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Forget Pills – A Good Night’s Sleep Might Be Just A Few Sprays Away

Take two sprays and call me in the morning.

image via (cc) flickr user hang_in_there

I have a routine I go through every night to calm my brain down before sleep. After I get under the covers, I commit to a chapter of whatever book I’m working on at the time. Then, once I’ve finished the chapter, I reward myself by screwing around on my phone for a few minutes, before peeling my eyes off the screen to tackle another chapter. This cycle of goes on for about 45 minutes before I inevitably realize I’m spending more and more time checking Twitter than I am making progress in my book. And so, finally, I go to sleep.

In terms of actually unwinding, mine is, I realize, not a very good routine.

Research overwhelmingly indicates that the artificial light emanating from the various screens in our increasingly digital lives has served to significantly alter our body’s ability to manufacture the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin. As a result, the more time we spend staring at our laptops, iPads, and yes – cell phones, the harder it is for us to naturally get a good night’s rest. And while sleeping pills can put us out for the night, they often leave groggy and sluggish the next morning.

This, explains Sprayable co-founder and onetime Harvard Biochemistry student Benjamin Yu, is the result of pills needing up to three hundred times the melatonin necessary for a good night’s sleep in order to pass through our liver’s filtration system with enough of the chemical left over to do its job. With that in mind, and himself suffering from an excess of screen time, Yu, a former Thiel Fellowship grantee, and his colleagues have created what they claim is the first topical melatonin spray – one that is more effective than pills, despite having to thirty times less melatonin. Just point, spray, and soon it’s nighty night.

Sprayable Sleep’s effectiveness, explains its crowdfunding website, is due to its slow absorption through the skin – a process that more naturally mimics the body’s ability to produce and process melatonin, allowing for a smoother transition into, and out of, sleep. It’s an idea that seems to have struck a nerve: Sprayable Sleep surged past its initial funding goal by nearly 700% in just one week. The company, which is supported by Stanford University’s StartX incubation program, plans to fulfill orders by this coming summer.

Of course the roadside toward a good night’s sleep is littered with pills, elixirs, and tonics – each one claiming to leave users rested, and rejuvenated by the next morning. The quest for restfulness has become big business (in 2012 the sleep aid industry topped $32 billion), with over-the-counter products marketed as an antidote to our hectic workdays – days which increasingly have begun to encroach into our nights, as well. Even the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that sleep aids “might help temporarily” with getting our body’s natural sleep cycle, although they add “lifestyle changes are usually the best approach for chronic insomnia.

In other words, skip The Daily Show, turn the phone off, and just close your eyes.

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