Can vibrational therapy or weighted pillows help alleviate mental health problems?
Yes, according to executives of WeVibin and Quiet Mind, two D2C startups with products developed out of connections to the ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) community.
WeVibin’s upcoming Squirrel Tamer headset gets its very name from the ADHD population, who “feel as though they get easily distracted by squirrels,” chief executive officer Stefanie Lattner tells Pharma & Health Insider.
The Squirrel Tamer, which improves cognitive performance through vibrational signals affecting the nerves of the inner ear, has undergone clinical trials with psychologists and neurologists, Lattner says.
The device, designed to be worn for 20 to 30 minutes daily, is expected to be available within a few months at $495, plus a $19 monthly subscription. Free updated headsets will be provided every three years.
Squirrel Tamer will be able to connect with Squirrel Chaser, an already available non-vibrational app which Lattner says measures 10 different cognitive performance metrics and then “rebuilds the networks in the brain that control attention.”
The app, with subscriptions at $2.99/month, features a test that lasts just two minutes. Pictures of different animals appear every second or so while a voice says the names of different animals. All the user need do is tap the screen every time they either see a squirrel or hear the word “squirrel.” (It’s not as easy as it sounds, I can attest after taking the test.)
WeVibin’s target audience? “Anybody that’s suffering from symptoms of cognitive deficit, whether they’re diagnosed or not,” Lattner says, “but we’re also getting athletes trying to improve hand-to-eye coordination, and biohackers trying to get the best performance out of their brain and body.”
“We know that most people who are suffering with anything related to cognitive performance don’t go to their doctors and don’t ask for help, but they will try stuff at home,” she adds.
“Hold it. Hug It. Quiet your mind,” is the slogan of Quiet Mind, whose weighted pillows were invented by its chief executive officer and lifetime ADHD sufferer Mikey Goldman.
The pillows provide deep pressure stimulation when placed on the body, squeezed or hugged, releasing such hormones as serotonin, dopamine, melatonin and oxytocin (aka, the “cuddle hormone”) in users, Goldman tells Pharma & Health Insider. This “calms you down, and helps you focus and really get control of your nervous system – shifting from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest.”
Weighted pillows work on the same principles as long-established weighted blankets, but with greater huggability, squeezability, and perhaps most importantly, portability. “You can put your laptop, book or tablet on top of it,” Goldman says. You can even take it on airplanes.
Goldman says that Quiet Mind hasn’t done its own studies yet, but points to numerous studies conducted on the efficacy of weighted blankets.
The pillows, which have been on the market for about six months, come in three sizes (six, nine or 12 pounds each, with dimensions from 14” x 14” to 18” x 18”), and in two (soon to be four) colors. Prices are $179, $189 and $199.
“So far ADHD has been our strongest messaging, essentially because that’s my story – being a kid with ants in his pants who couldn’t sit still,” Goldman says. “After that, it would be anxiety, loneliness, sleep, kind of all bundled up together.”
Quiet Mind has done its first marketing largely through PR and SEO. The latter, Goldman says, “takes six to eight months to really get going. By the time we get to Christmas, we want all the organic searches to be showing up.”
The company has also begun partnering with experts like Dr. Jennifer Guttman, a cognitive-behavior psychologist, author of “Beyond Happiness: The 6 Secrets of Lifetime Satisfaction,” and now a Quiet Mind medical advisor.
“The sixth technique [in the book] is active self-reinforcement, or self-care, and the pillow fits in perfectly with that technique,” Dr. Guttman tells Pharma & Health Insider. “It’s less cumbersome to carry from room to room than a weighted blanket…If you’re in college and studying and you start to lose focus, you can go over to the pillow for 15 to 20 minutes. It will give you the opportunity to go back to work more efficiently.”
Quiet Mind recently added Amazon to its own website’s D2C sales, and Goldman plans to expand into brick-and-mortar in 2024. After all, weighted blankets have already been sold at such retailers at Nordstrom, West Elm and Pottery Barn, he notes.
Mass market retailers make sense, Goldman continues, because of a “need for so many people who are struggling. It’s a simple and effective way to calm you down….I would love to see our products at a Brookstone in the airport.”
Goldman also plans to get pillow samples into the offices of healthcare professionals. The aim is for doctors and therapists to use the products with their patients, leading to recommendations. (“When I was in therapy, I would grab a pillow and always hold something,” he recalls.) Each professional receives their own unique discount codes for patients.