Over recent years, more people are turning to sleep aids to get their eight hours. So much so that, in the UK, there are over one thousand searches for ‘sleeping aids’ a month. From sleeping apps to wake-up clocks, it can be hard to figure out which gadget would work best for you.
Just like apps and gadgets, sleep issues come in all kinds of variations too.
A recent study by hybrid mattress brand OTTY has looked into the increasing sleeping problems across the UK throughout lockdown, comparing data from Google trends on January 2019 compared to January 2021, where searches for sleep anxiety rose by 317%.
The media is currently saturated with mental health, with the newest issue being ‘post-pandemic stress disorder’. It has been predicted by experts that there will be a rise in post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms as a result of the collective trauma faced from COVID-19 and its impact on society.
Back in June 2020, 50% of British adults reported that their sleep pattern had been disrupted more than usual during the coronavirus outbreak. Comparing the year-on-year Google trends from 2019 to 2020 lockdown peak, here are the top five sleep issues and their percentage increase:
- Sleeping too much – 571%
- Sleepwalking – 316%
- Hypersomnia – 226%
- Narcolepsy – 205%
- Back pain at night – 194%
Research has found that compared to polysomnography tests, the tests experts use to diagnose sleep disorders, sleep trackers, are only accurate 78% of the time when identifying sleep versus wakefulness.
Tracking devices can be useful for helping you recognise patterns in your sleep habits, which can help you spot sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. They can help identify what can disrupt your quality of sleep, for example, drinking coffee five hours before bed.
There is a need for this sleep technology to help bring awareness about sleep hygiene and sleep habits, however, we would recommend people take their results from the sleep technology lightly – movement is not the best parameter to use to evaluate the quality of sleep and isn’t a true reflection.
Things you need in your room to help you sleep better
Research shows that your bedroom’s environment can impact your sleep, from going to bed to waking up in the morning. You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of your bedroom sleep environment. There are four main factors that can impact your sleeping environment:
To highlight the importance of your bedroom environment, sleep experts at OTTY have compiled a list of bedroom accessories you can add to your room that could improve your sleep, from weighted blankets to wake up lights. Here’s your guide to a good night’s rest:
Your sense of smell can play a significant part in how you fall asleep. Lavender oils are renowned for their relaxing effects. It has been found to increase slow-wave sleep, essential for slowing your heart rate and increasing muscle relaxation – thus promoting sleep.
However, you should avoid citrus smelling essential oils like orange and lemon. These citrus scents may smell fresh, but their uplifting properties have been proven to keep you awake rather than falling asleep. Another scent to avoid is peppermint, as this oil has been proven to uplift and brighten your senses and actually prevent fatigue, so it could keep you up at night.
Essential oil diffuser
An essential oil diffuser can help soothe and relieve dry throat symptoms caused by dust and arid environments. Not only will an essential oil diffuser reduce that dry throat feeling, but it can also help scent your bedroom with night time oils, such as lavender.
Air purifier fan
A fan is an excellent way to keep you cool at night, but the whirring noise of the fan may keep you awake when it comes to bedtime. Every night you come to the debate of: ‘Do I switch the noisy fan off so I can fall asleep to silence, but sleep in an uncomfortably warm room?’ Stop this endless cycle and invest in an air purifier fan. The Dyson Pure Cool tower fan is a bladeless high-tech device that circulates cool air around the room while removing 99.97% of allergens and pollutants.
White noise sound machine
If you live in a bustling city, the sounds of your surroundings may not be the perfect bedtime lullaby. One of the simplest and most relaxing ways to get a good night’s sleep is by drowning out the city with a white noise machine by your bed. The neutral non-repeating sound from white noise will help put your body in a state of relaxation.
Guided meditation app
If your mind is racing with thoughts, a guided meditation app such as Calm or Headspace is what you need. It allows you to relax and let go of the thoughts running through your mind. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps slow down your breathing rate and lower your heart rate – the recipe for a restful sleep.
Here are a couple of sleep apps for Android and Apple users, which are the highest-rated apps:
Sleep Cycle – User rating: 5/5 – Sleep Cycle works by using specialist patented technology, which tracks and evaluates your sleep patterns by using sound or vibration analysis. Once all this is compiled, the data is available to you in the shape of graphs and reports, providing you with a clear picture of your sleep cycles. The app uses this data to determine the optimal time for you to wake up by calculating when you’re in a light sleep phase, meaning that you’re less sleepy when it comes to rise and shine.
Sleep Genius – User rating: 4/5 – Using neurosensory algorithms, similar to those NASA uses for astronauts, Sleep Genius works by creating sounds to help your brain through the complete sleep cycle. By doing this, your mind becomes prepared for sleep and allows you to snooze soundly until you’re woken at your body’s optimal time.
As the days are getting longer, which means the sun is rising earlier and setting later, there’s nothing worse than light peeking through your curtains, keeping you up at night or waking you up earlier than your morning alarm. Bright light keeps you alert, it is an external cue that we have to signal our circadian rhythm. Invest in some blackout curtains or blinds – they are made to block out any sunlight.
While your average blanket is pretty good for keeping you warm, you may still be tossing and turning at night. Weighted blankets have been proven to help create a more restful sleep for their users – especially for those who suffer from anxiety. Using ‘pressure therapy’ a weighted blanket uses a calm-inducing amount of pressure on your entire body, providing you with a similar feeling to being hugged. The pressure calms you by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers your heart rate when you’re stressed. A lower heart rate leads to the overall feeling of calmness that the blanket provides.
Before investing in a weighted blanket we would suggest you take some time in researching the best one for you as the right size and weight of a weighted blanket depend on the person’s needs.
There’s nothing worse than the sound of a harsh ringing alarm when you wake up in the morning. Sometimes the time you set your alarm may be the worst time to wake up based on the way you have slept that night.
Wake-up lights such as Lumie are perfect for those who find it difficult to wake up in the morning by signalling our circadian rhythm. You can create your own personal sunrise, a gradually brightening light that gently rouses you from sleep so that you feel naturally wide awake when your alarm goes off.
Your bedroom sleep environment is the route to a good night’s sleep. Sleep is a vital component of every person’s overall health and well-being, it enables the body to repair and recharge for another day. Most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less.