The majority of people suffer from the occasional poor nights’ sleep – the UK Sleep Council estimates around twice a month – when noise, comfort or life’s woes lay heavier than usual.
However, for some, not being able to descend into restorative slumber is a nightly battle that can have debilitating consequences.
ITV News anchor Tom Bradbury wrote in 2018 about how he would frequently go a whole night without any sleep at all, such was his chronic insomnia.
The broadcaster was forced to take four months off the nightly news programme after his GP told him he was ‘experiencing the mental health equivalent of a heart attack’.
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Battle for shut-eye: FEMAIL tests a myriad of products on the market designed to aid sleep
With a dizzying array of sleep enhancers on the market, some with equally dizzying price tags, FEMAIL has asked four people with differing sleep problems – from frequent insomnia to awaking for hours in the middle of the night – to test out some of the newest products on the market. Here’s how they got on:
FEMAIL reporter Claire Toureille, 28, has experienced unsettled sleep since she was a child, and says she can be awake until dawn on bad nights. Claire tried a weighted blanket, a sleep supplement and a course of sophrology sessions…
Chronic insomniac Claire Toureille has suffered with poor sleep since childhood, and while she’s learned to live with it, she’s desperate to remedy it
‘I’ve been a bad sleeper ever since I can remember. It started when I was a child, at around aged eight: I wanted to stay up and read instead of sleeping so I’d turn the light back on and get into a book when my parents thought I was sound asleep.
Fast forward 20 years, and I’m now a full blown insomniac, spending night after night tossing and turning.
On bad weeks, I can be awake until 3 or 4am every night.
This means I am a caffeine-junkie, gulping cup after cup hoping to stay awake enough to function. I’ve tried sleeping pills, herbal remedies, sprays and meditation – and all have failed so far!
Simba Orbit weighted blanket: £149
Use time: Two weeks +
More info: simbasleep.com
Weighty issue: Claire was hopeful about trying the £149 Simba Orbit weighted blanket, having heard good reviews…but carrying an extra 6.9kilos didn’t quite cure her sleep issues
CLAIRE SAYS: ‘I was excited by the prospect of trying a weighted blanket, mainly because they’re still rather new to the market, and because many insomniacs have raved about them.
I tried the Simba Orbit blanket, which weighs 6.9kg. It is recommended you go for a blanket that’s about 10 per cent of your body weight.
Slipping underneath on the first night forced me to ponder some logistical questions, such as whether the blanket was meant to go on top or beneath my duvet.
After a few minutes, I had a sense of weighted bliss where I felt myself feeling pushed into the mattress. It was short-lived though; I soon started to feel like I needed more wiggle room.
It’s hard to find the perfect sleeping position when you’re carrying an extra 7kg. At my lowest point, I felt like a vampire, facing the ceiling, reflecting on my life choices as I was pinned to the mattress.
Since then, I’ve learned to sleep better with the blanket. However, I can’t say it gave the glorious results I’d hoped for. I sleep better with it, for sure, but it hasn’t cured my insomnia.’
Motion Nutrition Unplug Nootropic supplements: £24.99 for a 30-day supply
Use time: two weeks+
More info: motionnutrition.com
Claire said she felt calmer after trying Motion’s Nootropic Unplug tablets, designed to support a good night’s sleep
CLAIRE SAYS: ‘Having tried sleeping pills before, I was wary of giving any sleep enhancer in tablet form another go.
However, these come with all natural ingredients – including magnesium to support the nervous system, zinc to reduce inflammation and Iodine to support a healthy metabolic rate, all allies for good long-term sleep.
I was pleasantly surprised by how calm I felt after taking them. Having tried both herbal and heavy-duty sleep remedies in the past, I was afraid these might leave me feeling sluggish during the day but I felt fully awake in the morning.’
Online sophrology sessions: £325 for seven weeks
Use time: two weeks +
More info: be-sophro.com
CLAIRE SAYS: ‘Sophrology is a form of sleep self-help that has become hugely popular in France and Spain in recent years. Through exercise, sophrology aims to re-focus the mind, help with breathing technique and rid the body of tension.
