The last few times I’ve been to the Amazon homepage there’s been an image by the Launchpad section that intrigued me as I didn’t know what the object was and it looked as though it was cool tech. I was initially quite excited when the launchpad started because it seemed a good thing – plenty of tech solutions to mundane problems – but now it just seems to be an area of the store for products which don’t really do anything different to the items elsewhere. The early excitement left me pretty quickly as the Launchpad filled with the mundane.
Clicking on this image just took me to the Launchpad homepage which I then browsed but found nothing interesting. Maybe that is the purpose of the image. Getting people like me to browse new areas of the website so that I end up buying something. It’s been about a week of seeing this image and so I have finally given a little more effort into browsing to see what it is.
It turns out this thing is a sleep aid device. I will try and avoid using brand names but I will link to the product website once. According to the Amazon information this device has a metronome light that will help you fall asleep naturally 2.5 times faster than normal [average]. Apparently lots of people use it. Other information on the product description has science words with a photograph of a doctor and a description that you align your breathing with the light emitted and this will bring your body into a natural sleep condition. My interest was piqued. My default mode is scepticism and while I’m not dismissing their claims I am going to cover some of the red flags. I hope that towards the end of this article I will find evidence that the product works well.
Listing the claims made on their website with comment.
76% positive reviews – those who thought this product worked bothered to let the company know that this product worked in their opinion.
2.5 x faster – people claim that the time taken to fall asleep has dropped by 61%. People are terrible judges at what really happens. That’s why we have developed the scientific method. I will look for a published peer reviewed paper to see if the claims can be backed up.
100 days money back guarantee – This, may at first, seem like an honest option for a company to offer. If this doesn’t work then send it back. In reality this is using a human memory trick to appear honest but people forget that they bought something or have the chance to send it back. This is common among devices that don’t work. How often have you bought a TV and Sony say, hey if you don’t like it return it after three months and we’ll refund you.
Testimonials – user testimonials are a problem, especially for medical / health devices. People don’t know what works. We need a scientific method to investigate these things. Just think how many people you know who use acupuncture / chiropractic / osteopathy when all the science evidence is none of them work. User testimonials are a problem.
Already in excess of 500,000 users – this is an appeal to popularity. If we’ve sold this many then it must work. This is not true. If you remember Mr Blobby was the Christmas number one a while ago and that song was utter shit.
This is an amazing graphic. Look at all the details. Sleeping pills cause death. Yoga costs money. Therapy is good but expensive. This product is the best, natural and cheap, doesn’t take much time and green which is definitely the best. Also, the number of stars increases to the best product which is the breathing light. This is amazing. Such balls to design this.
The whole front page of their website is full of lovely modern graphics with plenty of advice and explanation. Whether this is true or works is something I will investigate but it’s worth noting that so far nothing I have seen really strikes me as anything other than “all the comments on our website are this works”.
Who Is This For?
The page on the website which covers who can use the device mentions almost everyone. Therefore everyone is free to buy this product with the knowledge that it will help to improve their sleep patterns. The list is:
- Chronic insomnia
- Night awakenings
- Stressful life
- Thoughts running through your head
- Daily or one-off troubles
- Insomnia and pregnancy
- Noisy environment
So, as you see. It works for everyone. We all have times when sleeping is difficult. We all have lives that seem stressful. We all struggle at times. In part, that is the human condition. So, this product could help everyone.
The science page is pretty well written compared to many such sites I have seen. They make claims along the way. At the beginning the company explains that sleep deprivation can be caused by autonomic nervous system disorders and there’s a link to a published academic paper. This study was performed on 11 insomniacs, not a great number of people. There was a control group which is a good thing. The outcome of this is that to help insomniacs there should be an aim to reduce emotional arousal along with methods for improving sleep. Nothing about how to do that yet.
The next linked study performed on just 8 people seems to suggest the same thing: “These results support the aetiological hypothesis of physiological hyperarousal underlying primary insomnia.” So far these two studies don’t really say anything about this product. All they say is that being stressed/emotional could lead to insomnia. There are three more studies link on the “why” section of the science page and my favourite is the last one which tries to link acupuncture as a treatment for insomnia: “Our review indicates the necessity for further research in the relationship between the effects of acupuncture on insomnia and autonomic regulation, which might guide better selective use of this treatment modality for insomnia.” What this study doesn’t do is say it works. What the study says is that more study is needed. This is precisely the method used by TCM proponents when they find no link in their results. They just say that more study is needed.
