Sometimes it seems like the world is conspiring against your ability to get some sleep. The birds, as lovely as they are, start chirping way too early and the landscapers and car-honkers always seem to follow suit. That construction zone down the street somehow sounds as if it were directly outside your window, that weekday party went way too long, and to top it all off, the government has literally stolen an hour from you via daylight saving — but it also regularly gives that hour back.
While many external factors aren’t within your control, you can do a few things to help lull yourself to sleep faster and, once your there, ensure that your sleep is the kind that will have you feeling energized the next morning. We tapped a handful of experts for advice on how to get more zzz’s — and the products that will help you doze off.
Guided meditation for sleep: where to start?
You’ve heard this advice ad nauseam, but there’s a reason meditation has been prescribed to treat the human condition since roughly 1500 BCE. “The art of falling asleep is actually not trying so hard,” says Dr. Alex Dimitriu, MD, who’s board-certified in both psychiatry and sleep medicine. “Knowing how to clear your thoughts and focus on breathing will always help. The trick is to practice by day — not when it's mission-critical at 3 a.m.” Meditation can be as simple as sitting in a quiet space and taking meaningful, deliberate breaths or listening to your favorite music for five minutes.
For some guidance, try an app like Headspace, which walks you through sessions and even has special category for Sleep Sounds and Meditations.
Techies might find solace in the highly-rated Muse 2, which is designed to sense brain activity, heart rate, breathing, and movement to help guide you through meditation routines.
Eliminate allergens in the bedroom: how to pick the best air purifier
The accumulation of allergens in your bedroom can contribute to subpar sleep. “Reducing your exposure to allergens — such as dust mites, pollen and pet dander — while you sleep will reduce itchy watery eyes, eczema, nasal congestion, and coughing,” notes Dr. Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network. “The bedroom is [the] most important place to keep allergen-free since we spend most time at once there.” To help, keep windows closed during peak-pollen seasons, keep pets off the bed, wash your bedding and dust and sweep once a week. Also, Dr. Parikh says that any HEPA air purifier will help combat mold and animal dander.
When it comes to the best air purifiers, BETTER found that while this air purifier is a splurge, but Rabbit Air purifiers come with some serious perks. This one can purify a room up to 700 square feet. Dr. Clifford Bassett, MD, said he likes this brand because it makes customizable filters that address odors, toxins or pet allergens. It can also be mounted on a wall. And it looks attractive.
This is another option that’s been certified “asthma and allergy friendly” by the AAFA. It features a HEPA and carbon filter that traps particles as small as 0.3 microns. “The most harmful particulates are the smallest, or less than 2.5 microns in size,” Dr. Denitza Blagev, MD, a pulmonologist at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
And since pollen and dust mites are too small to be filtered, Dr. Parikh also recommends a dust mite cover that zips around your mattress and box spring. There are many mattress protectors to sort through. Here are a few highly-rated options on Amazon.
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Sporting a 4.3-star average rating from more than 3,000 reviewers on Amazon. Its zipper is supported by an additional Velcro strap to help it keep mites out.
The American-made protector from Brooklyn Bedding offers up the same hypoallergenic and zip-tight construction with breathable materials to help cool you while you sleep.
Can blue light-blocking glasses help you avoid blue light?
We’re surrounded by blue light via smart phones and light bulbs, and it notably contributes to wakefulness. “Your body needs to know that it's nighttime so it can prepare for sleep. This is why, when you are camping, it's hard to stay awake,” says Amy Serin, a neuropsychologist and author of "The Stress Switch." “The brain uses sunlight to know when it's day or night, but unfortunately artificial light can trick your body into thinking it's daytime. It's not just your screens doing it — lamps and overhead lighting trick your brain as well.”
Camping every single night (or resisting the urge to scroll Instagram) isn’t an option for most of us, but blue-light filtering glasses can help.
Oprah Winfrey included these in 2019's Oprah's Favorite Things.
With more than a dozen color options and a 4-star average rating from more than 3,300 reviewers, these are the best-selling blue-light blocking glasses on Amazon.
How to fall asleep faster by eliminating the drama around you
A spike in cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can contribute to an inability to fall asleep. For that reason, it’s best to eliminate all sources of stress before going to bed. That includes highly dramatic TV shows and movies (save the "American Horror Story" for the afternoon), stressful text messages or conversations, and racing thoughts. “Because sleep is dependent on nervous system regulation, reducing stress and restoring someone to a state of calm can promote sleep onset, and can help someone go back to sleep if they wake up prematurely during the night," says clinical neuropsychologist Amy Serin, who invented a neuroscience device, called TouchPoints, that helps stabilize cortisol levels to help you fall asleep more easily. "Anything relaxing can help someone fall asleep like gentle music, aromatherapy and deep breathing, meditation, even journaling and winding down with herbal tea before bed can help."
Dr. Dimitriu adds: "If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring and relaxing. A dim light and a book are ideal.”
Here are some products that fit the bill and might help you come down before going to bed.
How to stay cool in your bed while you sleep
“Your body naturally wants to cool down as you enter deep sleep, and anything you can do that increases this cooling helps with getting deeper, more restorative sleep,” says Dr. Dimitriu. This can be as simple as taking a warm shower about an hour before bed, which triggers your body to lower its internal temperature. "I’m a minimalist when it comes to devices and special products to improve sleep. Essentially, I try to encourage my patients to keep their sleep routines simple and straight forward," adds Dimitriu. As far as products which can improve sleep — quite simply a comfortable bed (softer for side sleepers), and a good pillow to match can help. While cooling pads and blankets are available, it might just be simplified to using a light enough blanket made of breathable fabric to facilitate good cooling and breathability. Room temperature is essential too, and should be kept on the cooler side, generally below 70 degrees."
If you are interested in testing out cooling bedding, there is an entire range of products out there. For example, the Buffy Cloud Comforter is constructed from highly breathable materials that help regulate temperature while also shield-guarding against allergens and Nest Bedding’s Cooling Mattress Topper cools you while you sleep (while adding extra comfort) via two inches of their SmartFlow Gel Memory Foam.
Here are some bedding products and other things you can use to sleep more comfortably.
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