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How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep (Even When Everything Is the Worst)

There’s a reason why sleep is so zeitgeisty right now: Getting a good night’s rest is truly one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health.

Scientifically speaking, there are still plenty of mysteries about why we need sleep and what happens when we’re sleeping, but most of us know these basic realities from experience: it feels amazing to be well-rested and getting the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night can be frustratingly elusive.

Not being able to catch those z’s has broader implications beyond the horror of lying awake at 3 a.m., certain you’ll be trapped in sleepless purgatory forever. After a bad night of sleep, studies have shown that you may have a harder time remembering things the next day, your ability to do quick decision-making and problem solving may be impaired, and you might be worse at accurately identifying certain emotions in other people (fun!). Not to mention that, big picture, sleep problems can increase your risk for serious health problems including heart disease, strokes, mental distress and all-cause mortality, according to the CDC. (Here’s my obligatory please see a doctor note if you’re experiencing sleep problems.)

So, yup, science supports what many of us already know: not getting enough sleep is the literal worst.

The good news is that as sleep gains more attention, we’re learning more about the process (and products) we need to get to bed. (If you’re a nerd like me and want to learn more about sleep science, check out this great book on the topic.) That said, it’s harder to get to sleep—and stay asleep—than it’s ever been before. Our world today is brighter and louder, not to mention that we’ve got a Twitter-happy president who casually tweets about starting a nuclear war and a nonstop newscycle that, let’s be honest, can be pretty stressful.

Luckily, the sleep tech market is booming: there’s a plethora of available apps, sensors, immersive virtual reality experiences and “smart” mattresses that promise to help you get to bed. But many of these products are in early phases of testing, not to mention immensely overpriced.

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