Why you should care
Because we could all use some more sweet, sweet shut-eye.
Tired? Of course you are. According to an amazing array of studies, we’re all a lot more exhausted than we used to be. Blame our modern lifestyle, experts say, with our decreased activity levels, insufficient time outdoors exposed to daylight and increased screen time.
A new wearable aims to reverse some of the harm caused by our sleep-sucking habits … with light. The Ayo (pronounced “eye-oh”), worn like a pair of glasses, uses a special frequency of blue light to help improve sleep and energy levels. Wearing an Ayo for 20 minutes, a few times a day, helps offset your off-kilter circadian rhythms and get you back on track, claims founder Aleksandar Dimitrov. And there are other potential benefits — moderating the effects of jet lag, boosting energy levels, fighting the symptoms of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and syncing up your sleep schedule with a partner — which can be personalized via a free app.
The blue light effectively tells the brain to stop producing melatonin.
The science behind the gadget is chronobiology: the study of the body’s natural rhythms. Turns out, these rhythms are governed in part by light — specifically blue light — which the Ayo is designed to emit. Blue light signals our bodies to shut down the creation of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone). The result? You feel more alert and less sleepy.
Dimitrov and co-founder Branislav Nikolic came up with the idea after experiencing sleep issues while working on their university degrees in the Netherlands. During the short, gloomy winter days, waking up and “keeping my energy levels high during the day” was a problem, Dimitrov recounts, and the pair found light boxes not easy to use. So, after two years of development at Bulgaria-based Novalogy, the Ayo — which looks curiously like the infamous Google Glass — was born.
Yes, there’s a risk that someone who sees you wearing an Ayo might mistake you for a Glasshole, but the bigger risk is in using the product incorrectly. Ignoring the app’s instructions and popping on the device at the wrong time of day could keep you awake when you want to be asleep — kind of like drinking coffee after dinner.
But will it really help you get your sleep on? Sleep expert Dr. Brian M. Wind, who likes the idea of the Ayo, says the technology is “based on ample scientific literature” about how our “circadian master clock” operates, largely responding to light, melatonin and behavioral sleep patterns. However, critics like Dr. Hawley Montgomery-Downs, an associate professor of psychology at West Virginia University, would like to see more evidence that the Ayo has been thoroughly tested against the company’s claims, and she suggests that customers should “insist on seeing the evidence” first.
Ayo isn’t the only device of its kind. The Re-Timer ($299) does essentially the same thing but doesn’t offer built-in sensors or customization … and it kinda looks like ski goggles. The svelte lines and minimalist design of the Ayo ($169) might fit better with your wardrobe — and your wallet. Whether or not you decide to try out a light-therapy wearable, one thing’s for sure: We could all do with a little more sl— … zzz. Zzz.