Block It All Out

If you’re trying to get better sleep, putting in some earplugs and wearing an eyemask should be one of the first things you try. They don’t look super cool, but they do two important things: They take away the sensory input that can keep you awake; They become part of your Sleep Ritual very quickly (sleep hygiene) so when you use them, your brain receives a powerful signal that it’s time to go to sleep.
If you are familiar with the sensation of closing your eyes to go to sleep but instead of slowly tuning out, you feel your brain and then your heart start to rev up, earplugs can help. They will block out a lot of the noises that can cause your mind to wander. A creaky wood floor (intruder?!?), a snoring spouse (annoying!), noisy neighbors… these are gone and you’re left with silence.
There are long-term benefits as well. If you’ve searched the Internet for sleep advice, you’ve seen lots of platitudes about establishing a good sleep environment and paying attention to your sleep hygiene. This is good advice but it’s often hard to do. One of the easiest changes you can make in your sleep environment is to add earplugs and an eyemask to your Sleep Ritual – this reduces the sensory input coming in that might keep your mind turning and will soon become associated with sleep, which is strong sleep hygiene! Making this simple change can bring big benefits.

Which ones to use?

Here are my favorite ear plugs: Hearos Extreme Protection. They’re consistently rated as delivering the best combination of noise reduction and comfort.

Another option are the Hearos Ultimate Softness line which are slightly smaller but still give very high noise reduction.

Finally, if you have trouble sleeping on your side with earplugs or have smaller ears, Mack’s Slim Fit earplugs are a good bet.

Risks: There aren’t a lot of downsides to ear plugs, but it is important to keep them clean to make sure your inner ears stay healthy. The Hearos brand recommended above comes with a small plastic carrying case – keep them in there during the day to keep away dust and dirt.

Eyemasks

Our bodies are incredibly sensitive to light, and unfortunately we’re surrounded by more and more as new devices fill our lives. The typical American bedroom has an alarm clock, windows, phones, laptops, and televisions, all pumping out light while we try to sleep. Even turned off, many devices still emit bright light through their power buttons or other ‘standby’ lights. Even though it seems minimal, all of this adds up and can keep you awake.

Sleep scientists recommend sleeping in total darkness, but this is hard to achieve. That’s where eyemasks come in. They may look goofy but the good sleep is worth it. The benefits of shutting out all of the light is something you’ll notice the first time you sleep with one on.
There are lots of different eye masks out there, but the good ones do a few things: they stay on during the night, they block out all of the light, and they don’t put pressure on your eyes. The last one is very important and can give you the sense you’re in a completely darkened room, even if it’s the middle of the day. Everyone’s head is shaped differently, so you might need to try a different mask if the first one doesn’t work for you – don’t give up if the first one doesn’t work!

Here is my favorite eye mask: Bedtime Bliss Contoured Eye Mask

Another popular mask, this one is softer and plushier: Dream Sleeper Sleep Mask

Here’s a picture of each one:

 

Make a Change:

Find the earplugs and eyemask that work best for you and try them each night for two weeks. If they’re uncomfortable try another brand – it’s worth it!

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887188/ – earplugs even work in Intensive Care Units, which might be the worst places in the world to get good sleep
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1478-5153.2009.00344.x/abstract – Earplugs improve your sleep
https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/earplugs-and-eye-masks-help-promote-sleep – National Sleep Foundation gives earplugs and eyemasks a thumbs up
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/brain-cells-responsible-for-keeping-218204 – The brain cells that respond to light to keep us awake
http://www.earplugsguide.com/best-earplugs-for-sleeping/ – This guy knows earplugs!

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