Sleep Care Benefits, Tips, and Products
Those healing crystals and indulgent bubble baths aren’t going anywhere, but there’s a new self-care methodology gaining momentum and it arguably feels better than that warm water hitting your hips:
We’re talking about sleep care, a fervently growing wellness sector that’s not just about getting eight hours of shut-eye. Rather, it’s about prioritizing practices that promote quality sleep, giving your body the time needed to really rest and recover.
“So much of our health is reliant on our sleep, and sleep is the single most critical time for recovery and memory storage and consolidation,” says David Rabin, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and neuroscientist, who has studied the impact of chronic stress in humans for more than a decade. “Without regular restful sleep, we just don’t function at our peak consistently, and a host of recent neuroscience literature now explains this.”
Good sleep doesn’t just affect our mood and cognitive function. It impacts our greater physical health, too, notes Alex Dimitriu, MD, a double board-certified doctor who specializes in both sleep medicine and psychiatry. He adds that sleep is also essential to healthy metabolism and immune system. Studies show that lack of sleep increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and falling ill after exposure to viruses.
It makes sense, then, that people are trying more to set themselves up for successful rest come nightfall—and there is an entire market dedicated to doing exactly that. According to Research and Markets, the global sleeping aids market, which includes everything from mattresses to sleep devices to OTC sleeping aids, is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent from 2020 to 2030, reaching a value of $162.5 billion by 2030. That’s astronomical growth.
And while these stats show that sleep care is no passing fad, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to splurge on every shiny new sleep aid in order to get those precious Zzzs. Here, we compiled a list of sleep care strategies, including pro tricks and product picks, that will help you get your best night of shut-eye yet.
Pro Tips for Practicing Sleep Care
1. Calculate your sleep opportunity
Your “sleep opportunity” refers to the total amount of sleep you want to get, plus the time needed to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. So, say it normally takes you 45 minutes to doze off and an extra 15 minutes to get up after your alarm goes off, you’ll want to incorporate that hour when setting a bed- and/or wake-time. This will ensure you are actually getting enough sleep.
2. Establish a consistent routine
Both experts emphasize the importance of creating a consistent bedtime routine. “This advice may sound obvious, but it is also the most often overlooked,” says Dr. Dimitriu. “Sleep is a rhythmic activity that relies on a regular schedule, so I cannot overstate how important it is to keep the regular bed and wake hours, and not to vary them too much on the weekend.”
Establishing some sleep care habits will help you wind down at night; and the more consistent these habits, the easier it will be to stick to a sleep schedule. After brushing your teeth and finishing your nightly skincare routine, try reading (or listening to) a chapter out of a book. Journaling is another technique that has been shown to reduce anxiety, increase sleep time, and improve sleep quality.
3. Take time to observe the sunset
Ever notice how you get sleepy so early when camping? It’s all about those circadian rhythms. “Watching the sun go down triggers the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone the brain produces that helps you feel sleepy,” explains Dr. Rabin. Try observing the sunset with intention every night, be it outdoors or through the blinds.
After watching the sun take its evening bow, make sure the other lights in your home are dimmed or completely shut off. Some people swear by sleep-enhancing lamps, which cast a soft, blue-light-free glow and offer hands-free dimming features. The Casper Glow Light (starting at $129; casper.com) is a highly-rated choice.
Come winter, like the sun, don’t be ashamed to settle in earlier. “It’s normal to need more sleep in the winter, and the extra sleep will give your body the rest and recovery it needs to bounce back so you can feel clear and focused the next day,” says Dr. Rabin. “As the days get longer or shorter, tune in to your body’s natural sleep desires.”
4. Consider a sleep app
While it’s important to put your phone on the “do not disturb” setting, silencing text messages, emails, and social media updates, the no phones near bed rule no longer applies. That’s because there are now a number of sleep apps you can download to help you doze off. We like WAVE Sleep, which provides both pre-recorded and live-guided meditations to lull you right into a peaceful slumber.
Meditation is an excellent sleep tool, notes Dr. Dimitriu. “I advise this for all my patients who want to learn to sleep better,” he says. “Realize that everyone is terrible at it in the beginning—just like driving. With practice, people can get better at shutting off their monkey mind, and this can really help in falling asleep.”
5. Create a comfy sleep space
Think about the best night of sleep you ever got. Maybe it was in a friend’s guest room or a luxury hotel while on vacation. The pillows were probably plush, the sheets super-soft, and the mattress perfectly supportive.
Self-care is all about indulging in things that nourish your mind and body, and sleep care requires that same sort of “treat yourself” mentality. Designing the bedroom of your dreams, complete with a nice bed frame and quality mattress, as well as all the accouterments, will encourage proper rest.
Layla’s new Hybrid Mattress (starting at $1499; laylasleep.com) is a great start for indecisive shoppers, since it offers both a soft side and a firm side to ensure you get the support you need. Like other direct-to-your-door mattresses, it also allows free returns; though you get to keep the two memory foam pillows they send with your bed either way.
Linens matter, too, as the fabrics you choose affect your body temperature and overall level of comfort. Then, consider topping your bed with a cozy comforter. The Buffy Cloud Comforter (starting at $129; amazon.com) has been nicknamed “the most comfortable comforter in the world,” thanks to its super-soft eucalyptus fabric and plush feel.
6. Remove any distractions
Light and sound are your two biggest enemies when it comes to getting great sleep. Start by removing blue light from your sleep space, which has been shown to decrease melatonin. It’s emitted from your phone, tablets, televisions, and other tech devices like digital clocks. If you find that you’re still distracted by light, try a silky-soft sleep mask like the Slip Pure Silk Sleepmask ($50; nordstrom.com).
A simple white noise machine, like this one from ($18; amazon.com), is a game changer when it comes to drowning out the noise from the street or a snoring partner. For those who are super sensitive to sound, noise-canceling earbuds are a better choice. Bose Sleep Ear Buds ($199; amazon.com) effectively block background noise without bulk or discomfort.
7. Try a sleep supplement
Instead of your usual nightcap, which can actually have a negative impact on your quality of sleep, opt for a sleep-enhancing supplement instead. The most well-studied natural sleep aid is melatonin; it has been shown to help adults fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer throughout the night. We like Olly Extra Strength Sleep Melatonin Gummies ($17; target.com).
Dr. Rabin is also a fan of CBD before bed, though he warns that not all CBD is created equally, and therefore it’s important to find a reliable source. “I really like Artis Botanicals CBD Tinctures ($40) to unwind at the end of the day,” he says.
Sleepy teas are another good option, and they make a nice addition to any sleep care routine. Look for calming ingredients chamomile, valerian root, passionflower, and lavender. Studies suggest these herbs can help calm nerves and improve sleep quality. Try WelleCo Sleep Welle Fortified Calming Tea ($69 for 50 bags; sephora.com).