Getting enough good quality sleep can be a struggle. While supplements can help, try letting your senses be your guide, and you just might find those elusive zzzz’s a little more quickly.
Of course, when you’re looking to fall asleep, sight seems like an unnecessary sense. Masks can help block extraneous light for sensitive eyes, and software like f.lux (www.justgetflux.com) can help filter the blue light of computers and TV screens that disrupts our natural circadian rhythms. But if you need a little help winding down until your eyelids droop, the Aurora Master Ocean Relax Projector (www.amazon.com) casts kaleidoscopic colors on walls and ceiling in wave-like ebbs and flows that are very soothing. An auto shut-off and speaker with audio plug for music makes this appealing for the whole family.
My family swears by sound machines as noise blockers. ASTI’s compact LectroFan (www.lectrofan.com) is the market best seller, offering a range of non-repeating fan and white noise sounds plus massive volume, if needed. But Marpac’s Dohm machines (www.marpac.com) have been the gold standard for over 50 years, with calming non-looping, fan-based white noise that subtly fills a room and settles the mind. The company’s portable versions for travel and nursery offer three electronically created sound choices and are super light and rechargeable via USB cable. The latest release, the Whish, offers 16 sound choices, from white noise to soothing soundscapes (“meditation” and “relax” are especially lovely), and it has a timer function as well. For a different approach, the new dreampad (www.dreampadsleep.com) builds sound right into a “smart pillow” with embedded micro transducers. It connects to an app playing special music and vibrations designed to promote sleep. Music and sound waves travel through bone conduction when your head hits the pillow, yet no one else can hear it. Very clever and surprisingly relaxing.
Scents can be a powerful trigger for emotion and memory, stimulating the olfactory nerve and sending signals directly to the brain. The right scents also can promote sleep, and certain essential oils contain compounds found to foster calm and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep. Lavender tops most lists of calming scents, but it’s not for everyone. Alternatives include ylang-ylang, bergamot, cedarwood, vetiver, frankincense, and Roman Chamomile. Pure Parker offers some neatly packaged gift set collections for sampling a variety of scents (www.pureparker.com). The top two companies for pure therapeutic grade essential oils also offer specific relaxation blends -- Young Living’s “Freedom Sleep” collection (www.youngliving.com) and doTERRA’s “Serenity” (www.doterra.com). You can use an aromatherapy diffuser or dilute and mist on your skin (try the back of your neck) or on a cloth to tuck under your pillow.
If the traditional glass of warm milk is not your cup of tea, head for the herbals. Valerian and chamomile are long known as effective sleep aids, and many tasty ready-made tea blends use these two to promote calm and sleepiness. Three companies dating back more than 40 years offer popular blends — Celestial Seasonings’s chamomile heavy Sleepytime Extra with valerian (www.celestialseasonings.com), Yogi’s slightly spicy Bedtime (www.yogiproducts.com), and Night Night by Traditional Medicinals, which is a little bittersweet with a touch of mint (www.traditionalmedicinals.com).
Investing in comfortable linens is a smart choice. Microfiber sheets have burst onto the market in a big way, and top-selling, affordable Mellanni sheets (www.Mellanni.com) of brushed microfiber are huggably soft and airy. Made of 100 percent polyester, they are also hypoallergenic and stain, shrink, wrinkle, and fade resistant. But for anyone who tends to run hot at night, you can’t beat 100 percent cotton, and there are some amazingly soft luxury sheets out there. Cuddledown’s 400 thread count sateen (www.cuddledown.com) are silky, light-weight, certified eco-friendly, and come in a stunning array of colors. Brooklinen’s Luxe Sheets (www.brooklinen.com) of 480 thread count long staple cotton are buttery soft but slightly heavier and warmer for cooler nights. If you like sheets with a bit of crispness, Snowe’s 500 thread count percale sheets (www.snowehome.com) of Italian-milled Egyptian cotton are densely woven, crisp yet smooth, breathable, and very soft, with gorgeous stitching. For those on a tighter budget, California Design Den (www.californiadesignden.com) offers ethically made, beautifully tailored 400 and 600 thread count, pure combed cotton sateen sheets that are impressively cozy for under $50 a set. Sleep tight and sweet dreams.