Despite all of the health and wellness trends available these days, nothing makes you feel better than a good night’s sleep. Sleep plays a vital role in your physical and mental health and is responsible for everything from repairing your heart and blood vessels to regulating hormones and maintaining your immune system. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
As it turns out, more than 35% of adults don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night and those sleepless nights have been associated with health issues ranging from heart disease and obesity to increased risk of early death.
The point is: Sleep is important. Those who aren’t getting enough are often willing to try anything to right the ship. Sometimes this means taking medications, while other times it might simply consist of a few lifestyle tweaks. But getting a better night’s sleep is big business, and in recent years, the pursuit of sleep has led to many new trends and products — some worth trying, some not.
Below, we’re running down some of the most popular sleep trends right now. May they provide assistance in all your sheep-counting endeavors:
Sleep coaches aren’t just for helping new parents get their infants on a better schedule. Sleep-deprived adults are turning to coaches for their own health as they look for guidance on getting more shuteye. Sleep consultants promise to improve their clients’ sleep by focusing on health and lifestyle factors, from nutrition and stress to bedtime routines.
Ronee Welch, a certified integrative adult sleep coach and the owner of Sleeptastic Solutions, emphasizes the importance of what she calls sleep hygiene.
“Take a good look at your environment to see if you have the ideal sleep situation,” she advises. “Is your room dark enough? Is your room too hot or too cold? Do you have a bed partner (including pets and kids) that is disturbing you? Are you staying off of the electronics at least 30–60 minutes before bed? All of these things are simple, yet can be very effective.”
You’ve likely seen or heard this word making the rounds recently in wellness circles, but adaptogens have been an important component of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Comprised of various herbs, roots and plants, including ashwagandha, ginseng and holy basil, they’re supposed to help the body handle stress. A recent Japanese study found an active component of ashwagandha itself can induce sleep and may prove beneficial in treating insomnia.
Research like this, as well as a general interest in alternative medicine, is part of the reason adaptogens are popping up everywhere. If you want to give them a try, you can find adaptogens in powder form, as teas or sold as supplement pills. The old check-with-your-doctor-first adage applies here.
These high-tech tools are designed to track things like heart rate and movement to provide data on the quality of your sleep. Although one in five adults use wearable trackers, the research on their effectiveness is mixed. One 2019 study found wearable devices underestimated the time spent in REM and light sleep while another found the trackers were as accurate as the medical-grade devices used during sleep studies.
The tracker trend continues with new innovations, including products like the UrgoNight, which debuted at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in January. It’s essentially a high-tech headband that uses electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to detect electrical activity in your brain. It then provides feedback during the day that can train your brain to sleep better at night. It’s a brave new world we’re living in.
Weizer cautions against obsessing over the data, but believes it could alert you to potential sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. If the tracker records multiple arousals every night, it could be the warning you need to make an appointment with your doctor.
“Your body is the best data device,” Weizer adds. “Do you wake up feeling great? Do you have enough energy? Those are things a sleep tracker can’t tell you.”
The purported benefits of CBD include reduced anxiety, pain relief and better sleep. Much of the research is still pending, but that hasn’t kept enterprising companies from releasing CBD products aimed at insomniacs. The good news is some might actually prove effective.
According to Dr. Peter Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School: “CBD is commonly used to address anxiety, and for patients who suffer through the misery of insomnia, studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.”
Similar to how a nice hug makes you feel safe or a “thunder shirt” can reduce your dog’s anxiety, people are turning to weighted blankets for better sleep. The purpose of these blankets, which typically range in weight from 5–25 pounds, is to provide deeper pressure than ordinary blankets, thereby promoting calmness. A study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders found participants fell asleep easier, awoke fewer times during the night and felt more refreshed in the morning when using a weighted blanket.
“It’s meant for people who…have higher levels of anxiety and the blanket chills them out a little bit,” says Dr. Seema Khosla, medical director at the North Dakota Center for Sleep and chair of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical and Consumer Sleep Technology committee.
Scientific data is limited but a few studies appear promising: Research published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health found 63% of adults who slept under a 30-pound weighted blanket reported decreases in anxiety; a separate study reported similar results.
If you’d like to try one for yourself, most experts recommend choosing a blanket that’s about 10% of your bodyweight.
Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace are a booming business. Such apps offer many features, including leading you through a series of meditations focused on mindfulness, breath work and exercises meant to induce sleep. Calm even offers Sleep Stories, which are “soothing tales that mix music, sound fx and incredible voice talent to help you drift into dreamland.”
It’s no surprise people are turning to meditation apps to help their slumber. According to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, participants who practiced mindfulness meditation showed improvements in insomnia, fatigue and depression. So, if you can stomach the monthly fee, those apps might be able to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and feel better the next morning.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sleep products could be helpful, but no high-tech gadget or new innovation in bed linens can replace good sleep hygiene, including limiting screen time before bed, steering clear of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol in the evenings and sleeping in a cool, dark room on a comfortable mattress.
“There is no one-size-fits-all product that will help all of us sleep better,” Khosla says. “The benefit of sleep products is that they get us thinking about our sleep and that could make a big difference.”
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Additional reporting by Jodi Helmer.