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My favorite sleep upgrades — and how I arrived at each of them

I recommend three sleep helpers to anyone looking: A better mattress, a weighted blanket and a sleep mask. Here’s why.
Woman sleeping, wearing a black face mask. Need help falling asleep? Shop the best sleep products of 2021 to help get some rest and relieve stress, from a mattress upgrade, a weighted blanket and more.
Learn more about how a new mattress, a weighted blanket and an eye mask helped one writer achieve a better night's sleepGetty Images

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Even in the best of times, life has its ups and downs — but the Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented stress. Between working from home and fighting off the winter blues amidst ongoing societal uncertainty, I definitely have a lot of worries these days. But sleep shouldn’t be one of them. If anything, getting a good night’s sleep should help reduce stress rather than add to it. Sleeping well is one of the best defenses against illness and stress and a key factor in regulating mood and memory. So I pay a lot of attention to my sleep routine to make sure it’s a positive one. And that means having a cozy nighttime setup. For me, the right mattress, blanket and accessories make all the difference. Through the years, I’ve arrived at some great options for each that I would recommend for anyone.

Upgrade your mattress

After a few years of sleeping on budget mattresses, the Avocado Green Mattress was my first true adult bed purchase. I’ve had it for a few months so far and am super pleased. Most of all, I like that I can spend endless amounts of time in bed without worrying about the potential toxins I might be inhaling. The Avocado brand is a bit pricier than some other brands by comparison, but I sleep easy knowing that, as well as being non-toxic, my mattress is sourced from environmentally sustainable materials. And it feels good, too; the external materials are soft to the touch, while the cotton and wool blend keep my sleep temperature balanced. The combination of internal foam and coil has enough springiness that I feel properly supported, while sleeping snugly without too much bounce. When I was shopping for the right mattress, I couldn’t decide between foam mattresses and coil mattresses, so the Avocado was the perfect compromise.

Avocado Green Mattress

The Avocado Green Mattress is a foam-and-spring combination mattress, made from organic wool, latex and cotton. It’s 11 inches thick, three of which comprise rubber foam. The Green Mattress is on the firmer side of the spectrum and probably ideal for people who sleep on their backs or stomachs. The Avocado brand is known for its U.S.-handmade, non-toxic, organic certified products. It’s also a B-corporation, Climate Neutral-certified, and donates 1 percent of its annual sales to environmental causes like Leave No Trace and the National Young Farmers Coalition. Some sleepers may not like that the Avocado mattress isn’t perfectly machine-shaped as it’s made by hand, but it adds character to the product, in my opinion. Avocado also offers an entirely vegan version of the Green Mattress, as well as a wide variety of mattress toppers, protectors and pillows.

One thing to keep in mind is that since the mattress is made by hand, the size is not exact. Mine is about an inch or two off from the traditional dimensions. I can’t decide if that makes it special or if that will be frustrating as the years go by — for now, I feel like it adds character.

When you unpack the mattress from its plastic wrapping, it has a vanilla-like smell that takes a few weeks to fully go away — I can’t rave about this but ultimately it doesn’t undermine my satisfaction. And because the mattress is made from natural materials, it is extremely heavy and hard to move when you first take it out of the box. I have had a few large mattresses in my life and this one was by far the heaviest. Even the FedEx delivery person could barely get the box to our door. Finally, it took nearly eight weeks from the time I placed my order until the mattress arrived in August 2020 — likely a result of pandemic-related shipping woes but noticeable for us on the East Coast. (The mattresses ship from California.) That said, the company did send me periodic email updates about my order and customer service was always fast and friendly in the online chat.

Get yourself a weighted blanket

One of the main ingredients for my best night’s sleep is my trusted weighted blanket. The Baloo Weighted Blanket has done wonders for my anxiety — not to mention my sleep. I got this blanket as a gift right before the pandemic hit and have slept only a few nights without it since then. Virtually every time I snuggle under it, I drift immediately off to sleep and stay asleep the entire night long.

Baloo Soft 15-Pound Weighted Blanket

The Baloo Weighted Blanket — one of the best weighted blankets, according to experts, as well as a Shopping reader bestseller in 2020 — is a special blanket made from cotton pouches with glass microbeads inside. The pouches cover the entire span of the blanket so all those beads are heavy, giving this blanket its weight. Quilted from cotton, Baloo’s weighted blanket sports a fitted look that spreads the beads evenly across its entire surface area. The Blanket style is designed to fit over the top of a bed, too, with just enough coverage for the sleeper underneath and little else.

With the 15-pound version, I found the weight and stitching to be heavy enough to help me drift off without feeling like I’m vacuum sealed against my mattress. I like the square stitching, too, which makes me feel like I’m sleeping under a special quilt, not just any old blanket. I also like that this brand is carbon-neutral, vegan and has phased out all of their plastic packaging.

I’m definitely a proponent of the weighted blanket, but while Baloo markets its blankets as “cool and breathable,” that was not my experience — weighted blankets are hard pressed to achieve real breathability by their very nature. Because it’s weighted, it feels very snug while you’re sleeping under it. Even though I am not a sweaty sleeper, I was definitely toasty warm even on some of the coldest nights of winter. And because the only color you can get is white, any markings will appear pretty obviously. But the blanket is machine-washable, which is reassuring. If I could go back in time, I’d buy one of the Baloo linen duvet covers to go with my blanket.

Get yourself a sleep mask

After trying all shapes and sizes of sleep masks, I’ve found the SleepMaster to be the best quality and have slept with it nearly every night since I bought it five years ago.

Sleep Master Sleep Mask

The Sleep Master Sleep Mask is a one-piece eye mask made out of synthetic satin and cotton so it’s soft on the skin without any animal products (it’s actually vegan and latex-free, to boot). Small Velcro strips on the back fasten the mask into place. Each eye cover is about the size of a palm and the sides are wide enough to cover each ear. The mask is lightweight (one quarter of a pound) but thick enough to significantly block out even a completely bright room.

I love that it is big enough to cover half of my face and my ears fully — it blocks out harsh light as well as some sound. The material is soft enough that it doesn’t distract me while I fall asleep: The straps lie nice and flat when I sleep on my side and they stay in place even if I toss and turn. They are easily adjustable and don’t mess up my hair, either (this is very important).

While I do love this sleep mask, it’s definitely not perfect. For one, the price tag is substantial. But that wasn’t enough to be a dealbreaker for me. I bought one a few years ago and haven’t needed a replacement yet. And anyone with long hair may want to think twice about the Velcro. While it does help keep the mask in place while you sleep, it is also a magnet for long hair and could be annoying to untangle. Last, the Sleep Master only comes in one color: the signature dark blue. Nighttime skin products may cause some discoloration over time but the mask can be hand washed — and so far it’s fit like a dream.

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