A reader of Kloptdatwel.nl, the Dutch website I frequently write for, sent an e-mail about a product he found in the onboard catalogue of the KLM Sky High Collection: The Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet. This bracelet is ‘is tuned to pick up natural frequencies that are believed to improve your quality of sleep’, the Philip Stein company claims. This is supposed to work via the proprietary Natural Frequency Technology they have developed.
The company even states that there is objective evidence that it really works. Are these just empty statements or is there some truth in the claims with which this bracelet is promoted by Philip Stein, next to the gaudy watches and other jewelry they sell?
What does Philip Stein state on how the bracelet is supposed to work? You might like some assurance on that before buying the bracelet, which was sold aboard the KLM fligth for 235 euros, don’t you?
Our research provides some objective measure that Philip Stein’s Natural Frequency Technology is interacting with the human body in a way that is consistent with relaxation and sleep. These studies are helping build scientific support for what we subjectively experience and believe, which is that there is a holistic benefit to wearing a Philip Stein. We still have much work to do before we conclusively know that our technology promotes relaxation and sleep, but this research is a major step in that direction.
The webpage doesn’t mention the studies and I could not find any links on other pages on all the different websites of Philip Stein either, although those gave a bit more information:
Based on initial feedback from Philip Stein wearers, we commissioned in 2009 a clinical trial to study the effects of the Natural Frequency Technology on relaxation and sleep. Although the study was preliminary and statistically inconclusive, some of the findings were very promising. We are committed to understanding the complete and further benefits of the Natural Frequency Technology and as a result, additional studies are underway to analyze how the Natural Frequency Technology may affect relaxation, sleep and overall well-being.
That particular page went offline just a couple of days after I asked questions about it, but via the Wayback Machine we can still read it. We can also read some vague statements on the technology in their FAQs. An older version was apparently giving more details, naming the study and giving a summary of the results. The UK website of Philip Stein did still contain this information when I wrote the Dutch version of this post, but that one has now gone as well. Hooray for the Wayback Machine again! Of course it is not that easy to keep the information on all of your websites on the same track.
But now we know that the study Philip Stein refers to, is A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled, Crossover Evaluation of Natural Frequency Technology™ and Sleep Natural Frequency Technology on Sleep in Normal Subjects with Unrefreshing Sleep. Unfortunately it’s a very poor study in a journal that doesn’t look that scientific at all. They gave the not so impressive number of 28 volunteers the sleep bracelet or a placebo version and asked them lots of questions after a nights sleep (two nights in a row). After this they returned for another session in which the real bracelet and the placebo version were interchanged. And another time like in the first session. So in this way the researchers collected a huge amount of data. I could not find out what was ‘double blind’ about this study, however. The article even explicitely states that the person handing out the bracelets was un-blinded and knew which bracelet was real or a placebo. But does it really matter if we read the conclusion?
While the current overall results are not statistically significant, a substantial number of subjects demonstrated improvements in the measured individual sleep parameters. Feeling more refreshed after sleep was the primary outcome measure that most clearly separated from placebo.
They measured lots of things on the participants, some concrete (heart rate, blood pressure, a urine drug screen and breathalyzer), others with more subjective outcomes. A pilot study had been done with heart rate variability, well-known pseudoscience, but in the main study this was not used.
But we can see that the author only reports on the subjective results, which is telling. These were the results for the participants under influence of the Natural Frequencies Technology in the Sleep Bracelet:
• 64 % reported waking up more refreshed
• 61 % reported having more pleasant dreams
• 43 % reported falling asleep faster
• 43 % reported sleeping longer
• 18 % reported lying awake less at night
These kind of values you can expect if there was actually no difference at all between the groups, but it is written down in a way to make it look like there are significant differences. Can we also draw the conclusion from these figures that 39 percent had less pleasant dreams? Or did those participants had dreams that were exactly as pleasing as ever? It is also puzzling why the author reports that 43 percent reported sleeping longer, without giving any indication whether this was actually the case. Remember, they were sleeping in the lab. So you might expect that the researchers had established some objective evidence of the duration of sleep.
Probably Philip Stein was quite happy that they could now present the ‘fact’ that 96 percent of the subjects responded positively on at least one of the variables due to the bracelet. And that is most likely the basis for the ‘some of the findings were very promising’ from the second quotation above (otherwise I wouldn’t know, Philip Stein never answered my e-mails asking questions on this). Of course the bracelet doesn’t do anything at all, in spite of the fascinating stories on Schumman resonance, the key ’embedded’ frequency on the plates in the bracelet coincides with the atmospheric electromagnetic resonant frequency of 7.83 Hz. The whole idea that you can put healing frequencies on a metal plate, is so absurd that you have to question the expertise of the researchers who took it seriously enough to do these tests. Harriet Hall also wrote about it on Science-Based Medicine.
On the website of a Dutch supplier I found a reference to other research Philip Stein has commissioned on the effects of their technology (using the watches, not the sleep bracelet). This was done by a certain doctor Philippe A. Souvestre who has a Canadian firm with the impressive name NeuroKinetics Health Service. The tests were performed at the Exploration Park of the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA. Wow! Well, this doctor, who is also trained in acupuncture, did some medical research for space programs and is likely to know his way around this business park (where probably anybody can rent office space).
I couldn’t find any serious report on his research, but the vague link to space technology is just too good not to be exploited by Philip Stein in its promotions. Websites on expensive watches just pass on the story without any critical remarks. Souvestre himself is busy with his ‘BioRegulateur Externe‘, which has something to do with biophotons: “These nano-vibrations are generated through biophotonic filtering of small levels of electromagnetic radiation naturally emitted from the body through the skin.” Uh?
Philip Stein has more fantastic products in its collection (or had). Like the Wine Wand [link is gone, copy from Internet Archive], a rod you have to put in your glass of wine to accelerate the breathing of the wine. Also through the use of natural frequencies. And in 2006 O, The Oprah Magazine promoted their Teslar Watch, which promissed “better sleep, a pervasive sense of calm, increased concentration, and increased energy levels. A review published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports that the watch boosted immune cell production during in vitro studies.” And moreover, a colleague got rid of here chronic knee pain after just two weeks of wearing the watch.
Impressive results. But why then, is the company now using a completely different technology: ”Philip Stein no longer utilizes Teslar chips in new watches but instead uses a proprietary Natural Frequency Technology which is not related to Teslar.”? Some people are even a bit disappointed that Philip Stein no longer sells the real thing. That doesn’t matter to Oprah, who stays a fan. In 2010 she give away a whole truckload of these watches during one of her infamous ‘Favorite Things‘ shows. Obviously she has more expertise on handbags. And let’s hope that KLM is better in checking the technology which keeps their aircraft flying.
This blog is based on the Dutch version on Kloptdatwel.nl: Slaapverwekkende armband van Philip Stein which was publshed on August 15th 2013