It sounds unlikely, but this mat of painful spikes can help you sleep

    1 June 2017

    Have trouble sleeping? This bed of nails can help. OK, it’s not quite a bed of nails, but don’t be fooled: the plastic spikes on the Sleep Induction Mat are genuinely quite spiky. Spiky enough to wince when trying to unpack the thing from its plastic packaging. Spiky enough to shiver when you first lay bare skin on your back. Spiky enough to stifle a scream when you roll out of bed in the middle of the night and stand on it.

    The claims on the website and packaging straddle the divide between seeming common sense and have-a-go quackery. Ultimately it tries to turn the concepts of acupuncture into a mass consumer device. The results are not bad.

    It’s easy to dismiss acupuncture — all that stuff about Qi life force, meridian flows and the rest seems highly dubious. But studies show that for specific ailments, principally back pain and headaches, it has an effect. The belief that needles stimulate the release of endorphins is one that most medics are happy to countenance (perhaps with a splash of placebo thrown in). The sleep map does the same thing across the entire back.

    My own use of the product seems to go beyond placebo. Within a few minutes a warming sensation spreads across my back, followed by a feeling of numbness. I start to feel more relaxed.

    I certainly wouldn’t recommend using it twice in one day, as it can leave you feeling quite tender. I also wouldn’t recommend moving around once you are latched on.

    But it has a good effect on my routine. Sleep has always been something of an afterthought for me. If it were something I did first thing after waking up then I might take it more seriously. As it stands, I think: ‘Oh, it’s midnight, I guess I should probably go to bed.’

    The sleep mat changes that. At the very least you have a window of time between screen time and sleep, a period of forced relaxation where the mind is allowed to drift. I have become slightly addicted to the warming sensation, too, which has become a cue for my brain to prepare for sleep, just as the smell of Red Bull makes me feel alert.

    Tracking myself with a Fitbit, I have seen limited improvement in my sleep. It took a little less time to get to sleep and I was awake a little less during the night. Is this down to the magic of the placebo or the magic of the spikes? I cannot say.