork, meditation and sound-bath sessions without pulling out your phone and saturating your eyes with blue light. Alarms are two-phased: a soft “wake-up” chime plays for 30 seconds until a slightly faster (and louder) “get-up” tune signals that, well, it’s time to get up.
Test Results: We were impressed with the sheer volume of content stuffed inside this small device. Its bedtime stories are oddly soothing, like the grown-up version of having parents tuck you in at night. We also liked the clock’s “Bed Signal,” which cues a lullaby and a nightlight at the same time every night.
Best For: Perpetual snooze-button hitters who need a schedule. approx. $200, ByLoftie.com
Claim to Fame: These sleek plugs have memory-foam ball tips (each set comes with two sizes), connected by a titanium stem, that are designed to mould to your ear canal. They’re intended to reduce all variety of sleep-precluding noises, from sirens to snoring, by an average of 32 decibels.
Test Results: At this price, the earbuds disappointed. They look great, but I found that the design was hard to wear for a whole night, especially when I slept on my side, since they stick out. They do a great job cancelling noise, but you might get similar performance in a more comfortable package from the sort of standard buds you could buy at a hardware store.
Best For: Back sleepers and frequent fliers. approx. $72, FlareAudio.com
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 11, 2022.
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Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense
Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.
Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.
I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.
Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.
Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?
I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.
Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.
Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:
Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.
Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.
To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.
Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.
Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.
Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.
Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.
Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.
You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.
In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.
The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).
“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”
If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.
Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.
When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.
Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.
You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.
Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.
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