The next few parts on the science page try to link breathing to emotional state, which seems fair. They then take the view that this will help sleep, which initially seems fair. There’s a link to a study which has around 40 participants, which is still pretty low, especially once you split them into different treatment wings. So, they asked people to breath at a rate of six breathes per minute and then recorded they blood pressure after five minutes. Would you believe it? After five minutes of being told to relax the participants were relaxed. Wow! How this links to a stressful life I’m not sure yet. All we’ve established is that slowing your breathing can help you feel relaxed. We’ve also established with some poor quality studies that being relaxed helps you sleep.
Next is a link to a study that says concentration can help you sleep. This study is from 1974. I’m not saying it’s wrong but when the last sleep/concentration study you can find is from nearly fifty years ago then maybe you need some more investigative work. Science has moved on since then and we have corrected a lot of the early work. There are a few more links to different studies through the last few paragraphs and there are some amazing charts but none of this so far has convinced me. The science page concludes:
Dodow tackles one of the main obstacles to achieving a sound sleep. It is easy to use, harmless, non-addictive, affordable at can be used at any time of night. Our goal is to democratize its use and create a solution referenced by physicians.Dodow Site
“Easy to use, harmless, non-addictive, affordable at can be used at any time of night” all these are red flags. These are warnings that it’s possible it doesn’t work. Do you know what sort of things have zero side effects? Things that don’t work. “Affordable” is relative. £50 seems like quite a bit of money to me. But if I was struggling to sleep then I would probably think it’s worth it. Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing. I was suffering from poor sleep last November. This device wouldn’t have helped because my sleep issues were caused by stress. I had to sort out the causes of the stress. This is not easy. A blue light to stare at seems easy.
There are lots of other pages under the heading of “blog” which gives plenty of reasons why certain types of people should buy this product. I’m not going through all of them. But I did see the above graphic which tells us about the people who started this company. Greg is, apparently, rational and studied at Stamford. Nice appeal to authority of education there. Gui is into mystic shit and worked for a massive company and so must be ok. Pierre found that he had trouble sleeping because he was thinking too much, he’s emotionally invested in such a cure for sleep. Alex cured his insomnia with yoga, not this system. Look how “respectable” they appear – young, white, intelligent. There is a problem with society when you look at these people and think “oh, they must know what they are doing”.
Dr. David O’Hare has his picture on the science page and is apparently a specialist in cardiac coherence. Whether this doctor has any financial connections to this company I do not know. I tried to Google this person. There were only responses on the French Wikipedia page about cardiac coherence and so I looked at that. My French isn’t great and so thanks to a live web-page Google translate I was able to read this section. The very first paragraph on this web-page explains that this heart coherence technique is founded on poor studies and is considered pseudoscience. This means there isn’t really any good scientific evidence to back the claims that are made.
the effectiveness of cardiac coherence is not recognized: AFIS, which fights against scientific disinformation, considers it as a pseudo-science among others and denounces its promotionhttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coh%C3%A9rence_cardiaque
So, it took a little digging. But we eventually got to the point where we know that the doctor recommending this product on their page promotes a modality considered pseudoscience and shouldn’t be promoted. There isn’t evidence to suggest his area of study is true. When your product is backed by someone who makes money from something that doesn’t work you have to question the validity of all the claims on the website and about the product.
In this communication I have investigated what looked like a pretty cool product for sale on Amazon launchpad. I wasn’t sure what it was at first but it looked cool, although a dust trap. This device is meant to help you sleep and all the claims it makes are plausible. They have lots of science words and diagrams and seem to be endorsed by a doctor. The content of their claims had red flags, the sort of thing that is common with lots of products that don’t really work. So, I investigated this product. I looked at the red flags and the information on their website. I have concluded that it is unlikely that this device does what it claims. While it seems plausible all the evidence go to show that it is unlikely to do what it says. If I have problems sleeping in the future I won’t be heading to buy this device I will use one of the more proven methods for aiding sleep. These are harder and take more time but will have longer last real effects.
A side discussion would be whether Amazon should stock this product or have it on their website. My initial thought would be that they should not. A company should promote things which do not work. A quick search for homoeopathy on the site provides many results and homoeopathy is the most ridiculous of all bullshit non-medical treatments. Currently Amazon is a platform for people to sell their stuff. It’s almost like eBay in some cases and selling items with vague claims isn’t illegal. I mean there are loads of osteopathic practices around where I live. So, morally, I think Amazon should not have these products. But it is up to them I guess. It’s also impossible to police if they maintain their current model. Much like Twitter and Facebook could not possibly moderate every comment or post I reckon Amazon couldn’t do that without massively impacting their business model. Maybe that is where the problem lies ultimately, societies reliance on capitalism. I’ll leave that for another day.