We’ve all experienced a time and place where we’ve struggled to drift off to sleep, whether at bedtime or any point in the night after waking unintentionally.
To encourage ideal restorative sleep, there are some key recommended behaviours. While the perfect conditions for sleep are highly personal, establishing a healthy routine to support your sleep rhythms, ensuring that your bedroom environment is supportive of sleep, minimising blue light exposure and avoiding stimulating consumption before bed can all help. And, if you want to up your sleep game, there are some simple aids worth investing in.
Scientist Dr Rebecca Robbins, a sleep researcher, instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-author of Sleep for Success! tells Bazaar: “Sometimes we’re guilty of kind of over-medicalising our lives, and sleep aids are not necessary for all of us.” But for those struggling she says “they can help cultivate that calming, relaxing reflex” that induces sleep.
Here we suggest some product categories that could help you get off to sleep more easily – and stay soundly asleep – whether at home or away.
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An eye mask
“Whereas bright light wakes us up, darkness is what allows the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin to secrete in the brain,” explains Dr Robbins. So an eye mask is a great idea, especially if it’s bright in your environment. “Find one that is comfortable for you and make sure that you choose a fabric that’s cosy and relaxing to you – some people love silk whereas some people love wool.”
Bazaar recommends: Holistic Silk pure silk eye mask in cream, £65
Aromatherapy is a tried-and-true tool for setting a soothing scene for sleep. “There are scents that are evidence based that truly relax us,” confirms Dr Robbins. “But there’s also some individual difference here, so if you’re new to aromatherapy try a little experiment,” she says. “See what relaxes you; is it lavender or bergamot, for example? Once you find what works you can use it every time you need to fall asleep and take it with you when you travel.”
Bazaar recommends: Neom Wellbeing Bundle, £155
Bathing and skincare products
Dr Robbins also advises using aromatherapy by way of bath or body products before bed. Look for formulas with soothing and calming scents like lavender, in place of ones that might energise you (such as peppermint) which will are better suited to morning use. Establishing a routine with sleep aids like this can be beneficial “because they become part of what cues the brain for what comes next,” she explains. “So if you have this sleep routine of say aromatherapy-infused bath salts, and then you apply your night cream – these are all cues to our brain that what comes after these activities is sleep.”
Bazaar recommends: This Works Sleep Spa set
“There is some evidence that a background noise, like white noise or something that’s naturally occurring like raindrops, is really calming. So, if you’re experiencing difficulties with sleep, it’s definitely something to try.” Background sounds like this “are also beneficial if you live in a noisy environment with background noise like traffic, for example” – so keep it on as the soundtrack to your sleep.
If you prefer to play sleep stories and guided meditations on apps or podcasts – which many people say help lull them into sleep – Dr Robbins recommends having them on a timer, so that they’re not playing all night. “Because in some of the lighter stages of sleep, we’re more susceptible to noise, and you don’t want them to interrupt you in these stages.”
Bazaar recommends: Calm subscription for meditation, sleep stories and soundscapes, £29.99/year
A cooler temperature is associated with better sleep, and while an ideal room temperature is around 19C, you can also adjust what you’re wearing to bed, Dr Robbins suggests. “Are your pyjamas building heat? Do you find yourself sweating due to the material?” If so, invest in natural materials which are more breathable, she adds. “For example, there is some evidence that eucalyptus derivative materials have been shown to have some cooling properties, so looking at the material science that manufacturers are providing can be beneficial.” Alternatively, wearing “as little as possible” might work for you – it’s about “whatever suits your preference,” she feels. “Sometimes little changes can go a long way.”
Bazaar recommends: Desmond & Dempsey Summer Dusk tie-dyed linen-gauze pyjama set
Materials are important here, too. Bedding made from naturally breathable and thermo-regulating materials will maintain a cool body temperature, which helps you sleep longer – according to the journal Nature and Science of Sleep. High quality cotton, linen, silk and Tencel (a fabric made from sustainably sourced eucalyptus) are all excellent options but come with pros and cons depending on your personal preferences. For example, silk can feel slippy, and linen is notorious for creasing. Mela’s cheat sheet for the best bedding fabrics will help you choose what’s best for you.
Bazaar recommends: Bedfolk Linen Bedding Bundle, £149
Bed and mattress investments
Of course, “the bed is the foundation of your sleep experience,” Dr Robbins confirms, so invest wisely. “So often, we’re likely to spend more money on a pair of shoes than on our mattress. Most people can’t tell me when or where they bought their mattress, but you want to look at your bed as the place where you recover, where your brain repairs and restores.” It should be the place “you want so desperately to jump into at the end of a long day”. There are countless options when it comes to mattresses, and the right one is a “hyper-personal” choice, she says. Therefore, Dr Robbins advises you try before you buy. “Go to a company that can help you find the right mattress for your personal physique,” she says, explaining it’s important to “have someone look at your spine while you’re lying down”. Your bed and mattress should keep your spine in proper alignment all night and relieve pressure points, she adds. Plus, know that materials matter: “A mattress that retains heat will also limit the quality of your sleep.”
Bazaar recommends: London specialists in bespoke beds, Savoir for its upholstered beds and mattresses
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