My short bio: I earned my PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 1992. I have spent time on projects related to the fracture and failure of materials. I invented and hold patents on numerous products, and I have established multiple companies based on my inventions including Khet the Laser Game, The Sleep Shepherd and even medical devices to name a few. I provided engineering consulting and design services for a number of clients, including designing and fabricating a rocket-port measurement device for Lockheed-Martin, and serving as a product design and failure analysis expert in legal cases. I have piloted a jet aircraft, steered a nuclear submarine, and can wiggle my ears. One at a time.

My current passion is sleep. My daughter was diagnosed with a sleep disorder which required extremely harsh medication to manage. Not only did the medication not work, but it put her in the hospital. Seeing that these drugs did more harm than good, I started exploring other options. After countless trial and error, nearly ten different designs and months of work – The Sleep Shepherd was born. Using binaural beats and an EEG tracker to read brainwaves, The Sleep Shepherd allowed my daughter to find some relief. After seeing her improve to the point where she could stop taking medication, my team and I have been trying to get it in the hands of everyone we can.

Since then we have sold over 10,000 Sleep Shepherd Units. I am passionate about sleep and this product. I would love to answer questions about The Sleep Shepherd and sleep, but I also have many interests and lots of experience including having a patent case go to the supreme court and raising nearly a million dollars on Kickstarter. I am happy to answer all your questions, ASK ME ANYTHING!

My Proof:

edit: I'm off! Thank you for your great questions.Engaging with the Reddit community was very fun.

Comments: 50 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

mm_writer13 karma

What does the Sleep Shepard do? I struggle with waking at night and having a hard time falling asleep, I hate the morning hangover that most sleep meds cause. Is this something it can help manage?

DrLarsonSleeps15 karma

Thanks for your interest! You're not alone in your struggles, unfortunately.

The Sleep Shepherd is a comfortable headband that does two things: it aids someone in falling asleep by playing binaural tones through built-in speakers, and it gives quantitative information about sleep that we currently can't get anywhere else.

Doctors define our sleep stages by the rate of our brain activity. The binaural beats have a brain entrainment quality that helps our brains slow naturally–without taking drugs. I'm passionate about helping people sleep ever since my own daughter developed chronic sleep problems. The original Sleep Shepard was invented for her and it has helped her so much my friends and I decided to make it widely available as possible.

mpedersen156 karma

Does the Sleep Shepherd have a smartphone app like Fitbit?

DrLarsonSleeps3 karma

Yes. You can get the app on both the iTunes and Adroid stores for free--please check it out. While the Sleep Shepherd is a self-contained sleep aid that doesn't require use of the app to help your brain activity to slow down, you will see by looking at the app that it gives advanced control of Sleep Shepherd features, such as sound balance and the cool alarm.(The alarm is the part I like best because it helps me wake up feeling refreshed.) The app also tracks sleep data based on your brainwave and motion activity during the night, and records that over time so you can monitor how your sleep improves both with use of the device and also other changes you make in your sleep routines.

smk3485 karma

Hello there sleep expert, so I have really vivid dreams usually and sometimes these dreams get pretty scary and I lose track of what real and whats not... I was wondering is there anyway I can stop dreaming or at least how can I not remember the dreams?

DrLarsonSleeps3 karma

I'm sorry you have to deal with this. Dreams occur during the REM sleep stage. The interesting things about that stage is that your brain is as active as it is when you are awake and most of us experience an in voluntary paralysis of our voluntary muscles, presumably to stop us from acting out the dreams we're having. While REM is in many ways still poorly understood, we believe that the processes in our brains that reinforce daytime memories don't kick in after dreaming and thus we don't remember most of the content. Usually the dreams we do remember occur during the last REM period of the night, particularly if our alarm clock goes off during a dreaming time. Contrary to popular belief, it seems that our dreams happen in real time. Dream researchers generally believe that the dreams are intensified during times of high stress in life. So the first thing to try is to remove the stressors. Since that is impractical in many cases, it is good to take some time before bedtime to relax our minds. Typically it's good to stay away from email, Facebook or exciting entertainment right before bed. Without meaning to alarm you, there are some sleep conditions that include intense, scary dreaming. It maybe something you want to discuss with your doctor and perhaps check a trusted medical website for some general info; many like to turn to webMD or the mayo clinic.

