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Sleep is the ultimate recovery. Good sleep leaves us sharp and refreshed, but bad sleep can hinder performance and decision-making. You’d think that with all the training athletes should sleep like logs, but with travel, different locations, nerves about matches, races and competition, along with your usual everyday stresses and sleep-beaters (noise, etc.), good sleep is often evasive. Fitness-tracking watches and wristbands often monitor sleep patterns, but they don’t help you sleep – they just give you more graphs and figures to fret about. So here are seven devices using different methods to drift you off to deep, quality sleep.
This tiny box uses light pulses to effectively force you into a meditation-style breathing pattern to enhance relaxation and keep nagging thoughts at bay. It projects a pulsing, soft blue light on your ceiling or wall and you breathe in as the blue light gets bright, breathe out as it goes dark. The light gradually slows over 7–25 minutes (depending on the cycle you choose), then stops altogether.
The breathing routine cycled with the projecting light is said to potentially reduce thought stressors and the circulating catecholamines, which play a part in the fight-or-flight chemicals that cause us to feel tense. Night Wave Sleep Assistant effectively teaches you how breathe for relaxation and shut of your thoughts – over time, you won’t even need to use the machine.
This is a good solution for those who have to be conscious of waking up other people close by or who have trouble sleeping with earphones. The Dream pad goes under or inside your pillow, then you can plug the lead into the headphone jack of any iPhone or Android phone. Load up the app with your favourite relaxing music or sounds and they will play straight from the pillow into the back of your head, which it finds using bone-conducting technology.
Whoah – this is a bit like going to bed with HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Aura records your sleep environment (noise pollution, room temperature and light level), then uses melatonin-inducing orange light and soothing frequencies that attempt to mimic your body’s circadian rhythms. You don’t have to wear anything – HAL… uh, I mean Aura has a sensor that slips under your mattress to monitor your sleep patterns, body movements, breathing cycles and heart rate. An app will then let you see what wakes you up and compare your sleep over different night, plus you can personalise your wake-up and fall-asleep programs.
Here’s a sleeping mask with a difference. On the inside there is a strip of blue lights that you focus on. The idea is to slowly roll your eyes upwards as the lights gradually fade, which helps knock you out. This is a real no-fuss option – there are no batteries or wires, you simply power up the blue strips by holding them up towards a light source for 30 seconds.
This machine uses distracting/blocking white noises such as falling rain or ocean waves to block external noise, then under this there are a series of low pulses designed to mimic the brainwave patterns of healthy sleepers. The British inventors say the brain will unconsciously follow this pattern and allow itself to be naturally drawn into sleep. It’s an expensive option, though – machines will range in price from US$350–$450 when they go on sale (orders are being taken now). A cheaper option is the free SLEEP GENIUS app (iOS and Android). This uses pink noise (a softer variant of white noise) and binaural beats (rhythms that train your brain to match sleep waveforms) to rock your brain to sleep like a baby.
Scentee is the smart phone equivalent of Smell-o-Vision, but it has more useful applications than just making your glass of water smell like coffee. Scents such as lavender (available from Scentee), chamomile, jasmine and vanilla have been proven to help sleep by increasing the amount of time spent in slow-wave sleep (the restful and restorative sleep phase), easing stress and anxiety, and promoting relaxation of both the mind and body.
Scentee uses a device (around $35) about the size of a ping-pong ball, which plugs into the stereo jack of an iPad, iPhone and certain Android phones. A scent (about $6) cartridge goes inside it – it lasts for 100 sprays. When connected to the app, Scentee can spritz your bedroom at regular intervals, coupled with hues of light to help you slumber like Sleeping Beauty.
Here’s a simple one, and no doubt it worked for you as a kid. Biggest Loser star and fitness guru Jillian Michaels swears by listening to audio books (“they’re like bedtime stories for adults”) for great sleep. Load them on your phone in a format that only plays a chapter at a time. Pick favourite books that you’re familiar with and keep the volume barely audible so it’s easy to simply slip away into dreamland.