If falling asleep is an impossible dream, we have the right gear for you.
By Amanda Burrill, MS
A good night’s rest is closer than you think. Establishing healthy sleep habits can mean the difference between being up all night and restful slumber. Long studied, researchers have identified different aspects of “sleep hygiene” that can help anyone maximize the hours they spend sleeping. Even before you start exploring these slumber aids, make sure your own sleep habits are tucked in.
I try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine close to bedtime. I don’t consume any caffeine after noon. Alcohol is a tricky one. Although it may help you fall asleep quickly, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant in the body, increasing the number of awakenings and leading to overall decreased sleep quality. So limit it to two drinks a day, and avoid imbibing three hours before bedtime.
Other habitual tips include going to bed and getting up the same time each day and ensuring the bedroom is a “sleep inducing” environment. A quiet, dark, and cool room can help promote sound slumber. Earplugs or “white noise” devices can help. Blackout shades or an eye mask block light, a powerful cue that tells the brain it’s time to wake up.
You also may want to consider keeping your fur babies out of the bedroom. Some therapists suggest limiting the bedroom to sleep and sex only. Keeping TVs, work material, and your laptop out of the bedroom will strengthen the mental association between bedroom and sleep.
Whether it’s insomnia, shift work, jet lag, crying baby, or the stresses of everyday life, I assure you, there is hope! In these fast times with 24/7 connectivity, adhering to some “sleep hygiene” tips, no matter how weird it sounds, can lead to the sleep of your dreams.
Where to get: JustGetFlux.com
Any bright lights at night can disrupt the sleep hormone melatonin, and blue light from a computer, laptop, and cell phone screens are the primary culprit! There are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of blue light that goes into your eyes before bedtime. The application f.lux is downloadable to any computer or cell phone and makes the color of your display adapt to the time of day. You tell it what kind of lighting you have and where you live and then f.lux does the rest. It won’t work on your iPhone, so I suggest using the “Night Shift” function (found under “Settings”) instead. Remember, you can always just put the phone away a few hours before bed. Instagram isn’t going anywhere.
Cost: Free for all iOS
Where to get: iTunes App Store
I use this app every night. It provides a selection of relaxing, neutral soundscapes to mask unwanted sounds—in my case the bustle of NYC noise pollution. The audio is continuous without melody or lyrics and can be set to fade out after you’ve fallen asleep. I just let it go all night. If you’re ever trying to get something done in a noisy environment and find you can’t focus, you can also pop in your headphones and get back to work with the noise blocked out. “Ocean Surf” and “Paradise” are my favorite sound selections.
Where to buy: BackToBeautySleep.com
I have two bits of bad news. First, studies show sleeping on your side and stomach creates sleep lines and wrinkles. Second is that most people have trouble consistently sleeping on their backs. Enter this pillow: It’s proprietary design focuses on wrinkle prevention and addresses the difficulties of becoming a back sleeper. The unique crescents cradle the head, allowing you to feel secure without putting any weight on your face. I was a side sleeper, and after using this pillow for two weeks, I was fully adjusted to sleeping on my back. It can be used alone or on top of other pillows for added elevation. Just make sure to read the directions, which are thorough and helpful.
Where to buy: MassageWarehouse.com
Calling all you female stomach sleepers. This orthotic device is scientifically proven to stop breasts from being compressed or displaced and reduce pain while lying facedown or stomach-sleeping. This is incredibly helpful to nursing mothers and those who have had their breasts surgically enhanced. The pillows come in three firmness options: super-soft, soft, and medium. Four sizes can accommodate up to a size H breast cup.
Sleep Nighttime Powder Drink Mix
Where to buy: VitaminShoppe.com
Just like there are things to avoid consuming before bed, there are things that might just help. Try this powder from YouTheory if the chamomile tea isn’t working. This drink mix is fast-acting, featuring relaxing amino acids, calming magnesium, and a “physiological dose” of melatonin that replicates the level normally produced by the body each night. A nighttime dose of l-glycine has been shown to play a critical role in the central nervous system, calming overactive brain neurons.
Where to buy: Amazon.com
This product gets an honorable mention in my life because it helped fix my plantar fasciitis in less than a month while I slept. It doesn’t help you sleep, but it also doesn’t keep you awake. Many athletes suffer from arch issues that can make the first steps of the morning a nightmare. This sock in an inexpensive fix. It consists of a tubular knit sock that fits over the calf with two attached adjustable straps to maintain the foot in a neutral to slightly stretched position. When plantar fascia heals in that stretched position, the foot doesn’t feel so darn tight. In addition, this stretching over a period of time also helps to strengthen the foot’s arch. Sure, it might scare away the opposite sex, but what’s more important? Just tell them it’s your version of 50 Shades Of Grey.