Genocide_Needed5 karma

Yeah, in America why do we print our money without backing it by anything? Wouldnt this come back to haunt us?

DrLarsonSleeps6 karma

Currency works when the people have faith that it has value. Being "backed" by something is the surest way to bolster that faith, that "something" can be a thing that we all feel has enduring value, such as gold. It turns out that it can also be faith in each other. Back in the day, I may have had leftover nails from building my house, but I was hungry. My soon to be neighbor was well fed, but getting wet in the rain. We realized that a swap of nails for corn was a good deal. It got complicated fast: after I ate the corn I wanted to swap my nails for an iPhone, but the person making those wanted corn. It was a pain to go swap for corn and then take the corn to the Apple Store. So money was born for us to exchange to make that process easier--but we had to trust that there were corn, nails and cell phones to give it value. It was more comforting to know that the government was behind the value, backing it with gold, instead of relying on all the currency carrying citizens to keep working hard growing, forging and running sweat shops in developing nations. Now we are back to that, at a time the complications are greater than ever. Will it come back to haunt us? I'm reminded of sitting in a meeting hearing of dire predictions of the future and the person next to me leaned over and asked, "did he say we'll be in trouble someday or Sunday?" Because, you know, it makes a difference. With the looming specter a global financial disaster, some people are hoping to reduce their stress by mining BitCoins...

newtella05104 karma

What advice do you have for aspiring inventors who have lots of ideas for new products but aren't sure how to take the first step towards making any of their ideas a reality?

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

My most fervent advice is to be persistent! You can do this!

The details will, of course, vary on the type of idea. Since you're talking about products, it is usually a good idea to create a prototype. Not only will trying to give your idea form and function help you in refining parts of it, it will also give you a tangible way of helping others to understand it and appreciate its importance. Even if you can't make an exact embodiment of what you have in mind, it is important to build something that demonstrates the core features of your product--what makes it different from other things on the market. When I talk about conveying the product idea to others, it's because these days there are few if any Lone Rangers in the product development business. You're going to have to trust other people to do things for you, and with you, along your journey. Because not everyone is as trustworthy as you (thankfully most people are ethical) you will want to take some steps to protect your idea. A provisional patent, explained at, is a good first step that can cost as little as $150.

shankliest4 karma

Will you be marketing this to the autism community? And is it comfortable to use?

DrLarsonSleeps3 karma

We've made the headband out of the most comfortable, stretchy and breathable fabric we could find. Electronics are on the forehead so as not to interfere with normal head positions. Nonetheless, while night caps were once commonplace, since modern people are not typically accustomed to wearing something on their heads, our studies have shown that it often takes three or four nights for someone to get used to wearing even comfortable head gear while sleeping. After that most people tell us that they forget they have it on.

Since we have decided to make the Sleep Shepherd a consumer product instead of a medical device (thinking this will help us keep the cost down and make it available to more people) we are not marketing it to any particular community. It falls in the category of being a "general wellness device" and can help anyone as long as they hear with two ears, i.e., in stereo.

news2Utah4 karma

Why is the Sleep Shepard safer than drugs? How have you established that?

DrLarsonSleeps5 karma

Unlike drugs, which alter the biochemistry in our brains often in unnatural ways, the Sleep Shepherd plays binaural tones which are well within the normal hearing range and have been shown to be safe by the millions of people who have listened to them since the 1950s for a variety of purposes, most notably meditation. The innovation of the Sleep Shepherd is controlling the frequency of those safe binaural tones to be a little slower than the current brain activity state as measured by a built-in brain wave sensor, in order to literally usher deeper sleep.

Geek alert: The binaural tones are interpreted by the hard wiring of nerves in a part of the brain stem called the Medial Superior Olive (MSO), which is the first stop for signals coming our brains, as being a tone emanating from a speaker which is swaying back-and-forth in front of us as if on a pendulum. Our brains entrain to the frequency of that back and forth effect. Pilot studies at three universities are all showing that the Sleep Shepherd can help people get deeper sleep.

news2Utah0 karma

Instead of drugs, our product contains sheet metal. Sheet metal has been used safely for thousands of years. Huh??

