How a terrible modern habit is being turned into a sleep aid

You want a new way to get a good night's sleep? The wise brains behind a new iOS app think they have a window into using one of your worst nighttime habits to help you. This may not be for everyone.

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Can you doomscroll your way to peace?

Screenshot by ZDNet

My wife sometimes invites strange men into our bed.

Strange women too.

Please don't judge, just because we live in California.

These men and women simply whisper in psychiatric tones through her phone. They urge my wife to focus on her eyelids, her toenails, and other parts of her anatomy so that she can fall asleep.

My wife tells me it sometimes works.

For some people, though, sleep doesn't always come easily, especially in these COVID-19 times. Apps and even headphones try to make their contribution.

Imagine, though, taking an awful modern habit and turning it into a sleep-enhancing cause. Yes, we're speaking of doomscrolling.

The creators of a new iOS app called Scrollaby believe they have discovered a wonderful way to help you nod off. They know that, just before you go to sleep, you grab your phone and doomscroll.

Perhaps it's your way to wonder whether the world will imminently end. Who could blame you? 

Yet the collaborators from digital experience company Rockwell Ventures and creative agency The Bloc want you to doomscroll through various sleep aids. 

I downloaded Scrollaby to see what was on offer.

The first option was Park Ambience II. There then scrolled in a 29-minute story about Jane Austen called Being Jane. Yes, it was narrated by a soothing, whispery man and was nothing like Being John Malkovich. Next was a throbbing psychedelic hole that, presumably, I was supposed to stare at, as if this hole represented the glorious promise of slumber.

To me, it represented the black hole of doom.

I scrolled on and found airplane noises. I cannot confirm they were from the Boeing 737 Max. Also on offer was a 28-minute reading of The Adventures of Ali Baba. Next was the white noise of a wood workshop.

Then there was Deirdre, an hour-long so-called dream myth.

"The name Deirdre has been as a harp to a thousand poets," hummed the narrator.

"You're trying to hypnotize me," thrummed a small, weak part of my inner cortex.

The creators claim Scrollaby employs "HRV breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and autogenic training." They insist "the app is firmly grounded in proven clinical and academic sleep research while retaining a recognizable, friendly user interface."

I wonder how many, though, are willing to give up their doomscrolling habit in the hope that they can find peace sleepscrolling.

Isn't there something equally desperate about being forced to think about sleep all the time as you scroll? You know what the app is trying to do, just as you know Twitter is trying to make you as angry as possible so you'll never sleep again.

At least, though, Scrollaby gives you a choice of stimuli. You might find the one that really does it for you and sends you to the deeper parts of sleep.

I find scrolling down Elon Musk's Twitter feed does it for me.