Do you suffer from a lack of sleep? Do you find yourself desperately investing in any product — from the wacky to the absurdly expensive — to prevent tossing, turning and fitful nights?
Well, before you spend your Christmas gift-card money on fancy white-noise machines and trendy weighted blankets, read what neurologist W. Christopher Winter, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It,” has to say about what you do — and don’t — need to catch those much needed zzz’s.
Philips SmartSleep Deep Sleep Headband
What it says it does: This headband ($400 at usa.philips.com) promises to improve your sleep, increase your energy, reduce daytime sleepiness and boost alertness. Worn at night, the headband tracks your sleep through two sensors that are connected to a mobile app. Once the sensors detect you are in your deepest sleep (when your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels and your muscles relax), quiet audio tones — the timing and volume of which are customized for you by an algorithm — are triggered to boost that deep sleep, supposedly improving the quality of your rest. The app also allows you to track your sleep patterns over time.
What you need to know: The headband is recommended for people between the ages of 18 and 50 who sleep less than seven hours a night due to lifestyle but have no issues falling asleep or staying asleep, and who sleep well when they are asleep. The headband does not help you fall asleep, stay asleep or prolong your deep sleep, and it will not help with existing sleep conditions such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea. The sensors are adhesive and disposable; each will last between one and three nights, so after you use the 30 sensors the headband comes with, you will need to buy replacements.
What the expert says: “The Philips headband may be a very accurate sleep tracker,” Winter says, “but why would anyone want to wear it?” He also notes that, aside from a clinical sleep study, there aren’t many consumers who would benefit from knowing precisely how much deep sleep they get each night. “Great data,” he says, “but what does one do with it?”
Magic Weighted Blanket
What it says it does: Weighted blankets seem to be the gift of the year this holiday season. Many companies have recently cropped up touting the relaxing, calming effect the pressure of a weighted blanket gives people when they sleep, and users claim the blankets reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. The Magic Weighted Blanket ($149–$249 at magicweightedblanket.com) claims to have invented the original prototype back in the ’90s. Now it sells blankets in a wide variety of colors, fabrics, sizes and weights.
What you need to know: It is recommended that children use blankets with weight ranging from six to 10 pounds. Most women do well with a 16-pound blanket and most men do well with a 20-pound blanket. A general rule of thumb is to choose a blanket with the weight closest to 10 percent of your body weight.
What the expert says: Winter is complimentary of weighted blankets and says they can be helpful to many, especially those who suffer from restless legs syndrome.
Hästens Vividus Bed
What it says it does: Hastens, the luxury Swedish bed manufacturer, promises you your best night of sleep ever, but you will have to pay for it —$195,000 for a queen (at hastens.com). Its Vividus is arguably the most expensive bed in the world. The bed is made from all natural materials (so no off-gassing), including responsibly harvested horsehair (a traditional material used in mattresses, which gives the bed its springiness and serves as a wicking agent to remove moisture so the bed breathes), cotton and wool (which act as temperature regulators to keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter), and flax (which removes static electricity). It’s the amount of these materials, plus the 350 hours it takes skilled craftspeople to make the bed — every stitch done by hand — that makes it so extraordinarily expensive.
What you need to know: The price includes the bed frame, mattress and topper — all the components need to work together to achieve maximum comfort. Beds have a 25-year warranty, but the company says that they should last a lifetime. While some beds are stocked, many are made to order. The company does not have a return policy per se, but you can have the bed’s tension tweaked (beds come in three tensions: soft, medium and firm). Ostensibly, by the time you have met with a salesperson, been evaluated for sleep habits and had a bed recommended for your sleep needs, you should be satisfied.
What the expert says: The price of a bed or mattress does not necessarily correlate to whether you will have a good night’s sleep, Winter says. “Comfort is the most important factor when buying a bed or mattress, so whatever you buy, it should be the best for you independent of price.” To find the right fit, he says, “make sure your body weight is equally distributed over the entire surface area with which you are in contact. You want to avoid pressure points at your shoulder, hip, and knee.” Also, he cautions that you should never buy a mattress without some form of trial period. “You cannot buy a mattress by lying on it in a showroom.”
NewSound TI-100 In-Ear White Noise Sleep Aid
What it says it does: These earplugs ($389 at earplugstore.com) have memory-foam tips that help block noise, plus they produce a gentle masking sound that raises your threshold of hearing and drowns out irritating noises or nearby snorers. Because each earpiece is independently adjustable for both volume and sound profile (you can choose from four different sounds), you can program your right ear differently from your left.
What you need to know: The earplugs are small enough that the device fits well in the ear cavity, allowing most people to comfortably sleep on their side. The maximum volume is limited to a safe level for all-day or all-night wear without danger of hearing damage. The earplugs take standard A10 hearing-aid batteries, which are included, and the estimated battery life is 60 to 90 hours of continuous use, depending on the volume setting.
What the expert says: “I think their use other than acting as a white-noise machine is questionable,” Winter says. His preference: a quiet, white-noise-free environment.
The NASA Technology Sleep Promoting Light Bulb
What it says it does: This lightbulb ($30 at hammacher.com) uses patented spectrum technology that was originally developed in collaboration with NASA to support the circadian rhythms of astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The bulb encourages production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. Unlike typical lightbulbs that emit high levels of short wavelength “blue” light that suppresses melatonin, this bulb’s patented filter reduces blue light by 50 percent, promising a better night’s sleep.
What you need to know: Used in your bedside lamp for 30 minutes before you fall asleep, the lightbulb is supposed to help maintain your body’s natural circadian rhythm so you fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed. The 8.5-watt LED produces the same light as a 40-watt incandescent blub.
What the expert says: “Sleep lights work,” Winter says, although he says this one gives off a yellow glow that many people don’t like. He prefers the light that the Soraa Healthy bulb gives off.
OOLER Sleep System
What it says it does: The system ($799 at chilitechnology.com) includes a control unit (it easily fits under most beds), a channeled pad that fits over your mattress and an app. Together the components allow you to cool or heat your bed using water (the temperature ranges from 55–115 degrees Fahrenheit) that flows through the channels in the pad delivering consistent and active thermal control.
What you need to know: The app connects with Bluetooth and allows you to program the pad to precool or preheat your bed. The control unit also features a variable ambient noise control and a large reservoir for water. The pad comes in many different sizes, including half sizes so couples who require different temperatures can customize their sides.
What the expert says: Winter is a big fan of the OOLER. He says that temperature may be as important as (if not more important than) light exposure for sleep, and he notes that most people sleep better in cooler temperatures.