The American Psychological Association (APA) has been annual stress studies since 2007, its sources, intensity, and how people respond to mental and physical stressors. As to be expected, Covid-19 has had a substantial impact on the lives of Americans. Nearly 8 in 10 adults (78%) say the pandemic has been a significant source of stress, with 67% saying they have experienced increased stress throughout the pandemic. Stress gets in the way of quality life, including quality sleep. American adults report sleeping an average of 6.7 hours a night — less than the minimum recommendation of seven to nine hours.6 In addition, 42 percent of adults report that their sleep quality is fair or poor, and 43 percent report that stress has caused them to lie awake at night. Only 20 percent of adults say the quality of their sleep is very good or excellent. Many adults report negative consequences of not getting enough sleep. More than half (53 percent) report feeling sluggish or lazy, 38 percent report feeling irritable, 29 percent report they have trouble concentrating and 25 percent report feeling no motivation to take care of responsibilities.
Research from the past several decades has provided evidence that music-based interventions effectively treat stress. Specifically, music has been shown to be effective in clinical music therapy and music and medicine. However, clinical music therapy remains prohibitive for most.
I addressed the importance of immersive sound when I covered the launch of Bay Area based startup Spatial. COO Darrell Rodriguez—formerly the COO of Electronic Arts and president of LucasArts and an ex-Disney Imagineer—says that the company believes that immersive sound has potential as a therapeutic tool. To that end, Spatial worked with the California Institute of the Arts and Roger Holzberg, founder of Reimagine Well, a company that creates immersive experiences for patients delivered via screens and virtual reality headsets. Holzberg and CalArts professor Shannon Scrofano teach a course at the school called Healthcare by Design. The spring 2021 iteration of the class operated in partnership with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, allowing students to help design tranquil restorative experiences at the Santa Clarita Valley facility. Among these experiences is a tranquility room designed to be used by families at the end-of-life phase of the human journey as an integrated part of the palliative care program.
UK startup Portal Labs shares a similar vision and wants to create calming and enriching experiences for better health for everyone. Not to be confused with the Meta device, Portal is a spatial audio app currently available in the Apple App Store and leverages dynamic head tracking available with AirPods Pro, AirPods 3rd Generation, AirPods Max and Beats Fit Pro. Rather than using Dolby Atmos, as Apple does for music and movies, Portal partnered with Atmoky to deliver an optimized experience for soundcaping called Ambisonics. This represents sound as a spherical soundfield rather than channels or objects and is most commonly used with Virtual Reality, allowing for a more natural and realistic reproduction of soundscapes, especially when played through headphones. Co-founder Nick Daniels realized the impact his surroundings had while on a camping trip in New Zealand following a period of burnout and depression. Daniels shares on the company website: “It was on the flight home, unable to sleep in a cramped long haul economy seat, that occurred to me…What if we could bottle up the essence of the world’s greatest surroundings and make them accessible to anyone up anywhere, anytime?” This is how Portal was born.