Laura J. Martin, MD
You can’t sleep, so you turn on the white noise machine, slip on an eye mask, and spritz some lavender spray into the air. Will you nab some shut-eye now? Maybe -- but maybe not.
We crave sleep, and yet most of us don’t get enough of it. Those who try often don’t get a quality snooze. In fact, 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights, according to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation.
Many people look to gadgets to help them get their ZZZs, but fun as they might be, they’re no substitute for good sleep habits like going to bed at the same time every night, minimizing caffeine, and relaxing before bedtime.
“Gadgets can be helpful, but their effectiveness does not supersede sleep awareness and good sleep and circadian hygiene,” says Gianluca Tosini, MD, director of the Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disorders Program at the Neuroscience Institute and chairman of the department of pharmacology at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Still, some devices can help, or at least trigger a sleep-inducing placebo effect. Here’s a look at some of the high- and low-tech gadgets and devices that can promote sound sleep.
For most people, a quiet room is essential to a good night’s sleep. But getting that peace and quiet isn’t always easy. Here are some gadgets that might help:
In a society that craves information, some people want to know exactly how well they’re sleeping. That’s where sleep monitors come in. These devices can tell you what stage of sleep you’re in at 3 a.m., exactly how much sleep you’re getting, and the best time to get up.
Knowing your patterns can help you structure the time you get up so you aren’t awakened during a deep sleep, Emsellem says. “But you have to have an idea why you want that information."
For instance, if you’re someone who frequently wakes up feeling unrefreshed, these devices may help you understand why.
But before you buy one of these gadgets, which can cost several hundred dollars, try going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same every morning, Emsellem says.
For some people, rising isn’t exactly a shining moment. Enter smart alarm clocks that will get you out of bed in a way that suits your waking style.
If you’re prone to hitting the snooze button and oversleeping, you might want to consider alarm clocks that force you to get out of bed to turn them off.
“These are very novel and are effective for people who shut off their alarms and do not remember them going off,” says Robert Oexman, DC, director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Mo. “The amount of time it takes to shut off their alarm from across the room will allow sufficient time to wake up.”
But if you prefer a gentle nudge, you might consider an alarm clock that rouses you with nature sounds or that light up gradually and mimic the sunrise. “Some patients feel more comfortable with gradual light and are traumatized by abrupt light,” Emsellem says. “If you have a 5:30 wake-up time, having the light come on gradually can be relief.”
If you’re the type who hates being roused from a deep sleep, consider a watch or clock that monitors your movement and wakes you up when you’re not in a deep sleep. “People often report waking up at the conclusion of a dream and not during the dream,” Oexman says.
A comfortable room goes a long way toward good sleep. Among the ways to create more comfort:
SOURCES:Helene Emsellem, MD, director, Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders, Bethesda, Md.; author, Snooze or Lose: 10 No-War Ways to Improve Your Teen’s Sleep Habits.Shelby Freedman Harris, PsyD, director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program Sleep-Wake Disorders Center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York.Robert Oexman, DC, director, Sleep to Live Institute, Joplin, Mo.Gianluca Tosini, MD, director, Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disorders Program, Neuroscience Institute; chairman, department of pharmacology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta.Bloch, B. Journal of Music Therapy, Spring 2010; vol 47: pp 27-52.Chan, M. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, June-August 2010; vol 18: pp 150-159.Harmat, L. Journal of Advanced Nursing, May 2010; vol 62: pp 327-335.News release, National Sleep Foundation.