What makes a good night's sleep? Sometimes no more than being so tired your muscles feel like a slow roasted brisket, and your bones are aching harder than Grandma's osteoarthritic back, and all you want to do is flop harder than LeBron James in the playoffs. On any bed, on any pillow, and with any sheets. Even a flattish spot on the ground would be fine.
Most times, though, you at least need a suitable mattress for a good night's sleep. One you haven't had since junior high like mine was up until a couple months ago. Equally important: a good pillow. One tailored to your preferred sleeping position on your back, stomach, or side.
Next come the sheets and, I mean, my goal is to show you interesting things here so I'm not going to get into thread count and boring white bedding, but I do know what's up with one standout sheet that uses NASA technology to help control your body temp while you snooze.
And then there's the sleep technology. Which you might argue isn't "essential" to a good night's sleep, but I'd counter that it could be if you normally have crappy sleeps and then find a piece of miraculous technology that fixes you up better than Ambien and Xanax. Like, say, a CPAP machine for people with sleep apnea.
Anyway, here's my version of The Sleep Guide, and about a dozen suggestions of products that might help you get a good night's sleep.
Note: Sleep essential prices are listed as they were at printing. Prices are subject to change.
Alaska Bear Silk Pillowcases
Cue the Alaska Bear-y White because these silk pillowcases have romance written all over their 600 thread count. Bonus: The 100% mulberry silk covers are just as hypoallergenic and breathable for sleepy time as they are sensuously smooth for sexy time.
According to Alaska Bear, silk pillowcases are dermatologist-recommended since they're a natural, organic fiber, girlfriend-recommended because they help prevent wrinkles, dry skin, and frizzy hair.
Slumber Cloud Cooling Bedding
Based on heat-absorbing / heat-releasing technology originally engineered for NASA astronauts, Slumber Cloud bedding includes a complete line of nighttime linens and accessories designed to give you a chill (or toasty) night's sleep.
For example, the 350-thread-count Stratus sheet set has a tactile resemblance to flannel, but nowhere near that heavy. They're a 50/50 blend of cotton and Slumber Cloud's NASA fabric, Outlast viscose. Outlast is designed to absorb heat when your body temperature jacks up, store it in its fibers, and then release the heat back to you when it falls back down.
The Nacreous Mattress Pad uses a double layer of Outlast as its top cover and coated lining fabric to enhance its heat management abilities. It adds about an inch of pillowy thickness to your existing mattress, and is hypoallergenic and machine-washable.
Slumber Cloud also carries temperature-controlled pillows, pillow covers, duvets, and bedding bundles that combine some or all of the above into a cool, snooze-perfect set.
Mail-Order, Vacuum-Packed Mattress
Lower-cost mattresses shipped to your door in a box light and compact enough for two, maybe even one, person to drag upstairs to the bedroom became a thing a couple years ago. Now you have over a dozen choices of which mattress by mail you wish to order. Most of them are shipped vacuum-packed flat in a piece of heavy plastic, and then rolled up to slip into a rectangular box.
To unpack the mattress, you cut off the end of the plastic and...psh!...watch the compressed slumber box underneath begin to re-inflate. As the owner of one of these mattresses, I will admit this process is pretty gratifying.
Here we have two examples, the eve Mattress on the left, and the Casper mattress on the right. Both are made of high-density memory foam and promise to deliver nights of sleep as peaceful and easy as their shipment and setup. And if you disagree, both also offer 100-night risk-free trials, after which you can call the company to come haul the mattress away again.
As far as I know, you don't have to re-vacuum-pack and roll it up to make the return.
Celliant Sleep Boomerang Memory Foam Pillow
One time I threw a boomerang and it came back and sliced me in the neck. So I'm glad to see this Boomerang Memory Foam Pillow is here to cradle and support and eliminate pain from my neck, and maybe make some amends for its fellow countryman's being a giant a-hole.
Celliant Sleep's Boomerang stuffs its memory foam guts inside a curvy, 3-headed design so it will look more like a fidget spinner, and therefore sell better.
They did it so you'll be able to find a "comfort zone" on the pillow regardless of what position you choose to sleep in. Reviewers report best-night-sleep levels of enthusiasm on their stomachs, sides, and backs.
ChiliPad - Cooling & Heating Mattress Pad
This is a mattress cover that can cool or heat his and her (or his and his or her and her) respective halves of the bed. Do I really need to say any more? A ChiliPad will cost you dearly in dollars, but might save you exponentially more in discomfort, complaints, arguments, and nights on the couch.
I thought maybe SleepPhones blocked out the sounds of snoring and garbage trucks and sirens and stupid F'ing songbirds with some sort of industrial acoustic insulation woven inside their fleece headband, but the self-described "pajamas for your ears" are actually a set of headphones. According to their makers, the softest, most pleasant headphones you'll ever wear, and the ultimate accessory for listening to music, TV, or white noises that do assist in blocking out sounds of the above nuisances in bed.
SleepPhones are lined with thin, removable speakers whose wire plugs into any device with a 3.5mm jack. Unlike regular headphones and earbuds, their fitted headband design makes them comfortable to wear all night, as well as prevents them from falling away from your ears, wrapping around your neck, and strangling you as you turn over.
Philips Sunrise Simulation Alarm Clock
You still might punch Philips' Wake-up Light to East Jesus when it begins its simulation of the sunrise T-minus-30 to get up time each morning, but maybe the gradual brightening of your lair will remove some of the typical rage you'll feel as you do it.
