Why is it so hard to get a good night’s sleep? And can anything – high tech or low – actually make it easier? The first question is highly situational. But the answer to the second one is yes. Yaaassss!!!
If you’ve been following our ongoing sleep series, you’re well aware by now that people are sleeping less than ever these days. According to the Sleep Foundation, more than 60% of Americans are getting less than the eight hours of nightly rest the average adult requires.
Previously, we’ve covered how investing in a luxury mattress, top notch linens or even the right sleepwear can improve the quality of our sleep. To round out our investigation of the best ways to get some zzz’s, we’re sharing the results of our round-up of some of the newest and best sleep technology and sleep aides on the market.
Lots of people don’t want to turn to medication to help them fall asleep. This list provides a number of tools that may work just as well for you.
We’ve grouped them around each of our senses, as generally these sleep aides and sleep tech tools — whether old-school or super-high tech — focus on one of our senses. At the end we share a couple of total-body sleep tech devices, too.
For starters, you can never go wrong with a sleep mask to block out the light and your surroundings. We love the cozy cashmere Morgan Lane Sleepy Lids Eye Mask ($198).
Want something more high-tech? Now there’s a sleep mask that enhances REM sleep. During REM sleep, blood flow to the brain decreases and is redirected toward the muscles, facilitating rest and recovery. By using customizable light signals, the Remee sleep mask ($95) fosters deeper sleep – users report an increase in their dream recall and in the vividness of their dreams.
Philips Hue lights ($199) let you create a setting that mimics the sunset – it gradually dims the lights as you drift off to sleep. You can also switch your lights to a relaxing orange color at night, to signal your brain that it’s time to wind down. Then in the morning, you can trigger a wake up light that will gradually brighten, just like a new sunrise.
Does it take you an hour to fall asleep? Dodow ($59) is a metronome with a light system that teaches you how to fall asleep naturally, without taking any medication in 25 minutes or less. It uses a hypnotizing blue light to coordinate and slow down your breath, to stimulate your body’s natural resting state.
We’ve all been there – those nights when you just can’t sleep because of annoying sounds like snoring, traffic and loud neighbors. Or those times when you’re on an overnight flight and your seatmate plans to be up all night long. Bose has created a new product to address those occasions: Bose Sleepbuds ($249). Designed for comfort, these tin wireless ear jacks deliver engineered sounds that mask unwanted noise, and help lull you to sleep.
Want to drift off to the peaceful sound of crickets or the wind in a meadow? How about birdsong and buzzing bees? Ocean waves, anyone? How about crying seagulls, barking seals and a foghorn? Whatever it takes, the Sound + Sleep High Fidelity Sound Machine ($79.95) probably has it. Options include white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. In addition to just sounds, the machine “listens” to the ambient noise in your bedroom, and then automatically adjusts its volume as necessary to help protect your sleep. That. Is. So. Cool.
Sharing a space with a noisy sleeper? Or perhaps you’re the noisy sleeper? Smart Nora ($299) detects snoring throughout the night. Insert it into a pillow, and it will gently adjust the pillow’s angle if the sleeper begins to snore. This adjustment stimulates the throat muscles, helping natural (and quiet) breathing to resume.
Calm ($12.99 per month) is an app focused on mindfulness and meditation to help you sleep better. By practicing guided meditation at night, users can ease anxiety and experience deeper sleep.
Another great app to help with meditation and mindfulness is Headspace ($7.99 per month). It sends users push notifications with reminders to meditate throughout the day and in the evening. Each session takes only a few minutes.
The Pzizz ($1.99 – $319.99) app is useful for overnight and also for daytime naps. It uses psycho-acoustic principles to create dreamscapes designed to help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Here you can listen to soothing, movie-style soundtracks that you can set to fade out after an hour or so. The app also offers narration in both male and female voices to soothe and calm.
New from world renowned industrial designer Yves Béhar is the sleep headband Dreem ($499). The headband contains EEG sensors to monitor your brain function during sleep, then plays sounds using bone conduction (meaning it conducts sound through the skull to the inner ear so a sleeping partner won’t overhear it) to help you fall asleep, stay asleep or wake up. The company claims Dreem can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep by 30 percent and improve the quality of deep sleep by 32 percent. It also features a smart alarm that adjusts your wake-up call to when you are in the lightest part of your sleep.
