Sleep in a bottle: spray your way to a restful night

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 May, 2015, 6:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 May, 2015, 6:10am

Hongkongers are terrible sleepers. More than 2.2 million of us suffer from insomnia, according to a recent study. If you had trouble falling asleep last night, or tossed and turned in the early hours, you can forget counting sheep. An American start-up may have finally come up with a solution: sleep in a bottle.

Sprayable Sleep is the world's first topical melatonin spray, created by the same Harvard dropouts who created Sprayable Energy, a topical caffeine spray. They've shipped tens of thousands of units of Sprayable Energy to more than 50 countries, and are hoping for the same success with their latest product.

You've probably heard of melatonin - it's an important hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Known as the "vampire hormone", it is produced in darkness and tells your body when to sleep. It has been available in pill form in Hong Kong for 20 years to simulate this natural production. But, unlike melatonin pills, which first make their way through your digestive system, Sprayable Sleep enters the bloodstream directly through your skin.

This is important. Not only does topical application appear to be a more direct way of administering the supplement, it also means only the required amount of melatonin is delivered to our system.

Oral pills, on the other hand, must first make their way to the liver where most of it (about 90 per cent) is broken down. To accommodate, melatonin pills are most commonly found in dosages of between three to 10 milligrams.

Here's the catch: our bodies only produce 28.8 micrograms a day of melatonin, so some of these pills are providing more than 300 times the body's natural production. Studies have shown that too much melatonin can disrupt your circadian rhythm and, consequently, your sleep.

Sprayable Sleep, meanwhile, attempts to mimic the natural production of melatonin, releasing it gradually during the night.

But does it work?

Truthfully, I'm generally a good sleeper. Most nights I'm asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow and I typically sleep through the night. Personally, the effectiveness of Sprayable Sleep was initially lost on me: I didn't wake up feeling particularly different after my first few nights using the product.

But on one particular night, I couldn't sleep. As I lay there, I remembered the spray on my bedside table and figured I had nothing to lose. I don't remember much else after that - so it seemed to have helped.

On a recent flight to Britain, Sprayable Sleep helped me to sleep well and also helped me in the days after to adjust my sleeping patterns to recover from jet lag. Within 40 minutes to an hour of applying the spray, my eyes drooped and I found myself with an urge to sleep. I also woke more rested.

Without doubt, if you're a fan of melatonin, topical delivery makes more sense: it only contains three ingredients (melatonin, distilled water and tyrosine an amino acid). It's also simple; two sprays an hour before bedtime, and you should start to feel the effect and be happily heading off to the land of nod before you know it.

But the jury is still out on the benefit of using a hormone such as melatonin. Some studies suggest melatonin could prevent or delay illnesses related to ageing, free radicals and inflammatory processes.

Critics argue that artificial doses of the hormone may interfere with the body's own production, leading to longer-term health concerns. Some also argue that melatonin isn't good for conditions such as insomnia.

Whatever your view, if you're a fan of melatonin, then, like me, you'll much prefer a few sprays over an amped-up pill any day.

Sprayable Sleep is available on Indiegogo for US$15. The package contains the equivalent to a month's worth of sprays if used daily.