When you think about a good night’s sleep, you probably know exactly how wonderful it feels: You wake up refreshed, happy and relieved. But how to get more sleep on a regular basis? That’s an elusive dream for millions of Americans. But with poor sleep linked to serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease, it’s more important than ever to take sleep seriously.
“There have been tremendous advances in our understanding of the impact of sleep on health,” says Russell Rosenberg, former chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief science officer and CEO of NeuroTrials Research in Atlanta. “It’s as important as eating well and getting exercise. You can only cheat sleep so long before the consequences catch up with you.”
Yet many of us still treat sleep as if it’s a negotiable experience in our lives. “Despite the increased conversation around sleep and the proof behind its importance, it doesn’t mean people are making improvements,” says sleep medicine specialist Dr. Thanuja Hamilton of Advocare Sleep Physicians of South Jersey. “We are more stimulated during the day, we are binge-watching more and more and our phones put business and social media right at our fingertips.”
As people exhaust themselves into eventually passing out at night, their sleep environment may not even be a priority. But not only do you want your precious hours of sleep to be restful, it’s ideal to be sure you can actually fall asleep when you have the chance. That’s where “sleep hygiene” comes into play — healthy habits that help you catch more zzz’s, such as exercising during the day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before you turn in and having a regular relaxing bedtime routine.
As part of a relaxing routine, the National Sleep Foundation recommends considering the use of blackout curtains, eye shades, white noise machines, humidifiers, fans and “other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing.”
To help you find what might help you get a better night’s rest, we’ve rounded up top-rated sleep-related items, from sound machines to body-cooling sheets. “If, despite your best efforts, you can’t fall or stay asleep or your sleep is unrefreshing or disturbed on a regular basis, then seek medical advice,” Rosenberg says.
While there are no guarantees about other sleep-related gadgets, Hamilton says it’s worth a shot. “What works for one person may not work for another,” she says. “If it is affordable to you, I would say it doesn’t hurt to try it.”
Less sunlight can affect your melatonin levels and your circadian rhythm, which can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to seasonal affective disorder, according to the American Psychological Association. That’s why a “SAD” lamp could be a game changer for you. Our pick for the best SAD lamp of 2021, this Verilux model, is slim, packable and has extremely well-thought-out controls, including color temperature adjustment.
Dodow Sleep Aid ($59; dodow.com)
Whether you desperately need help settling down one night or want to add to your daily wind-down ritual, this quirky gadget might be your solution. Simply tap the tiny 3.5-inch device to allow it to project a halo on your ceiling, then breathe in as the halo grows and breathe out as the halo shrinks. We tried the Dodow ourselves and it helped calm us down and get better sleep.
Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light ($99.95; amazon.com)
A great night’s sleep is influenced by some of your daytime habits, so consider starting off on the right side of the bed with a pleasant wake-up that doesn’t include a harsh alarm. Wake-up lights gradually brighten the room like a sunrise and can come with plenty of other helpful features. This Philips light was named our favorite sunrise alarm clock of 2021, which had a wake-up process that was second to none in our testing, and lots of pleasant sounds to awaken to as well.
HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine ($21.90, originally $24.99; amazon.com)
The basic job of a white noise machine is to mask any other sudden or distracting noises — but for many people, the sound of one is simply part of their sleep environment to help them relax. We like how this HoMedics machine has an auto turnoff, is extremely portable and comes with six soothing sounds, including a white noise setting.
Pure Enrichment Cool Mist Humidifier ($39.99; amazon.com)
Our pick for the best humidifier for bedrooms, because it’s nearly silent and has a night light function, this Pure Enrichment humidifier can run for up to 16 hours with automatic shutoff and an optional night light.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) ($39.99; amazon.com)
Whether you’ve mastered your Alexa like the editors at Underscored or aren’t yet a fan of voice assistants, adding an Echo Dot to your bedroom is worth a thought because of all the sleep-friendly Amazon Alexa Skills that you can enable. Specifically, some of the most popular ones are for presleep meditation or other relaxation-inducing tools like sleep sounds. Instead of relying on a smartphone app and having to turn something off as your eyelids get heavy, you can simply say, “Alexa, stop” and then drift off without moving a muscle.
Google Nest Learning Thermostat (starting at $224.95, originally starting at $249; amazon.com)
One of the most important and basic electronics to employ is your thermostat, which Hamilton advises using with a timer. “Cool things down before bed, but as morning comes, start raising the temperature,” she suggests. “It will be much easier to throw the covers off and start your day if you’re not trying to stay cozy and warm under the blanket.”
Now, not all thermostats are created equal — and according to more than 22,000 5-star reviews, you’d know that if you had a Nest. Not only is this home staple “smart” in that it learns your temperature preferences and automatically programs itself, but it has a slew of other options: Wi-Fi so that you can change the temperature from your devices, energy-saving notices, movement detection so it can power down if you’ve left for vacation and more.
To make the most of the items you invest in, follow these four rules from Rosenberg: “Have a regular wind-down routine, schedule enough time to sleep, make sure your room is quiet [and] coolish and avoid alcohol and caffeine three hours before bedtime,” he says. “These habits are the easiest and least costly things to do to improve your sleep.”
