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High-tech ways to get a better night’s sleep

Better night's sleep

Does this sound familiar? You’re totally exhausted, aching for a few hours of sleep, but your mind won’t stop. You get up, turn down the thermostat, turn over, turn back, eat something, check the clock… and get a shot of adrenaline when you see precious minutes ticking away. And if you pick up your smartphone, it’s game over…

If you haven’t experienced it yet, chances are good that you will: almost one in two of us get insomnia at some point, according to polls noted by the American Medical Association. That’s not great news, since sleep disturbances can lead to memory issues and all-around poor functioning (not to mention bad moods). Admittedly, too much tech is sometimes the cause of our lack of sleep, but thanks to innovations like the ones below, it can also be the solution.



A good mattress tends to be expensive. Casper has come to level the playing field with a made-in-America, springless product that costs less than $1,000. The secret to your better night’s sleep? It’s in its tech: it’s made by layering latex and memory foam, creating a unique firmness that’s engineered to be comfy for all body types. That means the company can save by producing just one design. It’s sold only online—another cost-tamer—and shipped rolled in a box. We received one as a tester, and got a kick out of unfurling it when it arrived. The feel was supportive, not at all mushy, and produced no back pain. For the first three days, however, the memory foam was smelly. Andrew Benin of customer service told us “there are no toxic fumes involved with the odor,” though we’d rather not spend eight or more hours a night in close contact with anything that’s being off-gassed, toxic or not. (You can read a lot about memory foams and how they’re made here.) Before using, we ventilated the product until the smell was completely gone.



This is a quilted pad that fits inside your pillowcase and plays soothing music—but not through speakers. Dreampad converts the tones to vibrations that sound through your bones, so only you can hear them. It hooks up to your phone and receives soothing, spa-style music through an app. Note: that does mean your phone will be in your bed and tethered by a cord, which could mean rolling over on a wire unless you purchase the optional $30 Bluetooth receiver. Sigh.


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This orb (which pleasingly resembles the bird’s nest from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing) sits on your night stand, silently monitoring your room for sleep-inducing or slumber-hindering conditions. Too hot? Too humid? Too much pollen? Light sneaking in, or sounds you didn’t realize were there? Sense tracks it all on an app while you snooze. It works with a “Sleep Pill” monitor: a Wi-Fi-enabled disk that attaches to your pillow and records when you go in and out of sleep stages, revealing which influences might be getting in the way of sound sleep. So if you discover you’re waking up every time a neon sign on the street flicks on and off, for instance, you can install blackout curtains or get a great sleep mask. It’s a Kickstarter project that’s now fully funded, but still available only for pre-order, promising to ship in December.

Withings Aura

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The Withings Aura is a sleep monitor that tracks all your Zzzs and helps optimize your drifting off, waking up and everything in between. It consists of a clock/lamp that sits on your bedside table and an under-the-mattress sensor that tracks your sleep (yes, under the mattress…you never feel it, but it knows you’re there). The bedside lamp helps you get to sleep with a soothing, sunset-like light and sound program that’s scientifically proven to encourage the secretion of melatonin, which helps you nod off.  Then it starts your day with gradually-building sound and daylight-like light, which beats any heart-attack-inducing alarm clock buzzer in the dark. My husband was mildly annoyed by the white noise and sunset light at first, but after a few nights, he was a convert (we get up at the same time, so one alarm clock works for both of us). Best of all, it relieves my phone of its alarm clock duties, so I can put it in airplane mode and spare myself the EMF exposure at night, which I’m not sure makes me feel better, but makes me feel better, you know? The bedside unit even has USB ports in the back that automatically shut off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when I plug it in to charge, so I don’t even have to remember to do it.

Glo to Sleep

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This one has no electronic parts, but it does have clever, simple technology. Glo to Sleep is a snug-fitting, lightweight foam sleep mask with glow-in-the-dark lines inside each “lens.” Watch the lines while you lie awake, and you’ll gradually find yourself dozing off as they fade. One of our staffers, who’s uncomfortable in most sleep masks, got a better night’s sleep because of it’s ability to shut out every trace of light without feeling heavy or even very noticeable (she often doesn’t even bother to charge up the glow strips).

Battling insomnia? Got a surefire way to get through it? Let me know in the comments!

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