Top 5 Sleep Solutions
Insomnia is a worldwide health issue. From car and job accidents to health issues like heart disease and learning deficits, lack of sleep is increasingly seen as much more than just a nuisance that makes us grouchy and tired. This article offers five of the most effective and interesting sleep aids that I have come across in my own search for help falling asleep. As a true-blue insomniac, I value sleep gadgets and supplements like the ones on this list. I hope you find something here to help you with your own quest for a good night's sleep.
5. An Essential Oil Diffuser
A diffuser heats essential oils and releases a soothing stream of scented mist into the air. One of my favorite rooms has a diffuser in the corner; the atmosphere is dark and quiet. As a way to soothe your brain and induce sleep, a high-quality essential oil diffuser is both a scientifically supported health aid and a cool little addition to your room.
Several essential oils have been shown to have an effect on emotion and state of mind, and I will discuss two of them here: lavender and vetiver. Lavender has been shown to have legitimate sleep-inducting properties. In an often-cited study by the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, subjects with insomnia were exposed to lavender scent before bedtime. Especially among those with milder insomnia, the introduction of lavender showed a significant positive effect on falling asleep. One effective way to deliver scented oils like lavender is a diffuser, which sends a continuous stream of scent into the air while you sleep.
Another essential oil that has shown promise for fighting insomnia is vetiver, an oil distilled from the roots of Chrysopogon zizanioides, a species of perennial bunchgrass related to both lemongrass and palmarosa. Vetiver essential oil has an earthy smell and is quite soothing when combined with other oils. A fascinating article in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology found that not only was vetiver an effective oil for mental states, the most effective method of delivery was through inhalation:
"As shown in the results, significant changes in EEG activity were seen following vetiver EO inhalation... This suggests that inhalation is probably the most effective route of EO administration. Previously, the inhalation has been consistently found to deliver EO to various organs including the brain and produce anxiolytic-like effect."
Both lavender and vetiver have clinically proven effects on sleep and mental states. If you're battling insomnia, one or both of these oils would be ideal essential choice for your nighttime diffuser routine.
4. A High-Quality Body Pillow
You will most often find body pillows being marketed to women for help sleeping during pregnancy, but I'm a male and I love my body pillow simply for how it helps me sleep. It's one of the better ones -- a Snuggle-pedic ultra-luxury bamboo number -- but it has almost cured my ittle snoring problem and also lets me sleep through the night .
One of the main benefits of a quality body pillow is the way it helps you stay on your side when you sleep. Studies have supported the idea that back-sleeping leads to a number of undesirable conditions, including sleep apnea and circulation issues. For example, research by Steven Y. Park, M.D., author of Sleep, Interrupted, and clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology at New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY, supports the idea that there is a direct link between sleep position and health, suggesting that everything from fatigue and headaches to heartburn and back pain can be a direct consequence of sleeping on your back.
And for what it's worth, it has also been found that sleeping on your right side has a negative effect on your circulation. So if you, like me, suffer from occasional heartburn, put down the antacids and think about what position you take when you sleep. I sleep regularly with a high-quality body pillow, and I put it on this list because it keeps me from sleeping on my back. (Plus they're great to curl up with and remind me of a big stuffed animal).
3. The Sunrise Alarm Clock
I put this cool alarm clock on the list even though it's not technically an aid to falling asleep. I think it counts, though, because establishing a healthy sleep rhythm includes waking up refreshed. It just makes sense to do what you can to make both falling asleep and waking up part of a natural, rejuvenating process.
But really what I like about this clock is how cool it is. It combines the anti-blue-light feature of the Drift bulb (below), with a perfectly timed sunrise feature. In other words, the Wake Up sunrise alarm clock brings the sunrise right into your room, times to begin whenever you want it to. I don't know about you, but the idea of being Master of The Sunrise is kind of awesome.
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Features of the Philips Wake Up Light include:
Gradual Brightness Increase. This is a great idea because the light comes up gradually, and brings light into your room in the most natural way possible. You won't get jarred out of bed by a sudden blast of light or noise. Even though it may still be dark outside, for you the sun is gently rising in your room.
Sunshine Light Spectrum. The light of the Wake Up sunrise clock is calibrated to exactly mimic the spectrum of a sunrise. So when the light comes on, it feels more naturally like sunlight. Since we have been designed by the ages to wake up with the sun, there's a better chance that you came awake without feeling like it's too soon. One of the great benefits of this clock is that it just might get you to work or school a little more on time.
2. The Drift Light
My trouble falling asleep has been partly due to trouble with light. I'm often on my computer after nightfall, and sometimes there's some TV that I just have to watch into the night. The problem is that these light sources are mostly in the blue light spectrum, which is a strong component in sunlight as well. That means that we're basically looking into bright sunlight right up until we fall asleep -- not the way that nature intended it! Since we have evolved over millions of years to cue our sleeping and waking to the sun, watching TV and looking at computer screens is basically the last thing any of us should be doing before bed.
