I used to really suck at sleeping, y'all. Although I only had occasional trouble falling asleep, for years, I would wake up around 4 a.m. with racing, panicky thoughts. I'm sure this is largely due to my pretty next-level anxiety disorder, which has sent me to the hospital with perceived—but totally not at all real—heart attacks not once, not twice, but three times this year. (Thanks for putting up with me, Mt. Sinai!). But in addition to being garden-variety crazy, I had also cultivated a series of absolutely crap sleep habits, and I wasn't doing anything to help myself sleep better.
Since my anxiety disorder isn't going anywhere anytime soon, I really only had two options: Start making getting a good night's sleep a priority or get used to being a zonked-out zombie. And since it turns out that regular lack of sleep can really mess up your body, I've been attempting to quit my bad sleep habits and start using some products that help me both fall asleep and then stay the eff asleep.
And damned if it isn't working—my ability to get a full seven-to-eight hours has increased significantly since I've started taking sleep more seriously. Check out some of the stuff that's actually been working for me:
I am a serious goddamn princess about my bed. I'd heard that hard mattresses are supposed to be good for your back my whole life, so I used to own one, but the truth is that I absolutely hate sleeping on a hard mattress, and in the end, the mattress you can sleep on is the mattress that's good for you, the experts say.
But it's not like I wanted a featherbed, either—I'm not looking for a super-soft marshmallow to slowly sink into, never to reemerge, like Artax in the Swamp of Sadness. I still want to be able to do normal stuff in my bed, like "roll over" and "have sex."
Enter Casper. Like everybody else, I've been hearing about this company nonstop for the past year or two and didn't necessarily believe the hype, although I did enjoy their intricate subway ads. However, I can now attest that Casper really is the T. They make far and away the best mattress I've ever had; much like my imaginary boyfriend, it's responsive, supportive, and cool. I've been sleeping on one of these bad boys for a couple of months now, and although they said I had 100 days to return it, if they want it back, they'll have to pry this thing from beneath my blissfully unconscious body.
I used to think it was fairly normal to wake up in the middle of a winter night with a Sahara-dry parched throat, chug an entire glass of water, and spend the next 20 minutes silently willing myself back to sleep. It turns out that’s not actually the case, and a decent humidifier can go a long way to fixing this problem.
I’ve gone through a few, but Crane’s cool mist humidifier has been the most effective by a damn sight. It’s not the prettiest humidifier on the market—it frankly looks kind of weird, like an enormous plastic teardrop—but it works so much better than any of the delicate, pretty ones I tried, so I think it's worth it. Oh, and spring for the cleaning kit too—you really need to wash out these things about once a week or they get pretty gross.
OK, so this is kind of extra, but I have a Philips Somneo sunrise light, and it's freaking amazing. This thing puts you to bed and wakes you up, and yes, you feel like a huge nerd going to bed next to a fake sunset, but the truth is that having a bedtime ritual really is relaxing and helps prep you for a solid night's sleep, and I love it. I also cannot tell you how pleasant it is to be woken up gradually, through incrementally increasing light, rather than an obnoxious alarm on my phone.($199.95; amazon.com)
Not to be confused with THC, CBD oil doesn't get you high, but I like it anyway. I like to drop some of the Charlotte's Web mint chocolate oil into a mint leaf tea, and it's off to bed. There's some good evidence to suggest that the sleep-promoting effects of CBD oil are very real, and this stuff is definitely not hurting my anxiety, either.(from $39.99; cwhemp.com)
About half an hour before bed, I like to turn on a diffuser scented with 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil. If you're asking yourself, "But aren't essential oils kind of bullsh*t?" the answer is, "I used to think that too! But like most things in life, the answer is fairly complicated: Lavender oil has actually been studied way more than you might have thought, and there's some really strong evidence to suggest that it can help you sleep and really chill you out."
Depressingly, this Vitruvi porcelain diffuser is probably the most elegant thing about my apartment—they even sell this thing at Anthropologie, that's how good it looks. It definitely makes me look like I have better design taste than I do, and the company's lavender oil is certified organic and smells beautiful, so I recommend that too.($119 + $14.90; Vitruvi)
I am not normally someone who would suggest dropping $200 on bed sheets; the sheets I used to use were from Sam's Club because I love a good deal, and they felt soft enough to my untrained skin. But holy sh*t, Sheex sheets are unbelievably comfortable.
The company claims that their luxury copper sheet sets are made with copper ions that are both good for your skin and keep bacteria at bay, which may be true, I don't know, but I can tell you for sure that they're incredibly soft, they stay cool in the night, and since I've been using them, I haven't woken up in a pool of sweat once, which has not always been the case in my life. I know, how sexy is that? It's amazing I'm single.($209.99; sheex.com)
I live in an apartment building with fairly thin walls and neighbors who keep some extremely curious hours, so a white noise machine of some sort is a must. I used to own a cheap one I picked up at Target, and it kind of did the job, but then I got Nightingale, and it works a hell of a lot better.
It's like a super-smart white noise machine that allegedly tailors itself to your room's acoustics, and I can attest that it definitely masks noises better than my last one did. Plus, it plugs into the wall and provides two pass-through plugs, which means it doesn't take up any space on your nightstand or in your outlet, which is a great design. According to Amazon reviews, connectivity is an issue for a lot of folks, but so far, I haven't experienced any problems—fingers crossed!($149.00; meetnightingale.com)
OK, technically, Eminence Organics strawberry rhubarb mask isn't a "sleep mask," but if you can sleep in it and it's a mask, I think it qualifies. Normally, however, I wouldn't put a bunch of stuff on my face that isn't designed to be there for eight hours, but since Eminence takes their organics very seriously, and this product is paraben/phthalate/SLS/propylene glycol-free, I figure that this stuff will work.
Plus, it smells amazing, and the hyaluronic acid is incredibly hydrating, so I don't wake up in the night fumbling for more face cream because my skin feels desiccated as a mummy's. Oh, and if you want the most obvious pro tip of all time: Throw a towel over your pillow on nights you use this, lest you get face mask smooshed all over your sheets.