At the beginning of every year, world renowned Read & Trust blogger, Brett Terpstra, selects his top iOS and Mac apps.
In reading Brett’s blog, as I regularly do, I was delighted —and honored—to find that he had selected mySleepButton as his top sleep app of 2015! He wrote
I have a lot of sound generators and relaxation apps (I don’t sleep well). MySleepButton takes a very different approach using cognitive interruption to “shuffle your thoughts to sleep.” It works for me every time.
This jives with the email feedback we receive about mySleepButton and the Serial Diverse Imagining technique it uses (a form of “cognitive shuffling”).
I will return to Brett’s blog below, but first let’s review some of the reasons we believe mySleepButton is a noteworthy app.
mySleepButton: A Simple App that is Many Things
CogSci Apps are designed (1) to be extremely simple, (2) to pack a load of insight from broad cognitive science. The metaphor I use is of using a sledge hammer of science and a very fine nail of technology. This is evident in mySleepButton and will equally be evident in our next app (for the Mac®).
mySleepButton is not just one, but many things:
1. A Sleep App
The purpose of mySleepButton is to help people fall asleep more efficiently and pleasantly.
2. A Productivity App
Given that there is ample research that adequate sleep is necessary for optimal cognitive performance, we consider mySleepButton to also be a productivity app.
3. An Emotion Regulation App
mySleepButton is also a special purpose emotion regulation app. The core feature of “tertiary emotions” is an attentional disruption called perturbance, where insistent “motivators” (affectively laden mental content) tend to disrupt attention. The cognitive shuffle is partly meant to attenuate repetitive thought, intrusive mentation, and rumination. (That is also its proposed “counter-insomnolent” property.) In other words, it’s meant to disrupt the process of mental disruption.
Furthermore, there is much research suggesting that a major cause of insomnia is the fear of not falling asleep. Having access to a technique that reliably facilitates sleep onset can help improve people’s perceived self-efficacy about sleep onset. As I discussed in Part 1 of Cognitive Productivity, perceived self-efficacy is an extremely well documented, potent psychological factor. This cognitive-affective mechanism may provide a second-order effect on sleep onset latency. In other words, the fear of not being able to fall asleep keeps people awake; and knowing that one has a tool that can decrease sleep onset latency can decrease this fear, thereby facilitating sleep onset — without one even needing to use the tool. (The Perlis et al, 2015, study is germane to this theme.)
4. A Special-Purpose Training App
mySleepButton and its web site together provide simple training on the cognitive shuffle technique. (Of course, it is, not a general purpose training app.) Learning the cognitive shuffle might decrease some users’ reliance on the app itself.
Furthermore, you can use the app in a non-native language, which might provide you with a modicum of second (or Nth) language training towards sleep onset. mySleepButton currently supports French and Mandarin. Stay tuned for more languages.
Back to Brett
If you are in the market for an iOS or Mac app, I strongly encourage you to visit Brett Terpstra’s blog for reviews and recommendations. Brett is the co-author of 60 Mac Tips with David Sparks. (Sparks 2012 book Paperless received the “Best of 2012” award from Apple.) He also has a podcast called Systematic which covers a wide range of topics.
Speaking of OS X and iOS, this year, CogSci Apps will release a new product for the OS X platform. So, stay tuned 🙂 . You can sign up to receive news via the mySleepButton support page.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of self-control. Gordonsville, VA: WH Freeman & Co. Chicago
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Wicklow, A., & Espie, C. A. (2000). Intrusive thoughts and their relationship to actigraphic measurement of sleep: towards a cognitive model of insomnia. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38(7), 679–693.
Wright, I., Sloman, A., & Beaudoin, L. P. (1996). Towards a design-based analysis of emotional episodes. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 3(2), 101–126. free PDF doi:10.1353/ppp.1996.0022
Footnote 1. I coined the term “perturbance” in 1991 to refer to a class of emotions that is likely unique to humans and to some Artificial Intelligence. For more information, do a web scholar search for “Beaudoin Sloman perturbance” or check out the Sloman and Beaudoin references above. Perturbance is also covered in my book Cognitive Productivity, the CogZest blog, and will be in other books I’m working on.