3. SMELL & BREATHING:
Thanks to a natural super-blend of lavender, vetiver and chamomile, the scent of This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray ($29) will help to calm both your mind and body. Just spray it across your pillow (and sheets, if you like) and prepare to fall asleep faster and wake feeling more refreshed.
Overall room scent shouldn’t be overlooked when trying to sleep better. Placing an essential oil diffuser in your bedroom can be a great help in easing stress and physical tension. If you find yourself plagued with thoughts of the day ahead before falling asleep try, Molton Brown’s Ylang-Ylang Aroma Reeds ($55).
Aromarest ($119.99) helps users get their sleep cycles under control with help from their senses of sight, smell and hearing. It’s an all-in-one color-changing bedside lamp, noise machine and aromatherapy device that you can control via an app on your phone. Warm tones of light, reminiscent of the sunset, help you wind down and stimulate melatonin excretion, while blue light does the opposite. Certain scents like lavender may make you sleepy, while other fragrances may stimulate you to get out of bed (like coffee or pancakes).
Getting a good night’s sleep requires a good sleep environment and that includes air quality. Awair ($199) tracks toxins and chemicals in room air, and gives you a sleep report every morning that analyzes your bedroom and tells you how your air affects your quality of sleep. We love that it comes in a baby-friendly version too!
Research has shown that sleeping underneath a weighted blanket can feel calming, reducing anxiety and hastening sleep. The Gravity Blanket ($249) is a premium-grade, therapeutic weighted blanket that’s engineered to weigh approximately 10% of your body weight. Like a “thunder shirt” for a dog, this blanket helps relax the nervous system by simulating the feeling of being held or hugged. That, in turn, increases serotonin and melatonin levels, and decreases cortisol levels – improving your mood and promoting restful sleep.
The Somnox ($549) is a cuddly robotic pillow designed to simulate breathing and play soothing music to help you fall asleep. The pillow expands and contracts in a breathing pattern that helps to lower stress – users can synchronize their own breath with the machine, and as a result fall asleep sooner. The pillow also plays lullabies, white noise, and audio books – it also leads guided meditation. And once you fall asleep, the pillow goes to sleep too. Awww.
If you’re a side sleeper, you know the struggle of finding the right position for your top arm. The Sleep Yoga Side Sleeper Arm Rest ($45) is here to help. This oddly-shaped pillow is actually an armrest for side sleepers. When you rest your top arm on the pillow, your shoulder will be in better alignment than if it were just hanging down in front of you.
5. TOTAL BODY:
There are a number of smart mattresses on the market right now. For example, the Eight Sleep four-layer high-density foam mattress offers a daily sleep report on sleep phases, sleep quality, heart rate and respiratory rate. It also has built-in warming capabilities for both sides of the bed, so neither you nor your partner should ever be too cold or too hot. Mattresses from Eight also connect with almost every smart home device (so it can open the blinds, dim or brighten the lights, and adjust the room temperature), and has a smart alarm to help you awaken at the optimal time every morning (within a range that you set). And since it connects to Amazon’s Echo, you can do all of this by voice. Base models start at $700.
The iFit Sleep HR ($119) is a dedicated sleep-tracking device that slips under your mattress. It’s the size of a salad plate, and so sensitive that it works with mattresses up to 20 inches thick. You download the companion app, pair the device to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, and drift off. In the morning, you can generate a sleep report card showing your average heart and respiratory rates, how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up and how long you’re in each sleep cycle. Scores are tracked over time and and can be viewed on a graph, and you can set a “smart” alarm so the sensor will look for the lightest part of your sleep cycle to wake you.
SleepScore Max ($149.99) is a bedside sleep tracker that only requires proximity to track data, not contact – so no need to wear a device to bed. It looks like a tiny speaker and sends waves that reflects off the skin’s perspiration and it picks up movement to one tenth of a millimeter, monitoring both your breathing and sleep patterns. It also provides personalized, actionable advice about what you can do to improve your sleep, keeping in mind your daytime personal habits (exercise level, coffee and alcohol intake, self reported stress level, etc.). Best of all, you don’t need to bring your smartphone to bed.
The 2breathe Sleep Inducer ($179.95) is a belt that uses guided breathing exercises to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. 2breathe’s technology grew out of RESPeRATE, the world’s only non drug medical device cleared by the FDA for lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. The company believes that in at least 7 days users will see a noticeable improvement in their sleep.
There you have it – the latest in sleep tech and sleep aids for these hyper-stimulating times. Buona Notte.
Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier and a former Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in NYC and is married with three young children and loves cross country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.