A common question I have seen on the ASMR subreddit and at other places is, “What are the best headphones for ASMR?”
There is no unanimous decision, but there is one brand of headphones which I see the most often recommended, they are called ‘SleepPhones’.
I know my wife would agree because she borrowed my SleepPhones a month ago and has refused to give them back.
These headphones are a plush headband with flat speakers hidden inside – quite ideal for falling asleep while listening to ASMR trigger sounds or any other type of audio.
I have noticed that the company which creates these headphones, AcousticSheep LLC, seems quite aware of the ASMR community.
So I reached out to them to find out more about the people behind SleepPhones, the development of their products, and their thoughts about ASMR.
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai and Jason Wolfe are the co-founders of AcousticSheep LLC and live in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States.
They are also wife and husband.
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai is the Chief Execute Officer (CEO), inventor of the SleepPhones, and received her MD in Family Medicine from the University of Virginia Medical School in Virginia.
Jason Wolfe is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and received his BSc degree in Computer Science from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
In my interview with Dr. Wei-Shin Lai and Jason Wolfe they share their inspiration for creating SleepPhones, how they first learned about ASMR, why they created the ‘SleepPhones ASMR Kit”, the fascinating evolution of SleepPhones, and much more.
Below are my questions in bold, their replies in italics, and links to more information about them, their company, and their products.
What was the inspiration to create SleepPhones?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “SleepPhones came about because I was having trouble getting back to sleep late at night after patient phone calls. Jason suggested that I listen to relaxing music with binaural beats, which was a great idea.
But headphones were bulky, and the ear buds hurt my ears. I remembered that in college, to block my roommate’s noises, I wore and broke headphones routinely. The wires would get tangled up and I’d rip the cord when I moved around in my sleep. I knew that there must be a better solution.
We sat down one week at the kitchen table with needle and thread, electrical tape, various fabrics, glue, some speakers we ordered off a catalog, broken electrics parts, wire strippers, and soldering equipment. After trial and error, we came up with the perfect design of placing thin speakers into a soft headband.”
Jason Wolfe, “For us, being driven professionals meant that whenever it was time to sleep we needed to get to sleep right away. We’re always looking for ways to optimize our lives. We decided we needed sleep phones – and were dismayed that we couldn’t find anything appropriate. So we made our OWN SleepPhones!”
How important is sleep to proper health?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “Sleep is the third of your day that dictates your mood, energy, brain efficiency, and even appetite during the other two-thirds of your life. Sleeping well improves your daily function and happiness.
Not getting enough sleep leads to heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer. It also causes car accidents and workplace mishaps (like nuclear meltdowns or sinking ships). I encourage everyone to sleep as much as they need – which is determined by how well you function the next day. Most people need about 8 hours.”
Jason Wolfe, “I’m no doctor, but wow do I ever appreciate the value of a good night’s sleep. Especially since, running a small business, there’s never time for either of us to be off our game due to sleep deprivation.
We DO often stay up way too late, and that can HURT once you’ve done it too many nights in one week. That’s why it’s very important that we get right to sleep at the time we’ve allotted for it. SleepPhones can really help!”
Why do you think so many people do not get adequate sleep?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “We are all very busy people with artificial light at night that makes us think that we can stay up later and later. To make more money, to live a fuller life, we try to fit in as much as we can. It causes stress, and we can’t relax enough to sleep. Plus, there are lots of potential distractions like snoring, neighbors, and kids or pets.”
Jason Wolfe, “It seems that our entire society is structured in such a way that sleep is easy to skip. Sleep just gets short shrift when there’s so much else to do! One day I hope to slow down and really make the effort to enjoy sleep and the rituals around it. With so many blinking lights around, even being in a room that is TRULY DARK seems like an unattainable luxury.”
How do SleepPhones help people to sleep better or easier?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “SleepPhones allow people to listen to relaxing sounds in bed, comfortably, privately, and in full-stereo. ASMR is one of many potential audio techniques to help people sleep better. We’re very happy to provide the best tool for listening to ASMR in bed.”
Jason Wolfe, “YOU get to choose what sounds are comforting for you – and block outside sounds that aren’t. There’s no end of great content intended to help folks sleep (including some that we’ve produced!). Our products let you enjoy it in such comfort that you can sleep deeply all night long. We love soothing music, podcasts, audio books, nature sounds – and now ASMR tracks!”
