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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 late night that went way too long, and to top it all off, news about the coronavirus can be unsettling.
While many external factors aren’t within your control, you can do a few things to help lull yourself to sleep faster and, once you're there, ensure that your sleep is the kind that will have you feeling energized the next morning. We tapped medical and sleep 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 Alex Dimitriu, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and sleep medicine expert. “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 Headspace, an app that works on both Android and Apple devices, and walks you through mindful sessions. There's even a special category for Sleep Sounds and Meditations to try while attempting to get some shut eye. Headspace has nearly 678,000 reviews and a 4.9-star average rating on iTunes.
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. The device pairs with your Bluetooth headphones and has a micro-USB port, offering up to five hours of power.
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,” says 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. Parikh adds 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, it can purify a room up to 700 square feet. Clifford Bassett, MD, a board-certified doctor in New York, said he likes this brand because it makes customizable filters that address odors, toxins or pet allergens. MinusA2 isn’t just quiet, the sleek design can also be mounted on a wall.
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,” says 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, Parikh also recommends a dust mite cover that zips around your mattress and box spring. To help simplify your search for mattress protectors, we rounded up a few highly-rated options on Amazon.
Sporting a 4.3-star average rating from more than 3,000 reviewers on Amazon, this mattress protector prevents allergens, bed bugs, dust mites and even sweat from damaging your mattress. The machine-washable encasement comes with a 10-year warranty and has Micro-Zipper technology, which the brand says helps prevent bed bugs from sneaking through the zipper's teeth.
The American-made protector from Brooklyn Bedding offers up hypoallergenic protection against bed bugs, dust mites and bacteria along with zip-tight construction to help protect your mattress. It’s machine-washable and made from waterproof materials to help prevent liquid damage to your mattress.
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.
In 2019, Oprah Winfrey included these $25 blue light glasses in her annual list of Oprah’s Favorite Things. PeeperSpecs says these affordable reading glasses offer 40-percent Blue Light protection along with 99% UVA and UVB light protection. These spectacles have seven layers of anti-reflective coating and a dual anti-scratch coating, which is particularly helpful if you tend to drop your glasses.
With more than a dozen color options and a 4.3-star average rating from more than 18,300 reviewers, these fashionable blue-light glasses on Amazon are worth hitting add to cart. Tijn says these light-weight spectacles offer 100-percent protection against UV rays thanks to the lenses' yellow tint. The square-shaped frames have curved edges, making the design particularly flattering to those with oval faces.
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 Serin. "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."
Here are some products that fit the bill and might help you unwind before going to bed.
Nearly 49,000 reviewers have left an average 4.4-star rating for this essential oil diffuser available in four colors — White, Yellow, Brown, and White/Grey — and has seven mood light settings. Add a few drops of calming lavender essential oil to 100 ml of water to help you decompress while laying in bed. The quiet diffusers offer up to five hours of continuous use when unplugged from the included charging device.
If you want an essential oil diffuser that will disperse calming scents while you sleep, then try this option from Asakuki, which lasts up to 16 hours. You can also set a timer for 60, 120 or 180 minutes or if you prefer you can press a button to activate the built-in humidifier which helps to keep your skin moist in dry weather. The 1.5 lbs aromatherapy device has more than 11,100 reviews and has a 4.6-star average rating.
This Nightly Valerian Relaxation Tea is meant to promote a good night's sleep. It contains one box with 16 sealed tea bags and is non-GMO certified. The flavors of the tea have earthy and minty tones. Over 2,700 Amazon shoppers gave this product a 4.4-star average rating.
If you find listening to white noise is soothing or just open to trying a new remedy to help lull you to sleep, consider Marpac Dohm Connect's white noise machine. It is paired with app-enabled technology so you can power, control volume settings and set a sleep schedule all from your phone. There are two-speed options available for adjustable tone and volume so you can create a personalized sound environment.
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 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. Dimitriu is a self-proclaimed minimalist and encourages his patients "to keep their sleep routines simple and straightforward," rather than relying on devices to improve sleep.
"Quite simply a comfortable bed (softer for side sleepers), and a good pillow to match can help," he says. "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." Dimitriu also advises keeping your bedroom below 70 degrees to help your sleep.
If you are still interested in testing out cooling bedding, there is an entire range of products out there you can use to sleep more comfortably.
The Buffy Cloud Comforter is constructed from hypoallergenic eucalyptus fibers, which Buffy says is more breathable than cotton. 100-percent recycled materials were used to fill the comforter, which can help regulate body temperature. Nearly 960 reviewers left an average 4.2-star rating on this fluffy comforter.
Nest Bedding’s Cooling Mattress Topper cools you while you sleep (while adding extra comfort) with two inches of their SmartFlow Gel Memory Foam. The cover layer is made from a synthetic blend of materials which helps keep you dry throughout the night.
If you're in the market for a new mattress, but not ready to splurge on a smart bed, consider this sustainable option from Brooklyn Bedding. It's made from sustainable wool and organic cotton and you have the choice of three levels of firmness — Soft, Medium and Firm — to ensure your snug while sleeping.
MORE WAYS TO REST BETTER
- Everything you need to know to sleep better tonight
- 7 ways to actually get to bed an hour earlier
- How to beat back night-time anxiety and get to sleep
- 8 sleep mistakes you can fix tonight
- 16 ways to get a better night’s sleep without popping a pill