Everyone you know has had trouble sleeping at one point or another, whether it’s a pervasive issue or not. It’s just something to, unfortunately, be expected in modern society – to the degree where it’s become somewhat normalised to say you can’t get to sleep. That becomes a problem when we don’t try everything we possibly can to try and get those ideal 8-hours in each night, the benefits of which have been extensively documented and researched since what feels like the beginning of time. Sleep is important – I know that, you know that, but what are you doing about it? Most, it seems, are turning towards deciding on the various products and devices out there that are designed – or formulated as – sleep aids.
Do sleep aids work? Not all of them. Some are natural, some are not, and some make use of technology to help you develop and sustain healthier habits. Here are 5 products and devices out right now that fashion themselves as sleep aids – one of which is completely natural and widely regarded as the most efficient, 3 that play cleverly into the still-fresh sector of wellness technology, and 1 newly released ready-to-drink product that’s attempting to make sleep aids a bit more palatable.
Do sleep aids work?
As someone who isn’t qualified to give out medical advice, yes. That was a joke. As with a lot of these things, it really depends on your individual lifestyle, and various health factors such as diet, routine, and mental health. I shouldn’t even need to mention this, but if you aren’t consulting professionals while making the attempt to get better and more quality sleep, and instead are relying on words typed on the internet by people with either questionable qualifications or well-intentioned journalists, then you’re doing it wrong. Triple that sentiment if you’re relying on Instagram influencers.
Although I will say this. The following 5 are some of the best options we have out there right now, and while none should be used as a crutch or seen as a one-stop solution, they can all play a part in a productive sleep routine that’s one very substantial step towards the seemingly infinite health, wellness and performance benefits of better sleep – we’re talking better reproductive health (for both men and women), improved day-to-day function, alertness, and cognition, superior physical performance, and less emotional volatility.
What is melatonin?
If you’re looking to get better sleep, it’s important that you understand what melatonin is and the role it plays in our bodily function. Of course, that means you should Google the word and research it far more extensively than reading my condensed spiel, but I’ll do my best to give you the top-line of what it’s all about.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland, with its primary purpose being to control and maintain your sleep cycle. The production process is generally connected to the amount of light your body is exposed to, so your melatonin levels are at their highest after the sun sets and during the night. They drop in the morning, which helps you wake up. As we age, our body tends to produce less levels of melatonin.
Why do people take melatonin supplements?
Melatonin is not an over-the-counter medication in Australia, but it in is in the US. Walk into any convenience store over in the states and you’ll likely find different expressions of melatonin, including candy. I’ve taken it before to help with jet lag, as many others do, but it can also be used to treat delayed sleep disorder, circadian rhythm disorders, and sleep issues typically observed in shift workers whose sleep patterns are situationally messed up.
There are some alternative versions available in chemists, but the effectiveness varies and I’ve personally not found them useful.
Melatonin is sometimes available either as a synthetic or natural supplement. Stay away from the natural supplement, as it’s much riskier to take. The synthetic version is largely safe for most people. I’ve taken them many times, but I do know that studies have suggested that some people can experience mild heart palpitations as a result. There are also studies out there that suggest that the supplements interfere with diabetic control and should not be taken by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.
Products & devices which can be used as sleep aids
As mentioned above, actual melatonin supplements are available with a doctor’s subscription in Australia. There was a report last year that this could change in the near-future, but for now you’ll need to hit up a GP if you feel like you need some. It’s the most tried-and-tested (and natural) method to help your body get into a more regular sleep routine, but should also be used in conjunction with a – yes, it’s coming – healthy diet and exercise.
Bose Sleepbuds II
Bose rejigged their Sleep App and went back to the drawing board for the second generation of their premium sleepbuds. The design is smaller and better designed to fit into any ear through the night, while playing content specially made for the app. The Bose Sleepbuds II don’t actually stream music or podcasts, but instead keeps things completely true-to-function with a library of over 50 sounds and relaxation content, as well as a personal wake-up alarm that is calibrated to gently rock people into the waking world so they aren’t suddenly jolted out of a deeper level of sleep (something that can easily make you feel groggy in the morning).
No Ugly Sleep
This one’s another product and it’s just been released to grocers across Australia as well as an online store. Osteopath Dr Ann Shivas co-created the ready-to-drink supplement alongside fitness coach Gareth O’Donnell and Auckland University’s Dr Petar Milojev. The 250ml bottles of No Ugly Sleep are have 170mg magnesium per serving, giving you plenty of a fundamental mineral that’s been found to help regulate the body’s natural production of melatonin. Tart cherry should help it go down nicely, while the drink also contains 100% of your daily vitamin D intake, as well as 1000mg of passionflower – known to reduce stress – and other sleep-promoting ingredients like chamomile and lemon balm. At $50 for a 12-pack, it’s a pricey tonic – but hey, if it works, it works, and if it works, it’s worth the cash.
Price: $89 for 24; $50 for 12
Withings Sleep Analyzer
Withings has proven very reliable when it comes to health and sleep-tracking watches like the ScanWatch, but their Sleep Analyzer is a new product for the brand. And it’s possibly the most fascinating, offering a simple mat that can fit under your mattress and act as a home sleep sensor, relaying vital readings and precision metrics to a connected app. Tracking your sleep has become one of the best ways to dig up underlying issues – like possible sleep apnoea, which is notoriously difficult to detect. You can also track total sleep time, quality, snoring, and more.
Apple Pillow App
If you’re an Apple user then one of the best (free) apps you can download is ‘Pillow’. This very user-friendly and design-forward app can connect to an Apple Watch to create a very comprehensive and accurate sleep analytic system that’ll, like the Withings Analyzer, help detect possible sleep issues and coax you into healthy, habit-forming behaviours. Or you can download Calm – an app where Matthew McConaughey reads you bedtime stories.