Sleep Gadgets So Weird They Just Might Work
Photo: Sound Oasis
How it works: This mask is supposed to help you get into a meditative, sleep-primed state: You gaze upon the blinking blue lines in the eye panels until they fade away or your relaxed brain lets you nod off—whichever comes first.
Why we'd like to try it: We're just as interested in the black void around the glowing lines. We know that making the room as dark as possible signals the pineal gland to start producing melatonin, the body's natural sleep drug. This foam mask looks like it will block out light as well as room-darkening curtains yet won't affect a partner who likes to wake up with the sun. (Bonus: Because the Glo to Sleep mask sits slightly off the face, it may accommodate long eyelashes better than traditional eye masks).
How it works: A chiropractor designed this winged pillow to prevent the neck and back pain that often sends patients into his office. When you're lying on your back, your head rests in the recessed chamber while your neck is supported by the bottom roll. The side panels help your head remain in the correct position when you turn to the left or right.
Why we'd like to try it: The position of your body in bed should be similar in alignment to when you are standing up straight, experts tell us. Fluffy pillows tilt the head too far forward; flat ones may not offer enough neck support. This design claims to be the just-right solution for back sleepers as well as side sleepers (and those who are both in one night).
How it works: The simple rubber bracelet is actually a sophisticated health-monitoring device. It tracks large and small movements to show you when you're awake, dozing lightly or knocked out in deep sleep. With the accompanying app, you can also track how much (or how little) you exercise as well as what you eat and drink.
Why we'd like to try it: We may like to think that we get 7 to 8 hours of quality rest every night, but the Up will let us know that the hour of Facebooking didn't count toward our quota. And research shows that when we track our habits, we're more likely to want to do more-healthful things.
How it works: A blue LED light flashes on the ceiling (the makers claim the beam is too weak to disrupt melatonin levels like the blue light from a laptop can). You're supposed to match your breathing to the light's pulsing rhythm, which gives you something to focus on besides all of the tasks you didn't accomplish during the day. The light gradually slows over 7 to 25 minutes (depending on the cycle you choose), relaxing you—or boring you—to the point that you drift off to sleep.
Why we'd like to try it: Experts are always reminding us to quiet our mind before bedtime so the chattering doesn't keep us up after we turn off the lights. Meditation (or following the breath) has been shown to help, but some of us find our breath leads us to a more stressful place ("Why am I breathing so fast? Is it because I forgot to send that email? Or is it because I'm hot? Did I forget to turn off the oven?"). The Nightwave's silently pulsing blue light could be a beacon of calm for the easily distracted, a visual metronome for rhythm-challenged breathers.
How it works: Made from similar performance fabric as athletic apparel, these soft, breathable sheets wick moisture away from the skin to keep you cool and dry during hot nights (or bad dreams). The company founders, both former basketball coaches, claim that these sheets and pillowcases transfer body heat twice as well as traditional bedding does.
Why we'd like to try it: We aim to keep the bedroom at the recommended temperature of around 68 degrees, or need-a-blanket chilly. But there are nights when our body temperature refuses to stay within the appropriate range, and we just can't get comfortably cool.
Price: $199 for a queen sheet set with pillowcases
Photo: Cambridge Sound Technologies
How it works: Under the cover of "masking sounds," like falling rain or ocean waves, this machine emits a series of low pulses designed to mimic the brainwave patterns of healthy sleepers. The British inventors say the brain will unconsciously follow this pattern and allow itself to be naturally drawn into sleep.
Why we'd like to try it: White-noise machines (or even whirring fans) can muffle disruptive voices, cars, slamming doors, barking dogs, accelerating airplanes and other sounds that can keep us awake or jolt us out of sleep. Many people—including some experts—have told us they swear by them. This device adds an extra layer of distracting, brain-relaxing sound (the pulsing hum), which may help those who need something more to pull them under than machine-generated waves.
Next: The bedtime rituals of the best rested