Dominique Antiglio runs classes in sophrology which focus on enhancing sleep using breathing and exercise
I had several sessions with Dominique Antiglio at Be-Sophro as part of the Sleep Deeply course. The company offer sophrology classes to groups or individuals and Dominique taught me several easy and quick exercises focused on my breathing and the sensations in my body.
Through talking to her about my sleeping pattern, I was also able to identify certain things I could improve on, and find solutions in my day-to-day life to solve them.
The exercises can be practised throughout the day, or before bedtime, depending on what you prefer. They take up to 15 minutes and aim to relax the body and give way to positive thoughts.
Of all the things I’ve tried in my battle against insomnia so far, sophrology has been the most natural – and perhaps the most useful.’
Journalist Bridie Pearson-Jones, 26, says past insomnia was sparked by trying to burn the candles at both ends but she’s now learned to prioritise sleep. On a quest for the perfect eight hours, she tries a futuristic mattress and a vibrating headset…
‘Generally, I sleep pretty well, but I’ve definitely had periods in my life as an insomniac. In particular, when I was at university and had a hectic social life, a paid job and a degree to complete – I didn’t get much rest!
After four years of working a mix of night shifts and day shifts, I’ve definitely learned to prioritise sleep. As long as I get six to 7 hours on average, I’m pretty good although I struggle to get out of bed, and often set ten alarms. Once I’m up though, I am very much a morning person… and a big caffeine fiend.’
OmniPEMF NeoRhythm: £315
Use time: one week
More info: newmedltd.co.uk
Futuristic: Bridie tested out the OmniPEMF NeoRhythm, which emits sleep-enhancing vibrations and users wear around their head
BRIDIE SAYS: Opening the OmniPEMF NeoRhythm up, it really does look like something from the future…or The Matrix. After a short set-up, it’s actually very easy to use. You just need to charge it up and it connects to a smart phone via Bluetooth.
There’s various settings and different places to put the band, depending on if you want to sleep, meditate, concentrate or even target pain.
For sleep, there’s two settings, one where you wear it around the back of your head for 20 minutes before bed, and another where it goes under your pillow for eight hours.
For the first night, I tried both. At first putting it around the back of my head was a bit weird, it sends very gentle vibrations through your head and back, it’s a little bit trippy but so gentle after a couple minutes you don’t notice it. After using it for 20 minutes I put the eight-hour setting on and slipped it under my pillow.
On the first night, I actually couldn’t sleep after using it, but it may have been that I was working myself up over the strangeness of the experience.
The next morning, I felt so awake, as if it was midday and I’d already had a couple of coffees…
Bridie Pearson-Jones, FEMAIL reporter
As I couldn’t nod off, I went back to my usual foolproof sleep method, watching reality TV or 90s sitcoms. I feel asleep, very deeply, for about 20 minutes until I woke up again and was very awake. After about 20 minutes, I went back to sleep and slept very well.
The next morning, I felt so awake, as if it was midday and I’d already had a couple of coffees. If anything, this seemed to reverse my usual sleep patterns – I struggled to fall asleep and woke up easily – whereas normally it’s the other way around.
This was the pattern after using it for a few days. I don’t think I’d fork out hundreds for this – and trying to read the ‘science’ behind it is bemusing – but if you’re really struggling with sleep, you may well benefit.
Neurosonic mattress sleep aid: £4,995
Use time: one week
More info: couchpotatocompany.com
The £4,995 price tag for the Neurosonic mattress – which lies over your normal mattress – is out of reach for most people…but could it transform tester Bridie’s sleep patterns?
BRIDIE SAYS: When the Neurosonic mattress first arrived, I was a little shocked by the size. It’s big and cumbersome. The single mattress goes on top of whatever you usually sleep on, but you don’t actually use it to sleep on. You can use it throughout the day either to help you sleep, to wake you up or to relax you. I first put it on my bed but after getting slightly frustrated at having to move it off several times a day I moved it onto our spare room where I could leave it.
