What works, what doesn't?
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Wondering if that noise reducer is worth your while? Or how about organic cotton sheets? We'll give you a rundown of the best and worst products on the market, so you'll sleep better tonight. According to the American Sleep Association, there is no substitute for sleep hygiene, such as sleeping in a quiet and comfortable dark bedroom without noise from the television or cell phones. That said, some products on the market can assist your quest for restful z's.
Noise reducers can be packaged differently, but overall the goal is to reduce outside noise by creating ambient or white noise. A noise reducer may be helpful to certain people, explains David Rapoport, MD, medical director of the New York University Sleep Disorders Center and associate director of the Bellevue Hospital Pulmonary Function Laboratory. Think airplanes, loud trains, and yes, snoring. "Many people are very sensitive to noise. A noise reducer gets rid of noise which will disturb you. It makes sense for the right use." He adds that some people leave the television on for background noise but that is not a true substitute for white noise.
Have you ever seen commercials for adjustable beds and wondered if they really invoke a good night's sleep? According to Anderson, they actually do work and are most effective in reducing pain in some people with hip and knee pain, which leads to better quality sleep. "We also recommend adjustable beds or wedge pillows for patients with acid reflux. Increasing the angle at the head of the bed can reduce the amount of acid in the throat and airway, thus reducing the amount of arousals caused by reflux. The fewer arousals a person has, the better their quality of sleep."
"We are designed to sleep in the dark, explains Dr. Rapoport. "If people are sleeping in an area with light, a sleep mask will help solve that problem, in particular if they work at night and need to sleep during the day." A mask by itself in an already dark environment will not do the trick. However, it is a beneficial product on the market for daytime sleepers.
The use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being may be worth your while, but only if it's conducive to your relaxation. Consider this: Some aromas may be quite caustic or obtrusive, thereby interfering with your ability to unwind. "If [aromas are] helpful to your relaxation, they would probably be good, but if aromatherapy keeps you awake at night, it would be bad for your sleep," explains Dr. Rapoport.
Mozart, anyone? As a rule, background noise is distracting, though relaxation music has an element of white noise to it, so the proof is in the eye (or, in this case, ear) of the beholder. Dr. Rapoport notes, "Music takes the mind off worrying, so it's viewed as a relaxation technique. Overall, it may do as much harm as good. If it relaxes you then yes, it's a good thing." It should be noted that if troubled sleepers have tried over-the-counter therapies and continue to wake up tired, they should see a doctor. They may suffer from an undiagnosed sleep condition like obstructive sleep apnea, in which a person's airway collapses while sleeping.
Herbal pillows may have a positive impact on sleep, but they aren't the end-all and be-all solution to a snooze encounter explains Melanie Anderson, RPSGT, and director of the Good Night Sleep Wellness Center. Lavender has been shown to induce a feeling of calm and well-being. Using a lavender-scented pillow can help induce calm in some people, which can open the door for sleep to occur. Patients who complain of insomnia, especially if it is chronic, often have a myriad of issues contributing to their difficulty sleeping, so just the addition of an herbal pillow is not usually enough of a treatment, but it can help.
Foam magnetic mattress pads
Experts say this product is not a necessity and instead the focus should be made on finding a proper mattress pad, not the magnets themselves. Neil Kline, MD, board-certified sleep physician and representative of the American Sleep Association adds, "There's no data to support that. It all boils down to comfort and it's very subjective and individualized." Anderson adds, "I have always been skeptical of the use of magnets, so this is not a therapy I would ever try for myself. Often people will sleep better by replacing an old mattress or mattress pad, since a worn out mattress can become uncomfortable."
Organic cotton sheet sets
The jury's still out on this one: The type of fabric sheets you buy are less important than the way you launder them. Anderson explains, "People with allergies can be sensitive to soaps and softeners, which can lead to uncomfortable and restless sleep. Alternatively, many of our insomnia patients like soft, sweet-smelling sheets to help induce a feeling of relaxation." That said, if you enjoy organic cotton sheet sets, then by all means continue using them. "Anything that makes a tangible difference in our own comfort, that's going to help," says Richard Shane, PhD, and developer of the Sleep Easily method.
Indoor air purifiers
Purifiers do a body good, especially when people suffer from allergy symptoms and nasal congestion. If you don't have these symptoms, however, an air purifier really won't positively impact your sleep. Shane explains, "It does help if someone has congestion. If they don't have congestion it really doesn't make a difference." Anderson adds, "These can improve allergy symptoms and reduce nasal congestion in some people thus making sleep more comfortable."
NightWave sleep assistant
"This product helps patients relax and fall asleep through the use of deep breathing exercises," notes Anderson. "We recommend similar breathing exercises for some of our insomnia patients. This type of breathing helps focus the mind on relaxation and ultimately sleep." As for whether or not it's worth it to buy this product? Skip it. Anderson mentions you can learn deep-breathing techniques through a relaxation yoga program. She adds, "But if the use of the light effect helps with the exercises, then there is nothing wrong with the product."