What experiences have you each had with ASMR?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “I can’t say if I have specific triggers. But I did find out recently that my teenage cousin does experience ASMR which helps him sleep, and his triggers are sounds which mimic ear cleaning or dental cleaning. His mom thought it was interesting and fully supports it.”
Jason Wolfe, “I love the theater of ASMR. I think it’s great that folks create such wonderful little scenarios for each other, and that they can really transport the listener/viewer. I also love sharp little taps by my ears that alternate from side to side. Very comforting! And you can never go wrong with the whispers, especially if they’re delivered with some exotic accent.”
How did you first learn about ASMR?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “Jason told me about the newly-described phenomenon and asked me how it might work from a biological perspective. It’s certainly not something they taught in medical school, but then there’s a lot that’s not taught if it’s not quantifiable.”
Jason Wolfe, “I’m always looking for new phenomena to enjoy. I first encountered ASMR on Reddit and Youtube, then dug deeper online to further my research.”
What thoughts or theories do have about ASMR?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “I think ASMR is somehow related to the tickling sensation, except it’s more for the brain. fMRI studies need to be done to find out more about ASMR. A quick search in Pubmed shows just how slow the scientific community is to do interesting research. I think it’s because all research needs to be funded, and no major organizations are going to go out on a limb.”
Jason Wolfe, “I like the idea that ASMR is something humans have developed to encourage close contact and bonding with each other. Who knows!”
What kind of responses to SleepPhones have you seen or heard from the ASMR community?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “Soon after we found out about ASMR, our customers started to write in about it. So we reached out to Maria from Gentle Whispering who loved her sample SleepPhones and thanked us for letting her know about the product.
She said that her listeners have been asking her for something like this, so we decided to do make an exclusive ASMR kit. It includes a super soft sheep stuffed animal (with a back pocket for your phone/device), a lavender sachet, a sleep CD, and of course, soft, stretchy fleece SleepPhones.
Having a set of items appealing to the tactile (touch), olfactory (smell), and auditory (hearing) sensations can help with elevating triggers. For example, if you start to associate the smell of lavender with listening to ASMR, then over time, just smelling lavender may become a trigger.
There are theories about how people who experience ASMR are more prone to synesthesia (the cross-over of senses). So that’s why we created the ASMR kit.”
Jason Wolfe, “We’ve received many great testimonials from ASMR customers, as well as endorsements from content creators in the ASMR community. Based on the feedback we’ve received, SleepPhones do their part to deliver a fantastic ASMR experience!”
How have SleepPhones evolved since the first version?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “Jason and I actually made the first 500 pieces ourselves on our kitchen table. He soldered the speakers, and I sewed the headbands. The first version used fleece from our local fabric shop, beads from the craft store, and components we ordered off a catalog. Each one took more than an hour to put together from start to finish.
We worked each night except on the nights that our roommate took over the table for his Magic group. We watched TV shows about entrepreneurship while we worked, and rushed to the post office most days after work to mail out the day’s shipments. We knew the back roads and the exact closing hours of every post office in a 20 mile radius. That was fun, but as orders picked up, production became more complex.
Now, we work with the best factories in the world to knit our fabrics with just the right stretch, fibers that naturally wick away moisture without added chemicals, and certified manufacturing processes that protect the environment. We use RoHS-compliant (safer metals) electronic components that further undergo rigorous testing to surpass all requirements around the world, from California to Sweden.”
Jason Wolfe, “As much as I miss the early days of doing everything on our own, I’m now really enjoying the opportunity to step back a bit and put the pieces of a more sustainable, more capable production plan together. Our latest designs and processes have led us to a whole new line. We’ve really upped our game with a polished, high-end consumer electronics product.”
What features have been added to the most current versions of SleepPhones?
Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, “SleepPhones became wireless in 2013 with Bluetooth music transmission. We’ve introduced two subsequent versions, with progressively longer battery life and performance.
Now, we tackled the next big frontier to make usage even easier – wireless charging. That means, the battery pack charges through the fabric. You don’t need to plug any wires into anything for charging. You can just “effortlessly” tuck your ‘SleepPhones Effortless’ into the charging base and be on your way.”
Jason Wolfe, “Now that we’ve added induction charging to our wireless SleepPhones headphones, you can really cut back on the tangle of wires by your bed. That means less fiddling in the dark! Instead you can get right down to the business of sleep.”
Click HERE to view the SleepPhones ASMR Kit.
Click HERE to view the latest wireless SleepPhones with induction charging.
Click HERE to discover more about SleepPhones, AcousticSheep LLC, and all their products.
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