Dodow is a sleep device which claims to help users fall asleep in 8 minutes through a guided breathing practice. The company suggests that their product is safer and more effective than traditional sleep therapies and sleeping pills.
In this article we’ll review the research backing the product, highlight some cheaper options, and compare Dodow to other sleep treatments.
Is Dodow Proven to Work?
While Dodow does link out to some relevant research studies on their site, it’s important to clarify that Dodow is not proven to work. The company has not funded any medical trials proving that their device is effective for treating insomnia or any other sleep-related condition.
Because Dodow helps users regulate (and slow down) their breathing rate, most of the research they link to involves autonomous nervous system regulation.
Researchers describe the nervous system as existing in two states: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is fight-or-flight mode: heart rate and blood pressure are elevated and the body is in a state of heightened awareness due to chemical compounds like adrenaline and cortisol.
Parasympathetic nervous system exists when the body is resting and recovering, and is the ideal nervous system state for sleep.
Medical research has proven that slow breathing techniques can optimize nervous system function for more parasympathetic activity. The linked research study reviewed over 100 individual clinical trials on breathing and nervous system function, and concluded that slow breathing techniques can cause more parasympathetic nervous system activity, as well as greater psychological well-being generally.
Another medical review published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry journal found that slowed breathing is an effective insomnia treatment.
We believe the Dodow is likely to be effective for insomnia in light of the medical research, but the device itself has never been proven to work and thus there is no reason to believe it’s more effective than any other device which can slow down breathing before bed.
Why 8 or 20 Minutes?
One element of the Dodow which seems illogical is that the device shuts off automatically after 8 or 20 minutes. The company doesn’t share any research explaining these seemingly arbitrary time limits, and we haven’t seen any medical data suggesting that 8 or 20 minutes are optimal time frames to induce parasympathetic nervous system activity.
It’s logical that the more time someone spends breathing at relaxed, slow rates that cause parasympathetic nervous system activity the better, so we find the 8 or 20 minutes set by Dodow to be a marketing tactic rather than based on sound research.
Blue Light For Sleep?
One of the aspects of the Dodow that we find strange is that the device emits blue wavelengths of light, and this type of light has been proven in extensive medical research to disrupt sleep patterns and circadian rhythm.
In fact, medical studies prove that in patients with insomnia, blocking blue light after the sun sets by wearing orange glasses is effective in improving sleep. We typically recommend that patients consider blue-light blocking glasses as a natural measure to improve sleep. We didn’t evolve to stare at electronics late at night, and our circadian rhythm is still tied to the sun’s cycle.
Dodow addresses this by stating that blue light was chosen after “extensive testing,” because it has a “nice calming effect,” and the company links to a research study on post-stress relaxation to prove this.
Their citation in this context makes no sense, because the purpose of the device is to induce sleep and not induce post-stress relaxation.
It’s true that the Dodow uses a low intensity blue light, but we believe that any blue light exposure after dark is a sleep risk, and the burden of proof is on the company to prove that this blue light exposure doesn’t disrupt sleep compared to a similar device with no blue light emissions.
Because we have already identified that slowed breathing (but not blue light) is what causes the Dodow to likely be effective, we would recommend much cheaper options that can achieve the same effect.
There are many free breathing apps on the App Store or Google Play Store where users can set a target breathing rate. We personally use an app called Breathing Zone on the App Store which costs $2.99 as a one-time charge.
We recommend a target breathing rate of 6 breaths per minute, as this has been proven to be the optimal rate for relaxation and general health in a medical review. Dodow gets this right, as their device is set to the same breaths per minute mark.
One benefit of using a phone app instead of the Dodow to regulate breathing for sleep is that the user can close their eyes while focusing on their breath. The fact that the Dodow necessitates the user to have their eyes open, and staring at a light on the ceiling, seems counterintuitive and suboptimal for inducing sleep.
Patients with insomnia that doesn’t respond to breathing techniques might want to speak with their doctor about melatonin supplementation. This hormone is produced by the body to regulate sleep, and is also available as a supplement.
Our article answering is melatonin safe went in-depth on the research backing this supplement for sleep quality, but the important thing is that taking it supplementally does not affect endogenous production, and there are no dependence or safety risks. We find it to be a much safer option than most prescription pharmaceutical sleep medications.