The bed is comfy, and you can see why it comes with a hefty price tag. It comes with expensive headphones and a pre-programmed tablet with different programmes that can help you meditate, help with pain, or help you sleep.
Various programmes suggest using it throughout the day from a few minutes to over an hour. At first I used it for sleep, and it did help. Every time I used it I slept a good eight hours and woke up refreshed and happy. It also helps wake you up. If you can spare the time for the odd 20 minute break or meditation throughout the day, it is relaxing and helps to sleep. But I’m not convinced this is entirely just because of the shakes and vibrations, rather than just giving yourself the time to switch off and relax.
I can see why someone struggling with sleep could spend several months’ rent out of desperation to try this out – but I don’t think it’s quite life-changing enough for me to fork out thousands a shaking sleeping mattress.
MiHiGH at home sauna, £395
Use time: one week
More info: mihigh.co.uk
FEMAIL’s Bridie Pearson-Jones tried out the MiHiGH at home infrared sauna to see if it could help her sleep better
BRIDIE SAYS: Pre-corona I loved using the sauna, but having not used one for almost a year I was very excited to be able to have one at home. I’ve used an infrared sauna before (the amazing, Glow Bar in central London) but having a blanket is a whole new experience.
At home wellness has been a huge trend of the last year, and infrared blankets are very popular – but do they live up to the hype?
Well, it’s not quite the same as having your own private spa as you’re fully-dressed using it, and it goes on top of your bed. MiHiGH recommend wearing loose work-out clothing and socks.
The blanket is quite heavy but very easy to use, you roll out it out and it’s not unlike a sleeping bag, albeit a PU leather one. Once it, it heats up to 75C (although you can have it lower), and it’s advised to use for up to an hour.
I started at 60C for half an hour and worked my way up to higher heats for longer. You get very sweaty and need to drink a lot of water, I was found myself necking a litre of water as soon as I was out.
I tried to read while in the blanket, but it’s very hard to actually hold a book. So I ended up watching shows on my laptop or listening to a podcast or audiobook. I was a great way to unwind and a really nice way to get rid of any aches and pains from dodgy office chairs working from home.
MiHiGH claim you can burn 600 calories in just 30 minutes in the sauna, while my heart rate was racing, I ended up burning about 150 calories an hour according to my Apple Watch, which is still decent for lying down and watching a show.
After using it for a few days I was sleeping so well. It was great after a workout to unwind or even as a quick refresh in my lunch break.
I would say it’s not the best thing to do immediately before bed as it actually made me feel immediately very awake (and it’s recommended to be followed by a cold shower), but I could really feel myself detoxifying and slept so well if used early in the day.
Couple Carina and Nick Hopper, from West London, have different sleep patterns. While Carina, 48, struggles to drop off, Nick, 49, falls asleep straight away…but can wake in the night…
West London parents Nick and Carina Hopper say they’re almost exact opposites when it comes to sleep. While Carina, 48, can take two hours to drop off, Nick is often asleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow
‘I’ve always been a very light sleeper, it runs in the Spanish side of my family. It takes me ages to fall asleep and I get woken up by the slightest noise.
Dropping off is hard – I have to be properly exhausted to fall asleep within minutes, it usually takes a good hour or two!
Nick is the exact opposite, he sleeps on his back – while I curl up on my side – and is sound asleep within seconds of hitting the pillow.
If he has any sleep issues, it’s getting into the occasional pattern of waking in the middle of the night and not then being able to get back to sleep.’
Levitex pillow: £60
Use time: two weeks+
More info: levitex.co.uk
A little hard to get used to…but the Levitex posture pillow, £60, is a great asset to sleep, says Carina, pictured
CARINA SAYS: The Levitex pillow and mattress brand launched last year and has worked with a host of athletes to try and perfect the formula for a decent night’s sleep including Olympic runner Ed Clancy.
