SO MUCH to do, so little time. Between a hectic work schedule and a thriving social life, Kevin (not his real name), a 30- year-old marketing director from Seattle, often doesn’t have time to waste trying to fall asleep. So he turns on the computer in his bedroom and soon a serene mountain lake takes shape on his monitor. The lake is nestled within the mountains and a breathtaking scene of evergreen trees and wild flowers scattered throughout. Nature sounds including soft, subtle birds, cascading waterfalls, and the lapping of the lake against the shoreline come from the speakers and enhance the relaxation process.

“If I play this just before I go to bed, I can fall asleep faster and wake up feeling refreshed,” he says. “The alarm goes off and I’m like, let’s go!”

Kevin (believe it or not) is talking about his screensaver, a 3D Animated Forest Waterfall that since its launch several years ago has acquired a near-mythical reputation for aiding those suffering from sleep deprivation to actually fall asleep faster and deeper. Kevin has been popping on his forest screensaver for the past three years and says it is “tremendously useful”. “I find I can be very productive each morning at work,” he says. “I’m more organised and more motivated after a good night’s sleep. And it means I don’t have to worry about wasting time waiting to fall asleep.”

Several years ago Kevin was like over 100 million other Americans who have trouble falling asleep, 40% of whom experience some form of insomnia after the age of 16. Insomnia lies within many bedrooms all over the world and has been associated with accelerated aging, depression and cancer. Although we spend almost one third of our lives in bed, it is not really known what stimulates sleep. The scientific studies on sleep are still in their infancy.

However it has been proven that people who sleep between 4-6 hours per day can make up to 14 times more errors than those who sleep the recommended 8 hours. Studies by scientists in sleep labs have shed some light on what takes place within the body while we sleep.

During the deepest phases, a growth hormone is released which helps repair cells and restore their energy.

According to one study by the University of Chicago, men who slept only four hours per night for six nights showed a 30% decrease in ability to secrete and respond to insulin ( a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar). This kind of decrease can lead to diabetes. More recent discoveries by the same university have also shown a relationship between lack of sleep and obesity. Following another four-hour sleep pattern, a 20% decrease in leptin (a horomone which regulates body weight) was observed for two days by participants. They also observed the participants stomachs produced a 20% increase in ghrelin (a hunger stimulating hormone).

While many Americans choose to take a pill to help them sleep, there are more natural and effective ways to treat cases of insomnia. The soothing sounds of nature greatly assist the body to relax.

Kevin has made it a habit to fall asleep to the sound of his 3D animated forest screensaver. He was able to download it free from ScreensaversAndWallpapersFree.com. With his laptop computer bedside, he chooses between several customizable waterfall scenes and soothing nature sounds to mix things up. “I don’t know what it is about this screensaver, the imagery, the unique nature sounds. What I do know is it simply helps me get to sleep.”