Bearaby Cotton Napper (starting at $249; bearaby.com)
While there are quite a few well-reviewed, comforting weighted blankets on the market, we fell in love with this hand-knit one because it doesn’t rely on beads or pellets — which can result in uneven weight distribution, too hot temps or even a giant mess if the blanket is accidentally ripped. This Bearaby one keeps us cool, and the look of the braided fabric is so gorgeous.
Casper Foam Pillow (starting at $89; casper.com)
Whether you’ve always been curious about this beloved bed-in-a-box mattress company or are already in bed with it, Casper’s memory foam pillow is potentially another (literally) cool solution for your sleep setup with three layers that are said to promote healthy alignment while being luxuriously huggable.
Crane & Canopy 400-Thread-Count Sheet Set (starting at $119; craneandcanopy.com)
It makes sense that a company known for its stellar duvet covers would offer a “No Top Sheet Sheet Set,” right? When we tested Crane & Canopy for its value as a luxury linen worth the price, we liked that the brand is Oeko-Tex certified (i.e., manufactured ethically and responsibly) and that the sateen weave fabrics are made of extra-long-staple cotton that looks and feels luxurious.
The Regulator Sheet Set (starting at $139; mysheetsrock.com)
With a cultlike following, this brand seems to always be sold out. And rightly so — the bamboo rayon material for the sheets promises softness and durability while also regulating body temperature and wicking away moisture. Hundreds of 5-star reviews seem to echo the same message: These are the best sheets ever — and, well, they rock.
Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachutehome.com)
Our winner for the best linen sheets of 2021, Parachute’s linen offers a truly sumptuous sleep, and our own reviewer said it was like sleeping on a cloud. We dig the variety of colors the brand offers as well.
Brooklinen Down Comforter (starting at $134.10, originally starting at $149; brooklinen.com)
Casper Sateen Duvet Cover (starting at $99; casper.com)
Now, if you’re looking for a duvet cover to go over that comforter, look no further than Casper. Named the best duvet cover of 2021, Casper’s Sateen Duvet Cover got points for being simple to put on, with holes in the corners, and for how luxurious it feels to sleep with.
Brooklinen Luxe Move-In Bundle (starting at $488; brooklinen.com)
Want to give your entire bedding setup a big makeover in just one click? Brooklinen’s Luxe Move-In Bundle hooks you up with the brand’s long-staple, 480-thread-count flat sheet, a fitted sheet, four pillowcases, a duvet cover, a comforter and two pillows. The Luxe Sateen fabric is Brooklinen’s bestselling option — and our tester confirmed Brooklinen’s fabric is both cooling and super soft while durable. As you build your bundle, you can choose your preferences for each item, from the support of your pillow to the weight of your comforter to the design of your sheets.
Mattresses and more
From a tricked-out smart bed to simply making sure you’re properly hydrated, there are loads of other ideas that could be just the thing to score you even better shut-eye. But don’t forget to seek medical help if you’re still struggling no matter what you do.
“Sleep disorders are underrecognized,” Rosenberg says. “The good news is that there are safe and effective ways of managing insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and more. The other good news is that health care providers are beginning to acknowledge that poor sleep or sleep deprivation equal poor health.”
The Pod by Eight Sleep, Queen ($2,945, originally $3,095; eightsleep.com)
Couples who feud over the thermostat or the bed covers, this one’s for you. This Eight Sleep offering allows you to cool and heat each side of the bed according to your preference. Simply schedule the on and off times from the custom app, which also tracks sleep patterns — tossing and turning, heart rate and more — for each side.
The Purple Mattress, Queen ($1,149; purple.com)
If the 19,000 5-star reviews don’t pique your interest, here are a few more details about this sleep investment. Purple has a patented grid designed to be soft and firm in different spots, according to where our bodies typically experience more pain. Translation: Your hips, shoulders and back experience a zero-gravity feel instead of leaving you achy when you wake up.
Lift by Amerisleep Mattress Topper (starting at $199; amerisleep.com)
If you want to upgrade your sleep system but don’t want to plunk down a chunk of change for a new bed, this foam mattress topper could be the answer. It features some of the same technology as the Amerisleep mattresses — like the pressure-point-relieving HIVE technology and body-cooling Celliant cover — and comes in two levels of firmness. One reviewer writes that she felt “like butter melting on a pile of warm mashed potatoes.”
Nicetown Blackout Curtain Panels (starting at $19.89; amazon.com)
If you’re not blocking out unwelcome light from your bedroom, are you even trying? Blackout curtains are one of the first upgrades to consider when assessing how to improve your sleep environment. This popular set comes in a range of sizes, prices and colors, and boasts more than 47,000 5-star reviews.
Mzoo Sleep Eye Mask ($16.99; amazon.com)
Contoured cup eye masks have risen in popularity for people who are bothered by a mask touching their lashes and lids. The ergonomic design means the eye “cup” is 2.4 inches, and this mask has more than 30,000 5-star ratings.