I am an insomniac. Like millions of other people in the world, I have a hard time sleeping at night, especially when my mind is racing about things I need to get done the next day. Often, I’ll toss and turn for an hour or more before getting out of bed and heading to the computer to punch out an article that’s swimming in my head before heading back to bed, typically as the sun is rising to start the next day.
This may be a common problem, but it’s not a healthy one. Getting sound sleep is essential to your health and a productive lifestyle. Sleep deprivation can put you at increased risk for physical ailments, overeating, and place you in danger of accidents caused by nodding off during the day. Insomnia is no joke, and it’s because of this that countless dollars have been spent in scientific study to find ways to provide people with more restful slumber.
Your bed, pillows, a snoring partner, loud neighbors, and other factors can keep you from achieving a solid eight hours of sleep per night.
Thankfully, technology has enabled us to overcome such obstacles to a great degree. Special headphones, analytical tools, and even mobile apps have enabled millions of people to get off the couch and back to bed.
Here is a look at some of these options that could help you get a better night’s sleep.
SleepPhones are one way to overcome a snoring partner or enjoy a more restful sleep through soft music, white noise, or binaural tones.
SleepPhones are actually headbands that have specially-designed earphones inserted inside, coupled with a cord that sticks out of the back to allow you to sleep without running a high risk of becoming tangled during the night.
To use SleepPhones, simply wear the headband and plug them in to your mp3 player, smartphone, iPad, or other device with a 3.5mm headphone jack next to your bed. The audio cable should run under your pillow and reach the nightstand nearest to you.
Sleeping next to someone who snores is never a fun experience, and can lead to restless sleep and a number of associated conditions. SleepPhones are intended to make it possible to drown out outside noise, though they contain no inherent noise reduction properties.
Having an alarm clock with built-in sounds such as a babbling brook or thunderstorm is one thing, but having that audio piped directly into headphones is an experience that’s entirely different. I’ve tried them, and found them to be remarkably comfortable, easy to listen to, and reliable.
You might also want to try this with music made up of special tones to target the way your brain works. Binaural recordings require headphones to work, and some productions boast the ability to place you in a deeper sleep, faster.
Zeo Sleep Manager Mobile
Imagine being able to monitor your sleep and see a breakdown of exactly how much time you spend awake, in REM, and in light sleep phases. This is possible with the Zeo Sleep Manager, an interesting little head-wearable device that monitors your sleep levels and transmits information to your smartphone via Bluetooth through an app available for iOS and Android.
This little gadget may not be the most comfortable thing in the world as rolling over runs the risk of bumping the sensor, potentially waking you from slumber. If you’re a fairly still sleeper, however, you could become accustomed to wearing it fairly quickly.
The data collected by Zeo is then uploaded to a website that breaks down what you’re doing right, and where you could use a little improvement. Zeo provides sleep coaching to help you achieve more restful slumber during the night.
I’m a big fan of having something with me that can help me sleep while traveling. If I’m in a hotel room, it’s difficult for me to fall asleep. The environment is different, the bed is different, and my favorite noise machine isn’t by my side.
Enter the mobile app, a great way to bring some of that relaxing audio and/or functionality with you by way of your smartphone. There are countless sleep timers, sound makers, and other sleep aids that can be found in app form.
One of my favorites is SleepStream 2 Pro for iPhone. This little app costs 99 cents, but features a variety of different sleep-inducing features including: guided meditation, brainwave programs, soothing nature sounds, and calming music. You can also relax while on break from work using built-in visualizations and other programs.
Another option is the Sleep Cycle alarm clock, which analyzes your sleep patterns and goes off when it expects you’re in the lightest stage of sleeping. Waking up during REM (the stage of sleep most associated with dreaming) can be a shock to the system, and generally starts a groggy morning. Waking up during a lighter phase of sleep allows you to bounce back a bit faster and feel more rested in the morning.
Not everyone sleeps the same way, and rightfully so. Some people prefer to sleep on their sides, others their stomachs, and many lay perfectly still on their backs throughout the night. No matter what your preference is, there is a bedding option that will probably suit you better than others.
Traditional spring mattresses have evolved into a variety of different models including some with special pillow tops that reduce the amount of direct pressure springs cause on the sleeper. Water beds, air mattresses, Sleep Number beds, and several different types of memory foam technologies have also made more restful sleep a reality for many users.
Your pillow can also have an impact on the way that you sleep. Changing your pillow with something firmer, or stuffed with a different filler, can change the way you sleep at night. Some pillows even form around your head and neck, providing optimized support for side sleepers. My wife, for example, can’t sleep peacefully on anything other than feather pillows, while I prefer firm pillows stuffed with synthetic materials.
Walgreens has a product called the Forever Cool gel mat, a specially-designed gel mat that absorbs body heat. The idea behind this product is that you sit on it, lay on it in bed, or place it in your pillow case to avoid that heat retention that can leave you restless at night. The problem I’ve found after using this product is that it isn’t the softest material in the world, making it a terrible solution for use in a pillow.
There is no magic bullet or cure to help turn an insomniac into a restful sleeper. Sadly, everyone is different and it’s these differences that leave scientists baffled (and busy) in their quest to discover better methods of providing a restful night’s sleep to everyone.
What about you? How do you get a better night’s sleep? Is there a solution (or set of solutions) that works for you?