It seems we are learning more and more everyday about how important sleep is to overall health and wellbeing — and about the steep costs of sleep deprivation. For those of us who struggle to hit the 8-hours-every-night blissful ideal [read: every parent, everywhere, for all of time and forever], it can be a bit disconcerting.
That sleep has made its way into the wellness revolution (is that a thing?) is GREAT. It’s about damn time we stop heroizing those who eschew sleep and stop disparaging those who prioritize it. Sleep IS important, and we should indeed recognize that. Just as sleep deserves our attention (both at the individual and collective level), so do we deserve it.
Not surprisingly, though, it’s not as easy as all that. Not everyone has easy access to sleep, for starters. Sometimes the job gets in the way — besides parents (and single parents — ya’ll are HEROES in my mind… 💪), there’s also shift workers, night workers, and certain professions (cough — medicine) that seem to treat sleep like it’s an optional luxury. Many Americans contend with frank sleep disorders. And many don’t, but still struggle to sleep. Screens keep us up. Life keeps us up. Life wakes us up… then keeps us up some more.
The interesting thing is, as awesome as it is that our society is starting to pay homage to sleep, in doing so we may be inadvertently teeing ourselves up for even greater disappointment/frustration. History and anthropology teach us that our current model of sleep (consolidated, overnight, in separate rooms in a house, etc.) is largely a product of the Industrial Revolution. Evolutionarily, our bodies weren’t necessarily primed for the sort of heavenly sleep we see all over the interweb.
I’m sure many of you know the feeling: stress that you’re not sleeping well/falling asleep/falling back asleep keeps you from sleeping.
The truth is, there’s no historical norm for healthy sleep. Everyone’s different; and it’s entirely conceivable that our current ideals — which some say are “a myth” — simply don’t align with reality.
But… sleeping is so nice! I want it!!
And while there’s a lot of *junk out there that preys on our collective desperation to achieve sleep, there are also some truly wonderful things that really do make the experience of sleeping — however awesome or crappy it is for you — more enjoyable, relaxing, and comfortable.
Here are all the things we love for sleeping — with no strings attached and no pressure to perform. Everything here is screen-free, low-tech, and low-stress. Sweet dreams, friends!
Heads-up: this one is for YOU, parents. If you’re looking for sleep gear for your babe, head over to the sleep registry guide to see what’s what… because whatever helps your kiddos sleep by definition also helps you sleep. #getwhatyouneed
Our Favorite Bedtime Essentials
Sleep Mask ~$15
This affordable silk sleep mask has been SUCH a life-saver for me — it blocks out everything and feels so nice and soothing.
Spray your pillow and sheets with this heavenly blend of calming lavender and eucalyptus before you go to bed.
Luna Weighted Blanket ~$varies
I’m obsessed with my weighted blanket — the pressure really helps me fall asleep, and it’s become a soothing sleep signal for me. My husband calls it The Iron Curtain 😂. (*I run hot at night, and I love that Luna blankets also come in bamboo, which is cooling.)
Weighted Blankets for Kids and Babies:
For kids and toddlers 30+ lbs. — this 4-lb weighted blanket features dual fabrics, cozy micro-fleece on one side, and Minky cooling material on the other. It’s anxiety-reducing and calming for daytime use, too.
A snuggly, lightly-weighted swaddle for babies 0-6 months. Dreamland’s patented CoverCalm Technology is designed to evenly distribute weight over baby’s body. The gentle pressure basically exacerbates the pre-existing benefits of a swaddle, naturally reducing stress and increasing relaxation. It can be worn with both arms in, one arm in, or both arms out.
This flexible, dimmable reading light can sit on any ledge — it’s perfect for a heavy headboard or a low-profile nightstand. My spouse and I each have one on our respective sides of the bed so we can read without having to have a brighter light on (or wake each other up).
Sleepytime Tea ~$varies
I’ve tried all kinds of nighttime tea blends and I always come back to this delicious classic. (The spin-offs are also pretty darn good, too — especially the Sleepytime Detox blend.) *Note that most groceries carry this, and it’s way cheaper at the store than online.
The ONLY pillow I don’t hate… and actually really love, hah. I am exceptionally picky when it comes to pillows — I like support, but it can’t be too firm (because then I wake with neck kinks and migraines). You can adjust the fill on this pillow to make it the exact firmness you need. It’s been 6 months now — the longest relationship I’ve had with any pillow. We’re clearly meant to be!
A Silk Pillowcase ~$59
A full silk sheet set is a bit too much of a splurge for me, but I can handle this price tag — Brooklinen’s economical silk pillowcases are buttery soft and really deliver the feel of luxury. Plus, dermatologists say they’re better for skin hydration. (But really, who needs an excuse?)
A Nightstand Journal
I always keep a notebook bedside — like many, ideas often come to me in the middle of the night, and no matter how sure I am I will definitely remember THE BEST IDEA EVER in the morning, I forget without fail if I don’t write it down. Similarly, if my mind is racing with a to-do list, quickly jotting it down is so freeing. Some also find journaling at night to be incredibly relaxing and reflective. It need not be anything fancy (I’ve used $1.99 composition books), but if you want it to look pretty, Moleskine is a classic choice.
Sleep Meditation with the Peloton App
Peloton has a whole collection of meditation sessions that focus on relaxation and sleep. These have really helped my mind slow down before hitting the hay — both to fall asleep faster and stay asleep. I wake up feeling more rested… and yes, I do it laying down… and yes, I often fall asleep before the session’s over.
One of my biggest sleep disruptions (aside from my own anxious-prone mind) is my phone. I needed it OUT of my room, which meant I needed to find an alarm alternative. I like this one because it’s digital with an LED screen that turns off at night. It’s easy on the eyes, and you can set up to three alarms (perfect for a snoozer like me). Since kicking my phone (or any kind of screen) out, my sleep has been much more restorative and consistent.
All the classic calm-inducing smells bottled into a luxurious, creamy lotion that literally wafts relaxation — great to use on your feet, too.
I used to think spending money on pajamas was silly (hellO that’s what old T-shirts are for, right?) — until I received some nice PJs as a gift and was rightfully put in my place. There are tons of great options (we have some ideas here and here), but the Cool Nights set from Soma is just lovely. 👌
I always feel like it’s a project to set-up our humidifier in the bedroom, but it’s really not… and every time I do I am SO happy. My body is so happy. (This Levoit humidifier, ~$89, is my favorite because it’s got a sizable tank capacity — it’s great for people like me who are too lazy to refill daily…) These suckers are most helpful in the dry winter months, but wonderful to use year round all the same. (We rounded up our favorite kid-friendly humidifiers here.)
A Good Book Stack
Last but not least, having a couple of books on my nightstand always makes me so happy (like, almost ridiculously so, hah). I love reading before bed — and I *love reading in bed when I wake up on the weekends. Here are some recent-ish suggestions.
Sleep Media & Resources
The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, by Harvey Karp
A godsend of a book for any new parent…
The Promise of Sleep, by William Dement
The sleep Bible written by the founder of sleep medicine, this is a timeless classic for anyone looking to learn about sleep and/or improve sleep hygiene.
If you want some structure for incorporating meditation into your bedtime rhythm, Calm has built a large and loyal following. Especially nice if you prefer Harry Styles (and other celebs) lulling you to sleep. 😉
That’s it, friends! We hope you find something here to make your night’s sleep more peaceful, relaxing and restful. Share your favorite bedtime essentials in the comments below!