DrLarsonSleeps0 karma

If sheet metal had the same brain entrainment influence as binaural tones, I might have used some. Sadly for the metal industry, since it doesn't, I didn't.

Kiefyfingers4 karma

As an inventor with minimal capital at my disposal I'm curious how you recommend talking a product idea to market? What channels are available for the 'little' guy? How do you determine when intellectual property is worth patenting? What are your thoughts on the open source movement?

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

Assuming you're thinking about a consumer product, instead of say a medical device with rigorous regulatory requirements, a great channel to consider on a shoestring budget is crowdfunding. The largest sites are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. My team has used both and found that the online helps are sufficient for figuring out how to carryout a campaign, i.e., I don't recommend that you hire someone to do this for you. The most important piece of the presentation is an informative video. I've seen people have success with polished productions and with cellphone videos--it is more about the content and connection with the audience. You can check out two that my team put together, the first has an information packed video, the second one a fun presentation, but both were produced without hiring anyone outside our happy band:

Because patent prosecution (the process of getting a patent approved by the Patent Office) can be so expensive, often $30-$50k using an experienced lawyer, the question about whether to seek a patent is an important one. The answer depends primarily on the market and industry. For example, if you have a new toy or game in mind, you may want to skip the patent knowing that the life of a typical game is only two years (less than the time it will take to even get a patent issued) and the profit margins are usually so low that you'll have a hard time recouping the costs. If, on the other hand, you have an idea for a surgical instrument you will certainly need patent protection as you lineup they investors and strategic partners to protect you in the process of bringing the device to market.

In general I am a fan of the open source movement as the ideal of sharing can benefit everyone. However our current business, governmental, and societal structures are not amenable to supporting the open source development of many types of projects, such as those requiring large resources, think about the design of new medical imaging machines, and those which touch upon things that are already proprietary. With continued concerted effort I do believe that we will all benefit from more and more open source collaboration in many realms.

GodLetMeUnfinished3 karma

Hello Michael, and thanks for the AMA

so, ¿it could be said that you used your own daughter for testing your Sleep Shepherd?

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

Not really, for a couple of reasons. First of all I didn't set out to produce a product for the masses, but rather a solution to help my own daughter whose world had been turned upside down by her condition. So it was not a traditional case of developing a hypothesis and then methodically testing to see if it were true. it was more of a desperate attempt to help someone I loved. Before trying anything "on" her, I used everything myself. Since the occipital lobe of the brain, where visual information is processed, is so powerful, I started testing on myself with glasses I made having flashing LEDs taped to the lenses. Unfortunately it made me feel very agitated, could induce seizures in some, and was not good for sleep. When I got around to the Binaural Beats, I wore the original prototype beanie containing speakers many nights before asking her to give it a try. After settling on something that clearly helped her and satisfied me from my own use as being effective and safe, we turned our attention to refining a product that could help many.

On a lighter note, your question reminds me of the evolution of Prozac which I've read was FDA approved before veterinarians began prescribing it for pets. So it could be said of Prozac is the first drug tested in humans for animal use.

shankliest3 karma

Could the sleep Shepard be configured to take the place of a sleep study?

DrLarsonSleeps3 karma

When the medical community realized that apnea was such a widespread issue, many sleep labs popped up around the country to provide the diagnostic capacity. Primarily driven by the costs Born by insurance companies, many of those labs went out of existence in favor of take-home sleep monitors which have gone through the FDA regulatory process. While the Sleep Shepherd measures relevant data for sleep, we have not yet made the decision to turn it into a diagnostic or a screening device, since that would inevitably raise the price. But as we are always assessing how best to help people, we may go down that road– stay tuned!

InverseCos3 karma

Are you working on a new version of the Sleep Shepard?

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

Yes, we are working on a number of innovations to include, as we've learned a lot from the people who have been using it. The many testimonials we've received about how the Sleep Shepherd has helped people is tremendously gratifying and spurs us on to help more!

