You spent another day doomscrolling on Twitter, trying to curate the perfect photo dump on Instagram, or just sitting in front of your laptop on the WFH grind. And, now, a full day’s worth of blue light intake has you feeling like the meme of Squidward lying in bed with bloodshot eyes. You can already hear the narrator saying, “Three... hours... later,” as you stress over how tired you’re going to be in the morning. If only your online shopping spree last night had included blue light-blocking glasses, a white noise machine, or any other things to help you sleep.
Bedtime can be bleak, especially living in a generation where many people’s version of counting sheep is watching TikToks fly by until their eyes are sore. But, as you probably know, sleep is pretty important. And, if you’ve been having trouble securing your supply of Zzz’s each night, it might be time to do some soul-searching. While there are loads of potential reasons you might be having trouble falling asleep, there’s also plenty of solutions out there that can perfectly suit your needs — whether it’s a relaxing elixir of essential oils, or a smart bulb to remind you of that internal clock you’ve lost touch with.
Ready to chase your dreams? Here is a list of expert-recommended things to help you sleep all night.
Sara Ivanhoe, M.A., is the director of Yoga USC and an in-house yoga and meditation expert for Glo.com, an online wellness class platform. She teaches a class at the University of Southern California called Sleep.
Jennifer Mundt, PhD, is a sleep psychologist and assistant professor at Northwestern Medicine, where she teaches neurology (sleep medicine), psychiatry, and behavioral sciences. Her behavioral treatments focus on issues like insomnia, nightmares, NREM parasomnias, narcolepsy, and idiopathic hypersomnia.
Why Can’t I Fall Asleep?
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, the most important step to take is assessing the cause. “One of the things that can be so frustrating is feeling like you are following sleep hygiene instructions but they are not helping,” Ivanhoe tells Bustle, referencing consistent sleep-promoting habits like going to bed at the same time every day or keeping phones out of your room.
Dr. Mundt notes that, when treating patients with insomnia, one of the most common issues is actually just going to sleep too early. Dr. Mundt notes that people need to build up a “sleep appetite.” Try to wait until you’re actually sleepy to get in bed, and, of course, consider building a proper bedtime routine if that Sleepy Time tea makes you more wired than tired.
Ivanhoe says that there are some main factors to focus on to improve sleep, such as light, room temperature, daytime routine, and sound. In order to figure out what issues you need to focus on, Ivanhoe suggests keeping a sleep log. Keep track of things like the amount of hours of sleep you get, how many times you wake up in the middle of night, the perceived quality of your sleep, etc., while also noting when you went to sleep, how hot or cold the room is, how noisy it was outside, etc. You can do this with old-fashioned pen and paper, or with the help of a sleep-tracking smart device.
How To Create A Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine that takes into account the issues impeding your shut-eye will, naturally, help you sleep better. For instance, Dr. Mundt notes that if you live in a noisy area, you might invest in a white noise maker to turn on before getting into bed. If you have an issue with light, you might also consider a sleep mask. If you see a high amount of blue light each day, and that’s messing with your sleep-wake cycles, Ivanhoe recommends blue light-blocking glasses or a screen filter. But no amount of products on your nightstand will supersede the need for calming activities before bedtime.
“The most important thing is to set aside time to wind down,” says Dr. Mundt. “This means stopping any productive activities like work or chores at least a half hour before bed, then engaging in an activity that is calming and not stimulating.”
Some calming activities that Dr. Mundt advises include sleep stories, guided meditations, audio books, podcasts, and music. Engaging the senses can also aid in relaxation, as Dr. Mundt suggests cozy sensory elements like weighted blankets, scented oils or lotion, or warm herbal tea. Likewise, Ivanhoe says she likes to take a bath with lavender salts and diffuse lavender in her room. (A number of studies, including one published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2015, support the idea that lavender helps you sleep.)
Ivanhoe also places a special emphasis on mindfulness — not just at bedtime, but throughout the day. “You can’t drive a car at 70 miles an hour and just turn it off,” she explains. “You need to step on the brakes, the car downshifts, it pulls into park and then shuts off.” Likewise, you can’t expect to immediately wind down at bedtime if you’re not dealing with anxiety throughout the day. Ivanhoe points towards different yoga and meditation techniques that can help. She highly recommends Yoga Nidra — a form of yoga specifically for sleep. “For winding down at night,” Ivanhoe says, “I recommend restorative yoga postures like legs up the wall, reclined twist, or reclined goddess.”
