By Laura Martin
Hands up who’s had night after night of unbroken sleep this past year, untroubled by any of the global crises ripping through our daily lives? Yeah, we thought so.
That's why we need the best sleep aid products now more than ever, from the best sleep trackers to the best pillows for sleep. In times of high stress and anxiety, the first thing we often lose is the ability to get those much-needed eight hours of shut-eye a night. The number of us suffering sleep loss caused by worrying during the pandemic rose from one in six to one in four, and rates of insomnia also jumped up in 2020.
Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity explains: “It’s been only natural over this past year to find things confusing, scary and difficult, and stress has a knock-on effect on sleep, with difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. Stress causes hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.”
She also adds that the changes in lifestyle and our routine also wreak havoc with our circadian rhythms, our body's natural way of lulling us into sleep. The upset balance between our work and home life—as well as a lack of routine and going to bed later, after hours upon hours of either the internet or whatever series has landed in full on Netflix—also contribute to sleepless nights.
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The best sleep aid products to add to your nighttime routine
1. Soft Silicone ear plugs
To cancel out sounds
Lisa Artis says: "Earplugs and eye masks are the most effective sleep aids as they block out noise and light, two important factors that impact on sleep.” While these plugs aren’t going to win any awards for aesthetics, as possibly the lightest sleeper in the world, I personally wouldn’t use anything else."
"Foam earplugs never seem to work for me, but these silicone balls have allowed me to sleep through house parties, noisy transport, construction works, yelling neighbors—none of it bothers me, as I’m already out cold!" Artis adds.
2. Silken Favours Eye Mask
To keep any light out
What’s that old adage about needing to spend money on shoes and beds, as when you’re not in one, you’re in the other? Well, you can add eye masks to that.
Yeah, you can use a mask that’s been kicking around since you last flew long-haul, but you can make going to bed far more of a luxurious experience with this super-stylish silk-satin eye mask from the “pretty and trippy” Silken Favours. Cozy and feather-light to the touch, shading your lids with this silky mask will help you drop off even quicker.
3. ThisWorks Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
To help you dose off
A friend of ours calls this “magic fairy spray,” as she’s out like a light whenever she spritzes this dreamy mist—which contains lavender and chamomile essential oils—on her pillow. She’s not the only one: 89% of people who tested this product also felt it helped them fall asleep quicker. Bonus tip: spray some on your pulse points for an extra relaxing aromatherapy boost.
4. Slumber Knee Pillow
To keep you comfy
This isn’t just for the old folks. What first popped up as an Instagram ad for me (how do they know??) has ended up being one of my best purchases of the year.
The science is that, for side sleepers, this little foam wedge put between your knees helps align your spine with your hips and legs. You soon forget it’s there and it means I get to sleep a little quicker, at a less weird angle, and I wake up just a little bit less crunched up in the mornings.
5. Soak & Sleep Ultimate Microfibre with Silk Pillow
To keep you cool and protect your hair
Speaking of pillows, when’s the last time you bought a new one? Depending on whether you sleep on your back, side or front, this will inform what particular pillow will be best specifically for you, but the best all-rounder at a not-too-pricey cost has to be this Soak & Sleep one.
Made with 10% silk—good for keeping you cool if you suffer from night sweats—it also feels soft and light, is available in a choice of firmness, and holds its fluffiness for ages, too.
6. Nothing Much Happens podcast
To quiet your mind
For those who might find Harry Styles reading a bedtime story on Calm a little too exciting, there’s one sleep app that won’t in any way get your pulse racing.
"Nothing Much Happens" is a free podcast in which, well, nothing much does happen. The softly-spoken host, Kathryn Nicolai, reads a short story about precious little: a bonfire on the beach or a cozy cabin in the woods, which lulls the listener into a dozy state like a lullaby. The story’s then repeated even slower for a second time, but chances are you’ll already be fast asleep by then.
7. Pukka Organic Peace Tea
To get your relaxed
Peace out with a cuppa from Pukka. This herbal blend of chamomile, spearmint, and lavender is boosted with some extra relaxation qualities, thanks to the touch of some hemp leaves, which contain naturally-occurring CBD oils.
Of course, it’s completely caffeine-free, and a warm mug of this before bed—maybe while listening to the podcast above—will soon send you on a one-way train to Snoozeville.
8. Beautyrest Sleeptracker Monitor
To help you stay on track
If you want to get scientific about things, it’s worth experimenting with a sleep tracker. Beautyrest is one of the best on the market at the moment, and for anyone who feels a bit claustrophobic about sleeping with a tracking watch on (me!), it does its high tech work through a sensor pad that lays on top of your mattress.
The daily reports break down how much light, deep and REM sleep you get each night, and the more information it picks up about you, the better the tailored sleep tips it gives you. Plus, it can monitor up to two people separately, so it can analyze you and your partner’s sleeping habits. Just don’t turn it into a competition!
For the best sleep aid, remember the three R’s
Along with the above sleep aid products, there are measures to catching 40-winks a little easier. Lisa Artis recommends the “three R’s” for helping to get there:
1. Regular hours:
“Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. Your bodies and minds will feel much better for it.”
“Make sure you wind down properly! Routines that are associated with sleep signal the brain that it’s time to sleep—think a warm bath, having a milky drink, reading a book, or listening to soothing music.”
3. Restful environment:
“Look at your bedroom environment. It should be cool, quiet, dark, and clutter-free. Keep gadgets out of the bedroom and stop using them at least an hour before bed. Make sure you’re sleeping on a bed that is comfortable and supportive too.”
Laura is a freelance entertainment and lifestyle journalist who writes for The Guardian, The i newspaper, Metro, BBC Culture and Grazia. She's happiest travelling the world and discovering new trends and, within reason, is willing to give most things a try. From feasting on rancid camel milk cheese in Morocco to jumping into the shimmering aquamarine cenotes of the Yucatan; it's all out there to be explored, then written about. A firm believer of Nora Ephron's mantra: "everything is copy".
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