The pillow, made of foam, focuses on a firmness that supports your posture well, taking pressure off your body as you sleep. It comes in four sizes, based on your body frame.
I’ll admit I was cynical at first, and the pillow needs airing for a day before you can use it, there was a slight rubbery smell.
The first week I slept on it, I had a love-hate relationship with my new pillow; it took a few nights to get used to the firmness and there were times when I just wasn’t comfortable.
However, I definitely noticed that I started to feel better in the mornings, without the occasional aches and pains. I also began sleeping six hours in a row, something which I haven’t done for years.
Overall, the benefits of the Levitex were great. My head and neck felt well-supported, meaning my body was allowed to get some proper rest.
It hasn’t cured my insomnia but it’s definitely been a great asset in helping me sleep better.
Hayo’u Xiuyan Jade Beauty Restorer face tool and oil: £71
Use time: two weeks+
More info: hayoumethod.com
The crystal used to apply the Hayo’u oil is said, in Chinese Medicine, to ‘remove heat from the body caused by the stresses of the day, calms the mind and improves energy flow’
The Hayo’u beauty oil and rose quartz retails at £71
CARINA SAYS: ‘This felt more like a beauty product than a sleepy enhancer but I came to really enjoy the ritual of using the oil on my face, which is applied using a crystal tool.
According to Chinese Medicine, the crystal removes heat from the body caused by the stresses of the day, calms the mind and improves energy flow preparing you for a good night’s sleep.
The smell was lovely, and it had a nice consistency; it felt great after the first application and left my skin not feeling oily.
There may well be a placebo effect at play here but I felt really tranquil after applying it – my daughters said I smelled lovely when I went into kiss them goodnight.
Maybe it was just the feeling it gave me but I certainly slept better after using it – and had great skin!’
Sleepy Head scent and diffuser: £15
Use time: two weeks+
More info: kiss-air.com
At £15, the Sleepy Head diffuser, from Kiss Air, was among the least expensive products tested but it worked for Carina – and keeps its scent for three months
CARINA SAYS: ‘The Sleepy Head diffuser, which you simply leave in your room to diffuse a lovely smell probably required the least effort of all the sleep enhancers we tried – but it was actually really effective at making me feel relaxed.
The scent, of chamomile, lavender and vanilla, made our room smell lovely and thus made me very happy to be in bed. Would it help me drop off better if I was stressed? Almost certainly.’
Reflex perfection pillow: £81
Use time: two weeks+
More info: reflexpillow.com
Converted! Nick Hopper said that he was so impressed with the Reflex Perfection pillow that he’s now using it as his main pillow
The pillow claims to keep your head, neck, back, shoulders, and entire spine aligned during the night
NICK SAYS: ‘The blurb that came with the Reflex Perfection – new in the Reflex range – talks about a ‘revolutionary support structure’ that keeps your head, neck, back, shoulders, and entire cervical spine in correct alignment during the night.
What I really liked about this pillow is that he base hasn’t got a straight line, it’s got a gentle curve to it so you really feel snuggled into the pillow.
I have to say, I was hugely impressed; it offered a really comfortable night’s sleep and I’ve started using this now as my main pillow.’
Sleep Oil Honey CBD 50mg: £64
Use time: two weeks+
More info: ulu.com
NICK SAYS: ‘Made in partnership with the 19 Harley Street Hospital, this sleep oil contains 5 per cent CBD (Cannabidiol) oil and is designed to improve sleep quality and quantity, as well as boost mood and reduce stress levels.
Can a couple of sprays of ULU, which contains CBD (Cannabidiol) oil transform how you sleep?
It’s taken orally, so two to three sprays under the tongue. I felt reasonably relaxed before bedtime after taking it but it’s hard to know if that was down to the oil.
To be honest, I didn’t feel hugely different to the way I ordinarily feel at that time of night. I slept reasonably well for the first night but my old habits were back by night three.’