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Will a Gadget Help You Sleep?

Sleep apps, alarm clocks, white noise machines, sleep monitors, and more.
By Winnie Yu
WebMD Feature

You can’t sleep, so you turn on the white noise machine, slip on an eye mask, and spritz some lavender spray into the air. Will you nab some shut-eye now? Maybe -- but maybe not.

We crave sleep, and yet most of us don’t get enough of it. Those who try often don’t get a quality snooze. In fact, 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights, according to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation.

Many people look to gadgets to help them get their ZZZs, but fun as they might be, they’re no substitute for good sleep habits like going to bed at the same time every night, minimizing caffeine, and relaxing before bedtime.

“Gadgets can be helpful, but their effectiveness does not supersede sleep awareness and good sleep and circadian hygiene,” says Gianluca Tosini, MD, director of the Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disorders Program at the Neuroscience Institute and chairman of the department of pharmacology at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Still, some devices can help, or at least trigger a sleep-inducing effect. Here’s a look at some of the high- and low-tech gadgets and devices that can promote sound sleep.

Shut Out the Noise

For most people, a quiet room is essential to a good night’s sleep. But getting that peace and quiet isn’t always easy. Here are some gadgets that might help:

  • White noise machines and apps. Whether it’s the sounds of rain, the crackle of thunder, or the pounding of horse’s hooves, white noise can help you tune out the sounds that can disrupt sleep. “White noise is ideal to help block noise,” says Shelby Freedman Harris, PsyD, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Harris says she prefers machines to apps because the noise on machines is gentler.
  • Music. Playing music that relaxes you may promote better sleep. Helene Emsellem, MD, director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Bethesda, Md., and author of Snooze or Lose: 10 No-War Ways to Improve Your Teen’s Sleep Habits, recommends creating a playlist on your MP3 player of soothing songs, be it hard rock, the blues or jazz -- whatever relaxes you.
  • Ear plugs. They’re cheap and easy, and they actually work, experts say. “I have many patients who use earplugs to block the noise of snoring bed partners,” Harris says. “Silicone earplugs are often better at blocking noise than the usual foam ones.”

 

Know Your Sleep

In a society that craves information, some people want to know exactly how well they’re sleeping. That’s where sleep monitors come in. These devices can tell you what stage of sleep you’re in at 3 a.m., exactly how much sleep you’re getting, and the best time to get up. 

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