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5 Great Gadgets to Improve Your Sleep
Courtesy of NightWave
NightWave Sleep Assistant
What it is and how it works: This lightweight, tiny gadget — it's about the size of a jewelry gift box — projects a pulsing, soft blue light on your ceiling or wall. Then you begin what is best described as a pre-sleep exercise: Breathe in as the blue light gets bright, breathe out as it goes dark. After seven minutes, the soothing light rhythms automatically stop...and your ZZZs start.
Expert opinion: "The breathing routine that cycles with the projecting light will potentially reduce thought stressors — and the circulating catecholamines, which are the fight and flight chemicals that cause us to feel tense," says Lee A. Surkin, MD, a board-certified sleep specialist and cardiologist in Greenville, NC. "In turn, this could possibly reduce the time it takes you to enter sleep."
FITNESS snooze test: Not only does the NightWave help you fall asleep, but you're essentially teaching yourself how breathe for relaxation and shut down your racing thoughts. So if you can't use the device one night, you should still be able to mimic the routine.
Verilux Rise & Shine Natural Wake-Up Light
What it is and how it works: The next best thing to waking up to natural sunlight and chirping birds, this device is a strategic-but-peaceful alarm clock. Instead of being shocked into waking up, you are gradually lulled out of sleep by the increasing light and soundscape.
Expert opinion: "Exposure to bright lights too early in your specific circadian rhythm can cause more sleepiness and less alertness," says Dr. Surkin. "Physiologically, the gradual light exposure upon awakening can assist with alertness by properly aligning your circadian rhythm."
FITNESS snooze test: Since some people need heavy drapes for total darkness to fall asleep (batcave, anyone?), we particularly liked that this product simulates the light we should be experiencing in the morning.
Courtesy of Zeo
Zeo Sleep Manager Pro
What it is and how it works: If the thought of spending the night in a sleep lab freaks you out, this could be an excellent alternative to taking the first step in analyzing the quality of your sleep. What you do is wear a little headband across your forehead (it has a wireless connection) and the device more or less syncs with an app on your iPhone to record how much REM sleep and deep sleep you get, as well as how many times you wake up during the night. Then, you can get additional advice on the Zeo website, like what to eat, relaxation tips, and more.
Expert opinion: "Medically speaking, this product can provide good feedback information that can be used in concert with a sleep physician," says Dr. Surkin.
FITNESS snooze test: If after consistently using the gadget for a week or two in a row — and seeing that you get low "ZQ" scores or that your sleep stages are wonky — you really must talk to a doctor about a professional, at-home diagnostic device. No amount of relaxation techniques and self-monitoring can solve common sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Courtesy of Adaptive Sound Technologies, Inc.
What it is and how it works: This compact, travel-size sound machine helps you fall asleep by providing natural sounds (ocean, meadow, white noise, and more) that can be easily adjusted in richness and volume. There's an "Adaptive Mode" setting that will adjust the composition of your selected soundtrack so that it masks other noises. And, of course, you can set a timer so that the machine stops playing after 30 minutes or so .
Expert opinion: "By focusing on a relaxing sound that predominates the sleep environment, sleep onset can be improved, as well as made more consistent due to fewer awakenings from disruptive noises," says Dr. Surkin.
FITNESS snooze test: Sound machines are nothing new, but we liked this pint-size product because it was petite enough for our nightstand and genuinely seemed more effective than devices we've tried in the past. The proof: While testing this out in an NYC bedroom that's on a busy downtown street, the Rain setting helped the editor-sleeper fall asleep...instead of toss and turn from a bar's loud music.
Courtesy of Fitbit
What it is and how it works: The itty-bitty, activity-tracking device that people have raved about steps up its 24-7 abilities in the latest version, "One." Not only does it track your steps and calories burned, but it now features more advanced sleep graphs, a redesigned wrist band, and a silent alarm that gently buzzes your wrist when it's time to wake up.
Expert opinion: "It is well documented that exercise at the right time of day can promote better quality sleep," says Dr. Surkin. "My overall thought is that this is a good consumer product to use as a pedometer and to provide a general snapshot of sleep consistency."
FITNESS snooze test: Good health is a round-the-clock goal, so we loved that this all-in-one gadget can help you keep that in mind. Bonus: Waking up to a gentle vibration on your wrist is not only peaceful, it's a nice solution for when you don't want to wake the sleeping bear next to you!
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, October 2012.