We’ve all had those nights where we lie in bed for hours but just can’t seem to nod off.

You’ve fallen out with a friend or family member and it’s weighing on your mind; you have a big test coming up that you’re not quite ready for; you’re eight years old and, for some god-unknown reason, your parents let you watch Aliens with them and you’re under the covers, sweating profusely and terrified that an acid-spitting xenomorph is about to eat you (are you reading this, Mum!?)…

What you need, according to Science –yes, with a capital “S”– and Disney, is something to help calm that stressed-out brain of yours. Something to calm you down and soothe you into a restful night’s sleep.

That thing… is a Minnie Mouse doll.

But this is not just any Minnie Mouse doll! Oh no; this is a “Hug and Dream Minnie Mouse” doll and, as well as having a special, toned-down “sleepy time” colour scheme, includes one very special ingredient: Science!

According to Ikuo Honma, expert in cognitive and respiratory sciences at Shōwa University and one of the key figures involved in the doll’s creation, our breathing patterns play an enormous role in our overall mood and, in turn, the quality of our sleep. Particularly when we’re stressed out, the number of breaths we take per minute increases, which then starts the brain working overtime saying “you’re streeeeesed!”, making it extremely difficult to fall asleep.

▼All together now: SCIENCE!

In much the same way that taking a big, deep breath helps us calm down when we’re upset or angry, in order to calm down the emotional section of our brain, we can try to slow our breathing. But how do we do that?

Hug and Dream Minnie works in much the same way as a parent’s slow, rhythmic pats on crying baby’s back do- by changing the baby’s stressed, erratic breathing.

The soft toy is fitted with a realistic breathing mechanism that actually makes it feel like Minnie is taking slow, sleeping breaths. By snuggling up with Minnie while she’s enjoying a sound sleep, the sleep-seeking user slowly and unconsciously starts to match the doll’s breathing (provided they can get over the living doll creepy factor…). Before they know it, their heart-rate has lowered, the stress-centre in their head is powering down and they’re starting to drift off.

“We started work on this product when we heard reports that, particularly after the Great Tohoku earthquake, many people were finding it hard to get to sleep at night,” says a representative from the company behind the doll. “We wanted to make something, not just a regular cute-looking doll, that could have an actual calming effect and help people sleep.”

While we haven’t had a chance to try the product out for ourselves, this whole scientific explanation reminds me of a cute story my friend once told me about taking care of a litter of abandoned kittens. Seeing them constantly stirring and crying out in the night, my friend slipped a softly ticking clock under a blanket in the kittens’ bed. Minutes later, lulled to sleep by the gentle, constant rhythm, all four kittens were sound asleep. Maybe there is something to this science lark after all…

▼No word yet on whether wearing knee-high stockings also helps induce sleep…

Although the sleep-inducing doll is supposedly not aimed at any particular demographic, with its makers suggesting that “anyone who simply wants to calm down and enjoy a restful sleep” should consider Hug and Dream Minnie, we highly doubt that many middle-aged men will be rushing out to buy one for themselves any time soon.

Personally, until there’s a Pikachu or Mario one that snores as well as makes realistic breathing movements, my money’s staying in my wallet.

Pleasant dreams, boys and girls!

Source: Excite Bit Photo:(C)Disney