We’ve found the tech gadgets that help us nod off

Eight hours of sleep a night may seem like an easy goal to reach, but it can often be tricky to achieve  (iStock/The Independent)

Eight hours of sleep a night may seem like an easy goal to reach, but it can often be tricky to achieve (iStock/The Independent)

This Friday, 18 March, is World Sleep Day, and while it’s easy for us to say eight hours of rest every night is what’s needed, this seemingly simple goal can be tricky to achieve.

Thankfully, there are plenty of products designed to help you get the rest you need. These include trackers for a better understanding of how you sleep each night, brain activity-reading wearables to help ease you into a relaxed state of mind, smart lighting for simulating a gradual sunrise (even in the dead of winter), and air quality monitors for your bedroom.

There’s a lot more to good sleep than tracking how much (or how little) of it you actually get each night. But these products can help to provide greater insight into what type of sleep you are getting – broadly split into NREM and REM sleep – as well as giving you a record on which to gradually improve over time.

Good sleep hygiene is key to seeing this improvement take shape, so create a bedtime routine and stick to it as best you can – and yes, that means leaving your smartphone and other blue light-emitting devices out of sight.

We have also included a couple of smart lighting products designed to wake you up gradually. These can make a huge difference on dark mornings, and if you have black-out blinds, can also be used during the brighter summer months too. Their gradual brightening is not only less jarring than the blare of a bedside alarm, but can also help train your body clock to wake up naturally at the same time every day.

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How we tested

In pursuit of the perfect night’s sleep, we have used all five of these products, in some cases for several years, and often simultaneously. While some are fairly expensive, others – like Philips Hue smart lighting – can be replicated on a much tighter budget, thanks to the falling prices of smart bulbs and their companion phone apps made by other brands.

These are our favourite devices to help us get a truly good night’s sleep.

Withings sleep analyser

Many readers will be familiar with the sleep-tracking abilities of their smartwatch or fitness tracker. But these tend to be bulky wearables that can be uncomfortable to wear all night, and whose battery will often need a top-up after being used for 24 hours straight. Instead, we use the Withings Sleep Analyser.

Now in its second generation, this USB-powered sleep tracker is covered in soft fabric and is designed to sit beneath your mattress. Sensors detect when you get into bed and fall asleep, then plot your journey through the various stages of sleep each night. The tracker measures your heart rate, breathing, snoring and movement.

A record of your sleep is sent to the Withings’ smartphone app, called Health Mate, via Bluetooth, ready to be analysed when you wake up. It then awards your sleep a score out of 100, alerts you to any signs of sleep apnea, and shows how you transitioned through REM, light and deep sleep.

If you’re making changes to your pre-bed routine in a bid to improve your sleep, the Withings Sleep Analyser can help track what improvements these changes have made.

Buy now £119.95, Withings.com

Muse S

The Muse S is a wearable meditation device and sleep tracker. It is designed to be worn comfortably around your head, and tracks your heart rate, breathing and movement, as well as the electrical activity of your brain via EEG sensors.

One of the meditation functions encourages you to relax by playing peaceful weather sound effects when your mind is calm, and stormy weather when your mind is busy or distracted. This might sound like a gimmick, but we’ve found this really does work, providing real-time audio clues about how successful our meditation sessions are. Perfect for winding down before bed.

There’s also a sleep tracking function that logs your progress through the stages of sleep each night, similar to the Withings sleep analyser (£119.95, Withings.com).

Buy now £329.99, Choosemuse.com

Philips hue starter kit

Sleep expert Matthew Walker says you should “ditch the alarm clock, which can make you hyper-aware of every passing minute,” and we agree. As well as seeing time tick by during a restless night, the sudden jolt of a blaring alarm clock can certainly be unpleasant. Instead, we recommend experimenting with smart lighting systems to simulate a sunrise each morning.

While plenty of options are available from the likes of LIFX, Govee and Ikea’s Tradfri collection of connected bulbs, Philips Hue is our go-to brand in this market. Its smartphone app’s automations page is where you can create a simulated sunrise and all you have to do is pick the “wake up with light” function, set a time and pick which of your Hue lights should be included. You can have a single bulb light up, or choose a whole room and even the entire house if you want.

The light can fade up from zero to full brightness for between five and 60 minutes, depending on how you want to be woken up. There’s a dimming option too, if you want your lights to simulate a sunset at the end of each day.

Looking at Hue lighting more generally, our reviewer was impressed by the versatility of the range and how they can work with your existing light switches.

Buy now £69.99, Philips-hue.com

Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB

If you want a simpler way to create a simulated sunrise, try a Lumie bedside light. These have been around for a few years now and the newest models are called the Bodyclock range. They vary slightly in terms of size and design, but the core function of lighting up gradually each morning is the same across the board.

Sun rises can be set for between 15 and 90 minutes, and there’s an integrated digital radio, so your favourite station can kick in at the right time, too. The flagship Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker and a USB phone charger. For more on sunrise simulators, read our guide to the eight best light-up alarm clocks.

Buy now £199.00, Lumie.com

Awair element

Now let’s talk about air quality. There are a lot of smart air quality monitors on the market, but we’ve always liked those made by Awair. These connect to an attractive smartphone app, integrate with Google Home, Alexa and IFTTT smart home systems, and track temperature, humidity, CO2, TVOCs and PM2.5.

They also have a range of modes for scoring your air quality based on the room they are in, and what you’d like to improve, such as your concentration during the day, or ability to sleep more soundly at night. One mode tells the monitor you want to improve bedroom air quality in pursuit of better sleep, and will give a rating accordingly, with excess humidity, temperature and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) lowering the score.

Buy now £299.00, Getawair.com

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