Sleep unites us all. It is something we all must do, to, well, continue living. Despite sleep’s universality, however, no one person sleeps in the same way. And whether due to stress, a screaming infant, too many night tacos, a blue light bath because you can’t quit your phone, or a tried-and-true sleep disorder (by one estimate roughly 40 million in the U.S. suffer from a chronic one) many, many of us struggle to log quality sack time. Basically, we’re a drowsy mass.
The good news, however, is that sleep and how it helps with everything from brain function to body weight, is the hot new subject these days. As such, there’s a sea of products available that claim to help us score better Zzzs, including brain-wave tracking bedside monitors, temperature-regulating mattresses, and high-end white noise machines. But, which products are really worthwhile?
For that, we reached out to Dr. Chris Winter. A neurologist, sleep scientist, and the author of The Sleep Solution, Winter has been helping patients sleep better for nearly 25 years. While Winter admits there are more culprits draining our sleep than ever (including screen time, stress, temperature, noise, shifting schedules, caffeine, and alcohol) there are some great solutions. He also admits that there are a number of shady so-called solutions, too.
“It’s the Wild West now about sleep science,” says Winter. “Twenty years ago no one really cared about studying sleep issues, now it seems everyone is focused on it. With the explosion of sleep aids many are based on faulty research and are junk. You need to look into the science behind sleep aids before trying them.”
With that in mind, here are eight great sleep products that Dr. Winter has researched and does recommend to help you understand your sleep patterns better and log better rest.
It’s an age-old story: one person is hot, the other cold and they wage war over what degree the bedroom is. Well, couples can forever solve the battle over the thermostat with this handy device. You simply lay the mattress pad under your sheets and then set the temperature for the ideal temp. Warm or cold water heated to your preference recirculates through a series of microtubes delivering a consistent surface upon which you can sleep all night. “This is fantastic for couples,” says Winter. “Each one can have their own zone to sleep in and it’s great for cooling your bed without running the AC for the whole house.”
Puritan’s Pride Lavender Spray
Numerous studies have shown that lavender has positive effects for sleeping by calming your mind and body. It’s a great every day spray and a great solution for anyone who travels frequently. Dr. Winter recommends spraying this on your pillow every at night at home, and then when you are on the road in some hotel. Your brain will be tricked into falling back into the sleep pattern you have at home due to a recognizable scent.
Dodow Sleep Aid Device
This product, per Winter, is perfect for the person who struggles to initiate sleep each night due to their mind refusing to turn off. It teaches your mind to focus on one thing at bedtime, the gentle pulsating blue light emanating from the small Dodow sleep metronome device on your bedside table. “Instead of thinking about going to sleep your mind naturally is lulled into sleep mode,” says Dr. Winter. It has two modes (eight minutes and twenty minutes) and is small enough to take on trips.
This sleep-conditioning program is designed to get your mind to stop thinking at bedtime so you can just drift off. But it also goes even deeper. You put the device on your finger and at bedtime it pulses gently requiring you to wiggle your finger each time while you are still awake. By focusing on that, the thinking goes, you are able to turn off your brain. Once you’re asleep, the system will gently vibrate during your first hour of sleep to partially wake you (most people don’t remember it in the morning) causing you to drift between different levels of sleep. Over time, your body gets conditioned to fall into a deeper sleep and stay there. The system will also sync with an app on your phone so you can track your progress over time.
Muse Brain Sensing Headband
If you are one of the people who struggles to wind down at the end of the day then Dr. Winter recommends trying meditation with the Muse System before bedtime. You put on the headband that then tracks your brain’s frontal lobe activity through sensors. It then takes that data and sends it to an app on your phone that gives you feedback in your ears via headphone. You get to choose from several different outdoor soundscapes (beach, rainforest, desert, and such). The more active your mind is the more active the background noises are and as your mind relaxes so do the sounds. It also keeps track of your progress with graphs and charts so you can see the difference.
Country Spoon Montmorency Red Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
Dr. Winter works with numerous professional sports teams to improve their performance by boosting their sleep, and one thing they all seem to agree on is consuming tart cherry juice before bedtime. The juice has been shown in numerous studies to be high in anti-inflammatory capabilities and has high levels of melatonin. All you need is one small glass to feel the effects. This concentrate allows you to mix your own batch according to your preferences.
Marpac Dohn Sound Machine
While Dr. Winter recommends that people sleep in quiet rooms, he also recognizes that spouses snore, cars honk, and the world keeps spinning. When you need to effectively drown out the annoyance, Winter puts his weight behind this sound machine, which has been around since the Mad Men era. It has two speeds and allows you to adjust the tone and volume to customize to your needs.
Soraa Healthy Light Bulbs
One of the biggest enemies of good sleep is the lighting we surround ourselves with, as it tells our body to product stay-awake hormones. These long-lasting LED bulbs from Soraa help stop the madness. Designed to create a full light environment without any blue light (the same stuff that emitting from our screens that have been shown to keep us awake) they glow brightly and allow you to create zones in your home where you can spend the few hours before bedtime unwinding. Winter recommends installing them in your bedroom, bathroom, and any other spot where you can unwind.