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This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week, a means to promote and educate people on sleep health. The awareness week is marked by the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, when we all lose an hour of sleep.
A good night’s sleep is important to both our physical and mental health. According to to the Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep at night, but over 35 percent of all adults in the U.S. report sleeping less than seven hours. And Americans are looking for ways to help themselves get more of those precious hours of shuteye. According to P&S Intelligence, a market research company, sleep aids were a $78 billion industry in 2019 and that number is expected to grow to $163 billion by 2030. If you’re looking to improve nightly rest without resorting to medication, there are plenty of products available that can help. Here are some of our top picks.
Best sleep aids this year
"In order to create a conducive sleep environment we want it as dark as possible and the blackout curtains will block out warming light for people who are sleeping when the sun is shining, or in the summer when it starts to get light earlier. Street lights and city lights can also interfere with sleep," said Dianne Augelli, MD, a sleep physician at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. These blackout curtains from Amazon are 100-percent polyester and made with a triple-weave fabric, meant to block out light and diminish any intrusive noise from the outside. They include two panels with velcro ties so you can pull them back when you are not sleeping. These blackout curtains are also machine-washable for easy cleaning.
It’s not just the light coming from our devices, but other lights in the room, that can keep you awake.
“I advise turning down the lights in your home towards the end of the day," said Dr. Apostolos Lekkos, founder of Bios Functional Medicine. "Lower light levels can help promote your natural melatonin production — your sleep hormone.”
Philips smart bulbs make it easier to do this. You can pair the light bulbs with your mobile device, Amazon or Google assistant to control up to 10 lights in a room. If you’re looking to integrate more than 10 Philips Hue smart bulbs, the Hue Hub controls up to 50 lights. Use your voice assistant or mobile device to turn lights on and off, or change intensity from bright or dimmed to nightlight before getting ready for bed.
If you tend to run hot at night, you might want to consider investing in cooling bedding. "We definitely want you to be cool when you're sleeping. If you're too hot and you feel that the particular sheets that you have are making you too hot, then you can consider a different type of sheet," said Dr. Augelli. PeachSkinSheets are designed for warm sleepers and best known for their temperature control abilities. Lindsay France, a stylist and former Textile Technologist for Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret, previously told us that these are “hands down the best all-around sheets for hot sleepers.” These sheets have a 1500-thread count and are moisture-wicking.
Philips SmartSleep, which connects to your home Wi-Fi, helps improve your sleep quality by helping you learn about how the environment in your bedroom affects your rest. You'll be interacting with its proprietary app SleepMapper to document and receive feedback on some of your behaviors.
“The best cure for being unable to fall asleep is utilizing a sleep tracker which is available through many apps," said Lindsey Huttner, LCSW, psychotherapist, located in Queens, NY. "In the app you will document when you get into bed, approximate time you fall asleep, how long you sleep, and how many times you woke and for how long. The app will then 'prescribe' how much sleep you should aim to get."
In addition to tracking your sleep patterns, SmartSleep works with its companion app to track and monitor your bedroom's temperature, noise, light and humidity levels. The light it emits is designed to ease you out of sleep.
Although Fitbit is best known for its exercise tracking abilities, it is also a good device for monitoring sleep. Fitbit’s latest smartwatch can help you track and better understand your sleep patterns. It shows you not only how long you were asleep but how much time throughout the night you spent in light, deep and REM sleep. It then takes this information and assigns you a Sleep Score that indicates how good or bad your rest was. Augelli said devices like this can be helpful "if you’re tracking your number of hours of sleep and making sure you get adequate sleep and that you’re going to sleep around the same time." The Fitbit Sense also features a Smart Wake Alarm that is meant to wake you up at the “optimal stage of sleep” to give you a better start to the day, according to the brand.
If you just can't seem to part with your nightly Netflix ritual, “you should wear blue light blocking sunglasses while watching television,” advised Dr. Lekkos.
"Blue light suppresses melatonin, which is our natural hormone that helps with sleep; the decrease in melatonin can prevent you from falling asleep," added Augelli. "What you want to do ideally, is put away all your work and phone an hour before bed, in the process of your wind down routine. But if you have to work, you want to employ whatever you can to reduce the amount of impact it will have. There are some small studies that show that the time it takes to fall asleep has been reduced for people who wore the light blocking glasses for several hours before bedtime."
With the ongoing pandemic, it may feel as though you are spending more time in front of a screen than ever before. Izipizi’s glasses filter 40 percent of the blue light emitted from your screen, which is meant to help reduce the strain on your eyes. The arms of the glasses are designed with flex spring hinges that adapt to all face shapes and sizes, according to the brand. They offer multiple frame and color options so you can pick a style that best suits you.
"For some people sound is soothing and relaxing and helps deactivate them for sleep," said Augelli. "Some of them will act to cover up other environmental noise, so in those cases it can be helpful; you just want to make sure there is no big change in frequency of that sound. For example, on the TV when there’s a commercial that’s much louder,” she added.
The LectroFran Evo offers ten fan sounds with white, pink and brown noise variations as well as two ocean sounds. It is designed to create unique and non-repeating sounds, according to the brand. You can set a timer on the device and even connect it to your headphones or speakers to suit your preference of sound. It boasts a 4.7-star average from over 9,000 Amazon reviewers.
According to Michael Gelb, DDS, MS, co-author of the book "GASP!: Airway Health - The Hidden Path to Wellness," more than half of us struggle with breathing through our noses. This struggle often results in snoring. And even if you're part of the half who has no problem breathing at night, there's a good chance your partner's issues are affecting your quality of sleep. This is when a Mute Snoring device can come in handy.
By holding open the nasal airways like a stent, Mute helps noisy snorers and poor nasal breathers by increasing airflow in the nose. You can individually adjust the device for each nostril, so it's comfortable while you sleep. And user trials are promising: 75 percent of people reported less or much less snoring while using Mute.
If stress or anxiety keeps you awake at night, you may want to consider downloading the popular Calm app. Calm offers a wide selection of stories and meditations meant to help you fall asleep faster. You can fall asleep to the voices of some of your favorite celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, Mandy Moore and Harry Styles. Over one million Apple users have given the app a 4.8-star average and it is ranked the No. 3 app for Health & Fitness.