Scientists have developed a little gadget that can be used for 15 minutes before sleeping to treat insomnia and stress.
The device, developed by New York based company Helicor, is under clinical trial on 100 patients at Duke University. It enables users to lower their own heartbeat by regulated deep breathing, said the online edition of Daily Mail.
The device, also on trial for several other conditions including anxiety and panic attacks, is said to help relax muscles and regulate the activity of the parasympathetic system, the part of the nervous system that slows the heart, dilates blood vessels and relaxes muscles.
"By addressing the actual nerves that regulate stress, which extend from the brain stem throughout the body, we are able to affect many aspects of stress," says Michael Wood, chief science officer of Helicor.
The device, about the size of a packet of cigarettes, has a pulse sensor and a display and works by helping people to breathe deeply, which is a good way to relax.
A similar approach has been used for lowering blood pressure as deep breathing may relax muscles surrounding small blood vessels.
The user puts a finger on the sensor and a wave-like image appears on the screen, which reflects the heartbeat detected by the sensor.
The display prompts the user when to breathe in and when to exhale during the 15-minute session, so encouraging longer, deeper breaths.
Results with patients treated for stress suggest it can be highly effective, and its developers say the effects kick in within two weeks for most patients.
The scientists say the new device is based on a technique called biofeedback.
The theory is that patients can be helped to improve their health by learning to control certain internal bodily processes that normally occur involuntarily, such as heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension.