This pillow is sleep-inducing music to your ears [Review]

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Dreampad is a pillow that joins forces with your iPhones to help you sleep.
Dreampad is a pillow that joins forces with your iPhones to help you sleep.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

A good night’s sleep could start with a good pillow. But the part of our bed designed to rest our head doesn’t do anything to shut it off.

But what if it could?

The Dreampad along with an iPhone app promises to do just that. The firm and fluffy pillow uses a patented technology that delivers relaxing music through the pillow that can be heard only by you and not the sleeper next to you.

Because most of us hear music through earphones or speakers, the sensation offered by the Dreampad is unique. The music vibrates through your bones rather than travels by air to your outer ear. This, the Dreampad team claims, is key to relaxing the mind and body to fall fast asleep.

Willing to try it

I, a fitful sleeper, was skeptical. Television infomercials and online marketing often bombard us with expensive gimmicks that promise to make us better sleepers. A $179 pillow that transmitted music seemed to fall in this category.

But Integrated Listening Systems, the makers of the Dreampad, offered to send me a review pillow (currently on Kickstarter at a lower price), understanding that if I didn’t think it delivered better sleep as promised, I wouldn’t write about it.

smart pillow
Dreampad is a pillow first. But there is more than fluff on the inside.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

I tried to look at it as another building block in the Smarthome, a burgeoning industry that uses technology and the internet to make life in-house easier and efficient. We can lock our homes remotely, control lighting with an app, and even make a simple gesture to activate our coffeemaker. Maybe a smart pillow wasn’t so farfetched.

I have had the Dreampad for a couple of weeks, using it for sleep at night as well as the occasional nap (yes, I took naps during my work day because napping, in this case, was work-related research).

It worked for me

Put away the Ambien and give counting sheep a night off. The Dreampad may be a bonafide tool to improving your sleep. I say may because I am not a sleep expert. I know everyone is different and so soft music coming through a pillow may not be enough for all of us.

For me, I found it did help me quickly sink into a state of relaxation and thus helped me on the front-end of a night’s sleep.

A zippered pocket on the pillow houses a 3.5 mm jack that you can plug into your iPhone or a Bluetooth remote that syncs with your phone. Set the phone on airplane mode. The app has a user guide but is otherwise super simple to figure out.

Smart pillow
Pick from five soothing soundtracks to trigger the body to relax.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

There are five tracks of music from which to choose: Moonrise, which includes harp, viola and acoustic guitar; Harmonic Continuum, with low-frequency harmonic overlay; Tranquil Landscapes, with piano, chimes, synthesizer and strings; my favorite, Seaside Strings, with viola and crashing waves; and Classical, a quiet blend of andante-tempo classical pieces.

Dreampad recommends setting the volume on low to start and though I played with the volume, I did find the lower end of the range the ideal setting. If I rested on my side with an ear in the pillow, I heard the music more clearly but found it more relaxing on my back as the sound vibrated through my neck and head, hitting my inner ear.

The only night it didn’t work was the first one, because I put my mind to work trying out the app. I listened to the different music tracks and tried analyzing my experience, figuring once I was asleep I couldn’t take any notes. My wife also was curious about the pillow, so attempting to settle into a state of relaxation wasn’t going to happen as long as she was trying to get her head on part of my pillow and even take it for a time to listen for herself (I promised she could use it for an extended period of time after this review).

What happens in vagus

From that first night, I figured I would respond best to Seaside Strings and Tranquil Landscapes and so I looked forward to night two. I set the time on the app for an hour and sure enough, I don’t remember more than five or 10 minutes after that.

The science supporting the technology suggests vibration music stimulates a nerve called the vagus nerve, which activates the part of our nervous system that helps us regulate stress.

Smart pillow
Your phone or Bluetooth receiver tucks into a zippered pocket.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Placing your iPhone in Airplane mode is important for two reasons. One, you don’t want calls and email notifications waking you in the middle of night. Two, your iPhone in airplane mode greatly reduces the amount of electromagnetic radiation. Your head does not rest directly over your phone, but if EMR is a concern, the Bluetooth remote should allay any concern.

Smart pillow
The Bluetooth control lets you set your iPhone for charging on your nightstand.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The pillow, because of its electronic components, cannot be washed like a regular pillow, so a pillow cover, along with the pillow case that goes with your sheet set should keep it clean.

I generally timed the music to end after an hour, but you can set it to run continuously in case you wake in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. The experience was pleasant and relaxing each time I used it.

Integrated Listening Sytems has been perfecting its pillows since 2010 and turned to Kickstarter for this new line to ramp up inventory and build a team that will reach out to groups that could benefit from the Dreampad, including victims of trauma and returning soldiers with PTSD, the symptoms of which are often magnified because of poor sleep.

Early bird backers on Kickstarter can buy one Dreampad pillow, in firm, memory foam or slim support.


Price: $109

Buy from: Kickstarter

Cult of Mac received a review unit for this review. Read Cult of Mac’s reviews policy.