When set, the Wake-up Light begins to glow 30 minutes before your designated alarm time, and then increases in brightness until you're fully awash in "natural" yellow sunlight. Philips (and I guess science-y studies) believe this crescendo process stimulates the body to wake up comfortably and almost as if by choice. (However, if you have a rebellious body, the alarm clock also emits a gentle beep once the light hits full force.)
Eight Sleep Tracker & Bed Warmer
Imagine if your mattress--your mattress, the one you currently own and love--could warm you up nice & toasty this winter, tell you exactly how well you're sleeping each night, wake you up gently every morning, and even start brewing your coffee as soon as your feet hit the floor. If that reverie loos like one you'd like to see IRL, check out this smart mattress cover with integrated sleep tracker and bed warmer from Eight Sleep.
The Eight Sleep smart cover slips and secures over almost any type of mattress, including memory foam and latex, innerspring, air, and those with adjustable bases. In use it pairs with an iPhone or Android app to: track your sleep patterns; warm your bed; collaborate with smart home gadgets, such as thermostats and coffee makers; wake you up with an integrated smart alarm; and play white noise to help you fall and stay asleep.
Sleep Yoga Posture Pillows
To me, yoga at its finest means Savasana. Corpse pose. Lie there in a hot room on a cold day and think of nothing but your deep inhale [belly rise] and deep exhale [belly fall]. With maybe a thought or two spared for the Chicago-style deep dish you're going to devour from the pizza place next door to the yoga studio after class is over.
Sleep Yoga Posture Pillows dig Savasanas too. But rather than dreaming of thick crust and an inch of cheese, they let their meditative breaths lead them to a concept for bringing the benefits of yoga to the bedroom, and to our nightly checkout from consciousness. Sleep Yoga Posture Pillows are designed to help you achieve benefits similar to yoga - improved posture, freer breathing, and increased oxygen flow - while you sleep.
Sleep Yoga pillows come in a few different shapes and sizes, each suitable for different styles of sleeping, sleep preferences, and body types.
NodPod Weighted Sleep Therapy Mask
The NodPod, a weighted sleep therapy mask, touts benefits similar to the Magic Weighted Blanket, but over the smaller, confined areas of your head and neck. (And with a blackout effect that won't also suffocate you like the blanket's would.) According to NodPod, "When gentle pressure is applied to the body it has a profound calming effect." They call it Deep Pressure Touch therapy.
The NodPod mask is weighted with scent-free microbeads that apply gentle pressure to the eyes, forehead, or neck in an effort to reduce stress and anxiety and, when you need some shuteye, promote a deeper and more restful sleep. Some also find relief from headaches and eye strain through NodPod use.
Hibermate Sleeping Earmuffs
More than just a sleeping mask for your eyes, Hibermate's sleeping muffs also block out noise. And though I agree that the thought of rolling around on earmuffs as I sleep is...unappealing...Hibermate swears their mask's removable ear cups are "really soft and squishy", and thereby will be moldable and pleasing to the face.
The design also incorporates rails so the cups can slide along straps and out of the way in the night if one or both do prove to be bothersome.
NutroVape Inhalable Sleep Aid
You can vape mind-altering herbs, essential oils, and fruity waxes into the evening, but when bedtime hits...and insomnia follows...NutroVape will let you inhale sleep. The self-described "delivery system" stores a cartridge of liquified over-the-counter sleep and relaxation supplements in the base of vape pen. When you inhale, NutroVape atomizes the liquid and releases it as a vapor of slumber. The point, besides capitalizing on the vaping trend, is to produce far faster results than pills and drinks because the inhalation method can bypass your digestive system--there's no need to break down, process, or separate the goods from the filler.
Tart Cherry Juice
Listen, my mama swears by this stuff. Not so much if you have trouble falling asleep in the first place, but if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, and then struggle to fall back asleep, a few ounces of tart cherry juice sometime in the afternoon before bed could solve your problem. Why?
Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. And cherry juice is a highly concentrated dose of a pile of cherries, so there you go. And despite the "tart" in its name, tart cherry juice tastes pretty darn good - a helluva lot better than a melatonin pill anyway.
SleepCompanion Sleep Enhancer & Monitor
Holi's SleepCompanion has combined the principles behind a sunrise alarm clock with the skills of a sleep tracker in hopes of producing a Super Servant of the Snooze whose whole is wholly greater than the sum of its parts.
In appearance, the SleepCompanion is a light bulb. It replaces any existing bulb in your bedroom, and then connects to any iOS 8+ or Android 4.3 phone/tablet via Bluetooth Smart. Embedded sensors in the bulb enable it to adjust its lighting levels based on the time of day, combining different types of LEDs to influence your body's melatonin (sleep hormone) levels.
According to Holi, there is a scientifically proven correlation between lighting wavelengths and the body's secretion of melatonin. So when it's time to sleep, the SleepCompanion emits a reddish light, a color free of melatonin-inhibiting wavelengths. At wake-up time, precisely-defined blue wavelengths of light act to decrease the level of melatonin, and pull you back to reality smoothly. For those who have trouble falling asleep, the bulb and its accompanying app can also play a light-guided relaxation program.
SleepCompanion sensors also take environmental readings throughout the day. They track bedroom temperature, noise, and brightness levels, and can pair if desired with several other environmental sensors and wearable tech devices to help you further understand your sleep patterns and what might be affecting them.