I have never in my life done acupuncture, or anything that could be considered similar. But I have heard claims that these spike filled mats can help you sleep better. In an effort to be informed I have ordered several of them and each has their strengths and weaknesses. More info and images below.
ZENsufu Mat and Pillow
First we have the ZENsufu, a $30 combo that is on the lower price spectrum.
The contents of the package. The ZENsufu mat has lots of small spikes that deliver acupressure. At first laying on the mat is quite uncomfortable, and gets very uncomfortable for a few minutes. Surprisingly the discomfort goes away and within minutes you can begin to doze off into sleep. It's a very strange but effective method of relaxation.
The included acupressure pillow. After attempting to use it several times I was unable to feel comfortable with it. Spikes on the back of my neck are very uncomfortable.
The pillow's innards are made of foam.
The mat has an included foam. This foam can be easily removed and thus the mat's portability can be improved. The Velcro on the mat though seems insufficient when compared to the Spoonk's velcro.
The back of the ZENsufu mat is very "zen."
The included documentation.
Spoonk Mat + Head Rest
The Spoonk's package; sells for about $70. The included bag has lots of perforations, which indicates that the Spoonk has very sharp spikes.
The package's contents.
An included carry bag.
The inner part of the Spoonk's documentation.
The package includes a smaller mat, which they have dubbed a "Head Rest." The smaller mat can also be used as a form of feet rest. When I tried it with my feet the skin of my cold feet began to warm up and felt comfortable for a few minutes. At about 20 minutes in I had to remove the mat because it was starting to get too uncomfortable.
Like the ZENsufu the inner part of the small mat is foam. The foam can be removed.
There are several Velcro spots which allow you to fold the Head Rest in two ways. If you were to want your neck to get some acupressure then you could fold it as such. In my opinion, this Head Rest is more comfortable than the ZENsufu pillow.
Or you can fold it with the spikes on the inside.
The small mat itself comes with a small carry handle.
The top side of the main Spoonk mat. The spikes are taller than those found in the ZENsufu, and as such it is far more uncomfortable at first. It's important to note that as you use these mats the skin will get used to the acupressure and the discomfort will not be as extreme (in a way it's like when people begin to go on jogs--it gets easier as your body adjusts to the activity).
The back of the mat is filled with words.
The Spoonk also has foam inside. The Velcro is superior when compared to what the ZENsufu has to offer.
Bulletproof Sleep Induction Mat
Now we'll move on to the Bulletproof Sleep Induction Mat. I have bought Bulletproof products before and some of their products are superb. In the case of this mat they have done well again.
The package label. Something rather irrelevant, but interesting, is that Bulletproof products tend to be packaged in a very "premium" way. Even the simple plastic bags, and in this case a cylinder of sorts, feels superb. It makes me not want to throw anything away.
The package contents. The documentation comes in a simple sheet of paper. The spikes of the mat are similar but different when compared to the ZENsufu and the Spoonk; I'll explain below.
The back of the mat has many sleep quotes.
As you can observe, the Bulletproof mat does not have a compartment for any foam. The foam found in the ZENsufu and the Spoonk help the mat retain a consistent shape. The Bulletproof mat will have the tendency of molding more onto whatever surface you lay it on.
From smallest to largest: ZENsufu, Spoonk, Bulletproof.
When we align the spikes we can observe that the Bulletproof has the longest length, followed by the ZENsufu, and the Spoonk comes in last. If you are a taller individual then Bulletproof mat would cover more of your back.
Regarding width we can observe that the Bulletproof mat's spikes span horizontally more so than the competition. In regards to the width the Spoonk and the ZENsufu are similar.
Each one of these mats has different spike disks. The mat with the tallest and "meanest" spikes is the Spoonk (purple mat), the ZENsufu's spikes are close to the same height as the Bulletproof one. Both the Spoonk and the ZENsufu have a similar spike pattern. On the other hand, the Bulletproof mat has a bigger diameter and more pressure points. When you lay on these mats your weight will be going against each one of these points, and the Bulletproof one offers more comfort. Perhaps for a more "advanced" user the Spoonk would be the choice to have.
The diameter of the ZENsufu spike disk is about 27 cm.
The included pillow offers a total of 73 spike disks.
The mat has a total of 230 spike disks.
The diameter of the Spoonk spike disk is about 27 cm.
The included Head Rest has 115 spike disks.
Like the ZENsufu, the Spoonk mat has a total of 230 spike disks.
The diameter of the Bulletproof mat is about 32 cm. About 5 cm more than the other mats.
After tallying up the spike disk count the Bulletproof mat has only 221 spike disks; 9 less than the competition.
Now, since we have the data of the spike disk count and an approximation of their diameter then we can figure out the area covered by the disks. We will use (PI*R^2)*disk_count. The radius is half of the diameter.
Area covered by disks on each mat:
ZENsufu: 131,688 cm^2
Spoonk: 131,688 cm^2
Bulletproof: 184,877 cm^2
So, while the Bulletproof has less pikes the area that the mat covers is actually greater. Now, we did some geometry, but if we wanted to indulge into physics then we can count each spike head/tip within the disk and then we can figure out an approximation on how much force each one of the head/tips gets. I can tell you that the Spoonk and ZENsufu would have to support more weight per each spike head, which is why they are less comfortable than the Bulletproof.
Now, if you wanted to dig deeper into your skin (which is one reason to buy these mats) then the Spoonk would be the better one. The Bulletproof one would be more comfortable and cover more surface area though. The ZENsufu is the happy medium, and not bad considering the price.
Over time, the spikes will get softer. I presume that the ZENsufu would be the first to soften up because each spike supports a large amount of force per spike. The Spoonk will face this situation, but the taller spikes means that it will keep higher points over time (although who knows if effective or not). The Bulleproof one distributes weight more evenly, so as the spikes get softer, each one of the spikes will not deteriorate as fast.
This is my skin after a few minutes of use. You can see that there is no blood, but there are lots of tiny "holes" and the skin turned red. Along with the redness there is a notable rush of heat coming out from the skin.
The first time I used these mats the experience was quite painful; you can feel your skin settling onto each spike. That pain begins to dissipate over time. The pain then goes completely away and a deep relaxation comes. On the first run, with the ZENsufu, I began to doze off at about minute 11. When you are dozing off that's when you should remove the mat and go to sleep. However, when you take off the mat there is a temporary re-ignition of pain that can feel quite intense. But because you are almost sleeping your body relaxes quite quickly and you fall asleep.
Sometimes it is possible to fall asleep very quickly. While using the Spook mat I once fell asleep without even dozing off, it was almost like a light switch turning off. After forty minutes of this deep sleep my body told me to wake up and remove the mat. No, you are not meant to sleep on the mats for hours!
As a side note, I have had a lower back pain over the past few years that has been fading away since the use of these mats. There is a possibility that I'm correlating incorrectly, but the pain does come back when I stop using the mats.
Overall I'm surprised with the results. These mats are effective at relaxing your body and improving sleep. Of course, I don't use them every night, but generally I do when I must force my self to relax (particularly the night before a high stress event). I presented three brands, each with their strengths and weaknesses, but there are many more on the market. For now I have to say that I prefer the Bulletproof mat.
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