For anyone who's way too familiar with Ambien and Sonata or sick of lying awake while the rest of the world slumbers, a new neurofeedback technique could be music—literally—to your ears. Galina Mindlin, MD, PhD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, is pioneering a treatment called brain music therapy (BMT). For $550 and a 45-minute office visit, you get your brain waves recorded while you relax. The results are then sent to Moscow, where a proprietary process converts them into music, which is burned onto a customized CD. Listening to your unique neural rhythms, the theory goes, will coax your brain into a tranquil, dreamy state. "It is similar to medidation," says Midlin, "but for that you have to go through training. BMT just brings you to it."
Research by Iakov Levine, the inventor, shows that compared with placebo compositions, listening to personalized BMT reduces both the time it takes to fall asleep and the number of restless episodes per night. At this point, independent studies confirming the results are lacking, and some scientists, like Robert Zatorre, PhD, a music expert at the Montreal Neurological Institute, are not yet convinced by the claims. But four of O's six insomniac testers found BMT beneficial, with comments like "I got a much higher quality of sleep than with Ambien" and "I felt a wave of fatigue wash over me, like a blanket of drowsiness that's beyond your control in the best of ways. So much about not sleeping is psychological, one wonders if it was the music itself or the idea that it works. Or that you just commit to calming down." Then again, for the tired and weary, does it matter?