Of course, a bedtime routine is nothing if you don’t start it. In order to create consistency, Dr. Mundt recommends setting a reminder to start window down each night. “A prompt from an alarm or from smart bulbs programmed to dim your lights could be a helpful cue.”
How To Fall Back To Sleep
Even if you check off all of the winding-down methods of the perfect bedtime routine, you still might find yourself waking up at the middle of the night — or being faced with inexplicable restlessness leaving you up for hours in bed.
If you find yourself in an emergency sleep situation, unfortunately, there aren’t any cure-all products that Ivanhoe or Dr. Mundt recommend. However, there are some methods to keep in your toolkit for these crises.
For one, Dr. Mundt says if you are unable to fall asleep — or fall back to sleep — the best thing you can do is get out of bed for 20 minutes. “Staying in bed creates unhelpful and negative associations between the bed and wakefulness, frustration, and anxiety,” says Dr. Mundt. Instead, engage in some of the wind-down activities you would during your bedtime routine. Meditation apps can be a good tool to have on hand for these moments.
Ivanhoe also recommends ujjayi breathing, otherwise known as “snoring breathing.” This form of breathing, Ivanhoe says, is actually the way people breathe while sleeping. You can trick your brain back into sleep by engaging in this practice.
It also may help to ease your nerves if you remind yourself that waking up in the middle of the night is perfectly natural. “Sometimes waking up is normal, as you are just going from one cycle to the next,” Ivanhoe says. “Sometimes just telling yourself it is natural to wake for a moment or two can calm the anxiety enough to allow us to roll over, find another comfortable spot, and try sleeping again.”
How To Stay Asleep
Even if you’re falling asleep and waking up consistently clocking eight hours, you might find yourself feeling groggy. If this is the case, it might be time to assess issues arising during your shut-eye.
“There is a difference between sleep quality and sleep quantity,” explains Ivanhoe, adding that one of the most common reasons for low-quality sleep is breathing issues. “Lying on your side or trying a nasal strip can be helpful,” says Ivanhoe. “Some people even try taping their mouth closed to ensure breathing through the nose, but some find this uncomfortable.”
Ivanhoe also notes that temperature can easily impact the quality of our sleep. “If you are sleeping under a very thick blanket, you will wake up hot,” says Ivanhoe. “You throw the covers off your body to cool down, fall back to sleep, then wake up freezing a few hours later and back and forth.” While a thick, heavy blanket might be tempting for its coziness, Ivanhoe says that a “summer weight” duvet could be a game-changer in helping to sleep cool as a cucumber.
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15 Things To Help You Sleep
The Best Products For Noise Control
- Pros: Can help to drown out unwanted noise, or add soothing sounds. Small size makes it convenient for travel.
- Cons: Difficult to adjust in the dark.
Review: Users love the compact size of this noise machine. One reviewer writes that it “has a big punch for something small enough to fit in your hand.”
Dimensions: 2.64 x 2.64 x 2.83 inches
Options: 20 non-looping sounds
- Pros: Offers passive noise blocking as well as noise-masking sounds.
- Cons: Some reviewers report discomfort while sleeping, especially side sleepers. Can only play sounds from Bose’s library.
Review: One reviewer notes a massive improvement in sleep since using these sleep buds, titling their review, “haven’t slept this well in a while.”
Sizing: Adjustable to three sizes (all included).
Battery life: 10 hours
The Best Products For Bedtime Lighting
- Pros: Offers less blue light than the average bulb.
- Cons: Multiple reviewers report that the bulb is too bright for bedtime.
Review: “This bedtime bulb does exactly what it advertises,” writes one reviewer, who adds that the light makes them sleepy while reading in the bedroom.
Power: 6 watts
Compatible with dimmers: Yes
- Pros: Blocks out light and provides compression, which can alleviate headaches.
- Cons: Some reviewers say that the mask doesn’t help that much with migraine relief, which it’s advertised for.
Review: Many reviewers note that the mask is especially soothing when chilled in the freezer before using. One reviewer notes that the mask adds cooling compression to their forehead, temples, and cheeks, “all while not smooshing your eyes.”
Sizing: One size fits all
- Pros: Comes in multiple designs, doesn’t have a yellow tint like many blue light-blocking glasses.
- Cons: Some reviewers didn’t find the glasses to be effective in blocking blue light.
Review: One major perk of these glasses compared to competitors is that they’re not tinted. One user writes that they “don't turn the world yellow.”