To fix that situation, the Drift light bulb not only produces light devoid of the sunshine spectrum, it also fades to black at the same speed as a sunset. Think of it as the perfect companion to the Wake Up sunrise clock (above). Even if you're up late watching TV or working on the computer, you can still enjoy a soothing bedtime sunset whenever you're ready to sleep. I have found that even after a couple of hours on the computer or watching late-night TV, I'm ready and able to sleep when the blue part of the spectrum is eliminated from whatever I'm looking at. The Drift light uses our own physiology to help regulate a natural sleep regimen.
1. The Marpac White Noise Machine
Of all the insomnia solutions on this list, the white noise machine is the one that has made the most difference in my own quest to fall asleep. This cool little machine is really just a small electric fan inside a cleverly designed plastic housing. The fan blows air through little holes that can be adjusted by rotating the base an inch or two, so you can adjust the sound to your liking. The whole thing could not be simpler, more effective, or more durable. I have had my Marpac for almost five years, and at this point I actually wonder how I ever slept without it.
Benefits of a quality Marpac white noise machine all center around the fact that it drowns out room, house, and neighborhood noise. The ambient sound of the fan is soothing and completely "blank," which for me is important since I tend to focus on little noises when I'm trying to get to sleep. If there's a cricket within a hundred yards, I'll lie there and listen to it chirp for hours, but with my white noise machine on the job, I won't hear a thing. It even zeroes out the sound of my partner's gentle (and not so gentle) snoring. It has a lot of cover-up power -- when the kid across the street got a beater car and used to rev it up in the late evening, I didn't hear a thing thanks to my little white noise buddy. I also didn't have to get up, go out on the front porch, and offer to shove his carbureter where the sun don't shine.
So yes,I love my white noise machine, and that's why it's number 1 one my list.
Honorable Mention: Melatonin
The rhythm of sleeping and waking is influenced by outside factors like sunrise, sunset, sound, and feeling. But there are physiological parts of the process that depend entirely on brain chemistry and other non-environmental cues. One of the most important sleep hormones is melatonin, which is produced by the brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin is an interesting part of our brain chemistry – it “only comes out at night,” meaning it’s triggered by darkness.
In the human brain, light is received by the eye’s retina, which stimulates a nerve pathway from the eye to part of the brain called the hypothalamus. That stimulation sets of a number of reactions, many of them related to sleeping and waking.
Melatonin is one of those substances and reactions that are triggered by light. When the sun goes down, melatonin goes up, which has the effect of making you less alert and even drowsy. So in effect, melatonin is your brain’s built-in sleeping pill, and you get your daily does right about 9PM, when the sun is down. Melatonin stays in your system for about 12 hours, when it tapers off and you can be brought into alertness by other hormones.
Melatonin in a capsule is readily available at almost any drug store. It’s the only human hormone available without a prescription. Since it’s not classified as a drug, you can buy it off the shelf. The only catch is that dosage and potency may not be regulated, and you may wind up with too much or too little. Proceed with caution! You should also take care not to take a melatonin supplement at the wrong time of day, since that will confuse your body’s inner clock and leave you in a potentially dangerous situation.
Although there are concerns about dosing and quality control, there a=have been no reported cases of toxicity from too much melatonin. It appears to be a safe, if unregulated, supplement for getting to sleep.
I Hope You Find Your Dreams!
George T. Lewith, M.A. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. "A Single-Blinded, Randomized Pilot Study Evaluating the Aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a Treatment for Mild Insomnia," Volume: 11 Issue 4: August 30, 2005.
Cheaha D., Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacololgy "Modification of sleep-waking and electroencephalogram induced by vetiver essential oil inhalation." 2016 Jan-Feb; 5(1): 72–78.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 06, 2017:
I am no stranger to sleep. I love it. I can attest that the body pillow and melatonin are great fixes. Just stay away from the Ambien. I've shopped in my sleep on Ambien!?! Didn't know it until items started showing up at my door.
Kyriaki Chatzi on February 28, 2017:
I've had my fair share of rough nights.
To be honest, though, I've resorted to melatonin supplements.
I wasn't even aware of the other options. Food for thought, I guess.
Thanks for sharing!
email@example.com on February 17, 2017:
I love the look of the body pillow. Would give great comfort to someone who has lost a partner. No big empty bed. However I have never had trouble sleeping. If I wake up in the middle of the night occasionally, its a bonus. What a lovely time the early hours of the morning is. So quiet and peaceful and everything dark outside. Time for a glass of milk and a book by one of my favorite authors.
GreenMind Guides (author) from USA on February 14, 2017:
Hey great thanks for the positive feedback!
Kevin W from Texas on February 14, 2017:
This was a very interesting read greenmind, as I have suffered with insomnia for many years since my military days and I've tried many different things. There are a couple of things on this list haven't actually tried, so Ill have to check them out. Voted up on your hub.