GoodnightButterbear23 karma

hi. as someone who is working on getting a patent, I'm interested that you had a patent case go to the supreme court, what was that about?

DrLarsonSleeps3 karma

Unfortunately there is no "patent police" to ride in and arrest someone who infringes on your patent. When a large company ripped off my laser boardgame, KHET, they left me no choice but to file a lawsuit. I figured if you go to the expense to get a patent then you need to protect it. Also unfortunately, I discovered why in legal circles patent litigation is referred to as "the sport of kings." I'm told that 95% of patent cases settle, I am in that rarefied 5% group who gets to spend a lot of money. My case did go to the Supreme Court– although it isn't settled yet (it's only been in our legal system for 11 years after all)–I'm happy to report that my case has been precedent-setting in helping the courts to reassess how the little guy can operate in markets dominated by big, deep-pocketed companies. Over the last 20 years or so there was a reaction in the legal system to "patent trolls" that in some ways went too far and ended up leaving individual inventors out in the cold. I'm glad to say that seems to be changing.

MrDoraemon3 karma

At what stage of the invention process did you start thinking about getting a patent?

Besides patents, do you own/intend to apply for any other related intellectual property rights for your inventions?

Edit: grammar!

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

I currently have six issued patents and seven more pending for a variety of products, so I do believe there are times that patents are useful. It is best to think about the appropriate ways to protect your inventions as early in the process as possible. Good luck with your own inventions!

news2Utah2 karma

Why does it make you fall asleep, as opposed to stop smoking?

It sounds like the Learn Spanish In Your Sleep type of programs

DrLarsonSleeps4 karma

"Sleep" is defined by the rate of our brain activity. We talk about "brain waves" because our brain cells don't just fire at will, but prefer to transmit signals down their lengths when they are stimulated by opera brain cells. This gives rise to the wave affect.When we are awake and alert doing interesting things, such as reading Reddit threads, there are electro-chemical signals flowing through the neurons of our cortex at a rate of 40 to 60 per second, or 40-60Hz. When we are calm and meditative that rate can be around 20 Hz. When we are falling off to light sleep The brain rate is typically 10 Hz. In deepest sleep the rate is all the way down to about 1Hz. So the name of the game is to encourage someone's brain to literally slow down. When people complain about not sleeping because their brains were "racing",there is a lot of scientific truth to that statement. "Brain entrainment" is the name given to the phenomenon when brain activity adjusts to match the frequency of an external stimulus. The Sleep Shepherd uses the powerful entrainment of Binaural tones because these prompt the brain to create its own periodic stimulus that encourages the rest of the brain to follow. While the effect is a clear aid to achieving sleep, the technique is language agnostic. So I'm sorry to say it won't help you learn Spanish any quicker.

dhmt2 karma

Do you have a SDK (system design kit) so that I can interface to the cap myself? (ie, read the EEG signals)

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

We are working on many additions and expansions, and while we don't yet have an SDK, it is on our list.

lemonadestandmanager2 karma

How did you find out that your patent was being infringed, and what did you do upon making such a discovery?

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

Monitoring for patent infringement can be, as you suggest, difficult. In the case of my laser board game I was sitting at my desk when I got a phone call from a friend in Massachusetts saying he was standing in a Walmart (I was not currently selling through Walmart) holding a game that, "looks just like your game". In the ensuing days I got more phone calls, emails, texts and website comments letting me know I had a problem. I consulted with my then brand-new attorney, since my original prosecuting attorney had been washed out of New Orleans with me by Hurricane Katrina. He helped me compose a letter to the infringer to make sure he also knew we had a problem. His unwillingness to talk to me precipitated a reluctant lawsuit.

I hope you never have to defend your patents in court!

news2Utah-1 karma

"Chopsticks" uses binaural tones. Have you tried playing Chopsticks to put people to sleep?

DrLarsonSleeps2 karma

The binaural tones are a stereo effect: each ear must hear a different pitch. Some have merged binaural with music, Mozart pieces seem to be a favorite, and with sounds from nature, such as a babbling brook, in order to create mind-soothing auditory tracks. If you are interested in more specifics about the science behind binaural tones and the brain, please visit