Best products for better sleep: what to buy for quality sleep

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I remember exactly two great sleeps in my adult life. The first was after I had my wisdom teeth removed, and I passed out while my dad was walking me home from the car. The second was when I traveled to northern Finland, after four connecting flights and a 10 hour layover in Helsinki. As for the other 8,000 nights or more? Not so good.

I have been a chronic poor sleeper for as long as I can remember. I experienced night terrors in elementary school, and the insomnia remained long after the nightmares themselves subsided. At my absolute best, I average about six hours of restless sleep per night; at worst, I’ll stay awake for 36 hours straight with no apparent rhyme or reason.

I tried just about every remedy for sleeping under the sun: I cut out the caffeine. I bought white noise machines and essential oil diffusers. I did body scan meditations. I took Tylenol PM, Nyquil, Benadryl, Magnesium and Melatonin all to absolutely zero effect.

Fortunately, things have improved slightly over the past two years. I still have occasional bouts of insomnia, but I can usually get at least a few hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. I count three things: natural sleeping pills that actually work, an extremely comfortable bed, and non-electronic distractions that help me relax once the sun goes down. (Oh, and lots of therapy.)

Below, I share some of the things that have helped me get relatively normal sleep recently. I’m by no means an expert, but hopefully some of my past experiences can guide other insomnia sufferers to some relief.

Natural sleeping pills

I took prescription sleeping pills for a while in my twenties, and although they did a great job of knocking me out, I spent the next day groggy and falling asleep at my desk – and trying to get them weaning was a miserable process. I try to stick to natural solutions these days.

My biggest sleep breakthrough was trying CBD for the first time in November. I had always assumed that CBD would fall into the “things that work for everyone but me” category, but I was desperate and decided to give it a try. I ordered FAB CBD’s PM Chews after reading positive reviews, and they have changed my life. I grab a piece of gum when I’m ready for bed, and I start feeling sleepy in about 20 minutes – a kind of mild drowsiness that I assume normal people experience after being awake for 18 hours.

Having this assurance that I’ll probably be able to fall asleep has made my nighttime routine so much more meaningful. I’ve found a lot of things that help me relax, like sipping a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra tea. (I also love this K-Cup sampler from Twinings, because sometimes I’m too lazy to boil and brew.)

I installed an aromatherapy showerhead from Moen, which has space for INLY capsules that infuse the water with essential oils like lavender and tea tree. I will then wash my face with St. Ives Calming Chamomile Cleanser, and top it off with a few spritzes of Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel. It’s like a lovely little spa treatment every night.

Quality bedding

I’ve never cared much about investing in high quality bedding and pillows in the past, thinking it’s pointless since my sleep sucks anyway. But I made it my personal mission last year to turn my bed into the most charming and comfortable space in my apartment. It’s not like I bought a satin pillowcase and my insomnia was gone, but now I have a much nicer place to wait for sleep to come.

I ditched my super lumpy spring mattress at the end of 2020 and got a green tea memory foam mattress from Zinus then added a 3 inch memory foam topper from EDILLY. This combination is a fraction of what I would have paid for a memory foam mattress, but the result is just as comfortable.

Then I turned my attention to the pillows. I bought a PharMeDoc pregnancy pillow after seeing one on my pregnant friend’s bed and getting extremely jealous, and the U-shaped structure looks like a giant hug. I also invested in a down pillow and mulberry silk pillowcase from Brooklinen, the latter being so good that I bought another for my sister’s birthday a month later.

Soothing distractions

I used to lie in bed for over an hour waiting to fall asleep, which not only caused panic, but also very poor sleep hygiene. The American Sleep Association recommends that you don’t stay awake in bed for more than 5-10 minutes, which means getting up and moving to another location if sleep doesn’t come right away. (The idea is that your mind should associate your bed with sleep, not insomnia.)

As I still deal with sleepless nights from time to time, I keep an arsenal of soothing distractions to turn to outside of my bedroom. A lot of people use ASMR or guided meditations to relax, but I’m weird and find both of these things extremely stressful. Instead, I like to listen to sleep stories on the Calm app. They help me get out of my own anxious head, and let’s face it, who would not Want to hear the sweet tones of Idris Elba at 2am?

If I go through a whole sleeping thing without falling asleep, I turn to non-electronic hobbies. Puzzles are always cool – I love the ones from The Found and Buffalo Games, but literally any brand will do. I’m also obsessed with the Lord of the Rings– cross stitch patterns inspired by Country Magic Stitch. I bought the “Visit Mordor” model, and it gave me something to work on for about four months of restless nights.

Of course, there are countless other options to fill the nighttime hours, from crossword puzzles to adult coloring books. I encourage you to find what works best for you, and don’t give up! It took me years to establish good nighttime habits, and I imagine my journey is far from over. But I consider even an hour of uninterrupted sleep well worth the effort.

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