Colors: Black, Clear, Matte Black, Leopard, Blue-Purple, Light Black, Clear Purple, Clear Pink, Tortoise, Transparent Color, Transparent Pink.
The Best Products For Bedtime Relaxation
- Pros: Reviewers say it alleviates stress and promote calmness, and doesn’t get too hot.
- Cons: Some users say the beads inside of the blanket have leaked out while washing the blanket and after extended use.
Review: If you’re in need of some soothing comfort in bed, one reviewer says that this blanket “feels like a hug.”
Color: Dark Grey
Weight options: 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 pounds
Material: 100% polyester
- Pros: Choose from a variety of scents to fill your bedroom, multiple soothing light options.
- Cons: Prone to mold if not properly cleaned.
Review: “This is by far the best designed and most powerful diffuser I’ve ever owned,” writes on reviewer.
Colors: Dark, Light
Runtime: 10 hours
- Pros: Natural ingredients like chamomile and lavender.
- Cons: Calming effect can vary.
Review: With a blend of soothing ingredients, one reviewer calls this “a natural sleep aid.”
Ingredients: Chamomile, wild orange leaves, passionflower, lavender, red poppy flowers, natural lavender, and rose flavors.
- Pros: Offers a year’s worth of meditations as well as mindfulness exercises.
- Cons: If you need to be physically guided through meditation, a meditation app or recording might be better.
Review: One reviewer says that the daily practices in this book have become invaluable for “moving throughout the day and contemplating/practicing a more present, beautiful life.”
Length: 232 pages
- Pros: Offers a steady and intentional place for grounding yourself during meditations.
- Cons: Given its function, it’s on the pricier end.
Review: “[My brother] loves it and says it helps him meditate longer due to the posture the pillow supports,” writes one reviewer.
Colors: Blue, Dark Blue, Black, Grey, Green (Various designs)
Sitting mat dimensions: 20x20 inches
Cushion dimensions: 13x13x5 inches
The Best Sleep Trackers
- Pros: Provides metrics beyond hours spent asleep, such as heart and breathing rate during sleep; alarms can be set to not go off during deep sleep phases.
- Cons: Fitbit Premium subscription ($9.99/mo) required for in-depth sleep analysis, some reviewers say that the screen is very bright at night.
Review: Along with effective sleep tracking, one reviewer highlights the Fitbit’s silent alarm feature, which “can be setup to avoid waking you up from a deep sleep.”
Colors: Graphite/Black, Lunar White/Soft Gold, Steel Blue/Platinum
Battery Life: Up to seven days
- Pros: Tracks sleep metrics (heart rate while sleeping, movement while sleeping, etc.) as well as stress levels; compatible with most smartphones.
- Cons: More expensive compared to some of its competitors.
Review: Regarding the fit and feel of this watch, one reviewer notes the comfort of the SAMSUNG Galaxy Watch “even when sleeping.”
Battery Life: Up to 60 hours.
The Best Sleep Breathing Aids
- Pros: Opens nasal passageways for a more restful sleep.
- Cons: May cause discomfort.
Review: When it comes to preventing nasal congestion upon waking up in the morning, one reviewer says, “They really do work.”
Quantity: 90 strips per pack
- Pros: Encourages nose-breathing, which is believed to improve sleep and prevent sleep apnea.
- Cons: Some users report that the tape doesn’t stay in place.
Review: “With this strip, I no longer wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat,” writes one reviewer, who adds that the strips stay on comfortably throughout the night and don’t cause discomfort during removal.
Quantity: 60 strips per pack
The Best Products For Sleep Temperature Control
- Pros: Encourages restful sleep by cooling your bed.
- Cons: Some users report that the mattress topper is thin.
Review: This mattress topper can seriously level up your sleep, as one reviewer describes it as “a whole new bedroom experience.”
Colors: Grey, White
- Pros: Cool, comfortable sleep; bamboo fibers make for soft, breathable texture.
- Cons: Some reviewers have noticed the blanket shrinking in the wash.
Review: If you’re the type who needs a cool room in order to chill before bed, one user puts it simply: “Just get it.”
Dimensions: 91x79 inches
Colors: Grey, Blue, Dark Grey, Purple, Steel Grey, White, Bean Green, Navy Blue, Black & White, Red & Black
Lillehei AS, Halcón LL, Savik K, Reis R. Effect of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene on Self-Reported Sleep Issues: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Jul;21(7):430-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0327. Epub 2015 Jun 2. PMID: 26133206; PMCID: PMC4505755.