This article is a part of CNN Underscored’s Guide to Sleep, a week-long focus on the best sleep-related products. We’ll be featuring new products and guides all week, so check in every morning to see what’s new and keep your eyes peeled for exclusive deals.
We live in challenging times, and one thing that’s been so challenging for many of us is putting worry aside and relaxing into a good night’s sleep. Things like work, stress and your sleep hygiene can impact your quality of sleep, so we talked to experts in sleep and comfort to find helpful tips and tricks so you can rest easier every night.
“The most important thing for a good night’s sleep is to make sure that you set yourself up for success,” says Dr. Michael Grandner, Casper sleep adviser and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona. “That means removing barriers to sleep like caffeine, reducing distractions close to bedtime, giving yourself enough time to wind down and keeping your bedroom cool, quiet, dark and comfortable.”
Upgrade your pillow
“Something that I was taught through my years of physical therapy is called a spring test,” explains physical therapist Dr. Karen Joubert. “If you take your pillow and you fold it in half and it doesn’t bounce back, it means that pillow’s lost its integrity. And it’s probably time for a new pillow.”
However, what kind of pillow is right is up to you, says Grandner. “A good pillow is one that is firm enough but soft enough,” he says. “That may differ from one person to another, but the ideal pillow is one that balances comfort with the ability to maintain its level of support throughout the night.”
See our picks for the best pillows for every sleeping position here.
ComfiLife Orthopedic Pillow ($19.95, originally $24.95; amazon.com)
Joubert strongly recommends this tiny pillow, saying, “It’s a tiny little pillow, and it goes in between your legs. When you sleep on your side and your knees are together, your knee is kind of pulling on your hip. You really want to lift that leg so that the knee is in line and level with a hip.”
Casper Sleep Foam Pillow (starting at $89; amazon.com)
For side sleepers, this firm foam pillow is ideal for keeping the spine straight, says Grandner.
Writes one reviewer: “For over a month, I’d been waking up with a sore neck and tight shoulders, which I knew had to be caused by my pillow. Since finding a good pillow is even more difficult than finding a good bra or pair of jeans, I asked my chiropractor for a suggestion. She told me about the Casper foam pillow, I went right home and ordered it, Amazon delivered it the next day and I’ve had one full week of great, pain-free, comfortable and uninterrupted sleep.”
Go Deep 365 Pillow With Cooling Gel ($59; amazon.com)
One of the top-rated pillows on Amazon, this memory foam pillow is perfect for hot sleepers, as it’s filled with a cooling gel powder that helps absorb body heat during sleep regardless of your sleep style.
Keep your eyes closed with an eye mask
Mzoo Sleep Eye Mask for Men and Women ($16.99; amazon.com)
Eye masks are some of the most effective, inexpensive pieces of sleep technology out there, according to our experts. They are very effective at blocking out environmental light, helping to protect the “nighttime” signal in your body. This one is beloved on Amazon for its molded eye cups that relieve pressure off your eyelids.
Try a noise machine
Marpac Dohm Classic The Original White Noise Machine ($44.95; amazon.com)
“Many people, especially light sleepers, appreciate the noise-masking effects of noise machines, drowning out and absorbing other sounds from the environment,” says Grandner, who likes this machine.
Yogasleep Dohm Classic White Noise Machine ($40.45, originally $44.95; amazon.com)
“So many of us have gone to bed watching the news, or on our phone, and we can’t shut our brain down,” says Joubert, who recommends this machine. “When you use something like white noise, it retrains the brain. You can focus on something else. It also helps to quiet and slow the brain and the mind down. I think they’re highly effective.”
Block out the world with blackout curtains
Nicetown Thermal-Insulated Blackout Curtains (starting at $19.89; amazon.com)
“Blackout curtains are another great way to protect your sleep from environmental light that can disrupt it,” says Grandner. “They can help keep you asleep at night, even when the sun comes back up. Just make sure you open them in the morning!” This highly rated set also blocks out the cold.
BGment Thermal Insulated 100% Blackout Curtains (starting at $36.89; amazon.com)
These highly rated blackout curtains promise to block out light, cold and noise from the outside world, leading to a better night’s sleep.
Try a weighted blanket
Quility Weighted Blanket (starting at $39.99, originally starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
“There is something comforting about a weighted blanket,” says Joubert. “I think that’s a really smart product out on the market.”
This weighted blanket is unique in that it comes with its own super-plush cover that’s machine-washable, and it even comes in weights up to 30 pounds. No wonder it has more than 26,000 5-star reviews.
YnM Weighted Blanket (starting at $59.90; amazon.com)
Weighted blankets “work by providing a consistent, enveloping layer of pressure, not only giving you the weighted sensation, but also restricting your movement,” says Grandner. And this editor-approved one, among the most beloved on Amazon, is a real bargain for its quality.
Casper Sleep Weighted Blanket (starting at $169; amazon.com)
This highly rated blanket can have a calming effect and help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
Find the right mattress
“A lot of people wait too long before replacing an old mattress. Sometimes, this can make a big difference in nighttime comfort,” says Grandner.
Weight and sleep style can also make a difference, explains Joubert. “Someone who’s lighter, or you sleep on your side, you’re going to want to maybe go with a more medium-soft or a medium-firm mattress.”
Check out our guide to the top mattress-in-a-box brands here.
Linenspa 8-Inch Memory Foam and Innerspring Hybrid Mattress, Queen ($199.99; amazon.com)
This medium-firm mattress is also one of the most popular on Amazon, not only because of its true bargain price tag but also because its combination memory foam and innerspring construction that helps align the spine and minimize pressure points to offer you your comfiest sleep yet. It’s available in heights of 8 inches to 12 inches.
Zinus 13-Inch Euro Top Pocket Spring Hybrid Mattress, Queen ($292, originally $397; amazon.com)
If you’re looking for soft, supportive comfort, this highly rated mattress is a true steal at this price.
“Believe me when I say this mattress is perfect,” one reviewer writes. “The mattress is not too soft or too hard, just perfect. I would say it’s very true to a medium-plush feel. Sort of molds to your body, but I don’t find it difficult to get in and out of bed.”
Zinus 12-Inch Green Tea Memory Foam Mattress, Queen ($271, originally $289; amazon.com)
Known as the most durable mattress on Amazon, the foam in this Zinus 12-inch is infused with active charcoal and even green tea to offer pressure relief and form right to your body. Specifically great for side sleepers, though it really seems to please just every reviewer, it even comes with a 10-year warranty.
Casper Sleep Nova Hybrid Mattress, Queen ($1,995; amazon.com)
Layers of breathable foam plus springs add a little lift, support and airflow to this highly rated mattress.
You may want to look for a firmer mattress like this one if you’re a bigger person, or sleep on your back, says Joubert. “The heavier you are, let’s say you weigh 200 pounds or more, or you’re a back sleeper, you’re going to tend to maybe fall in the guidelines of the medium-firm to firm mattress,” she says.