The Best Tools for Better Sleep, According to Real Simple Editors

We tried 65 pajamas, blankets, alarm clocks, and more to find 11 winners that can help you calmly and comfortably drift off.
By Courtenay Smith
January 20, 2021
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
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Best Bedding

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When several testers independently said, “This blanket was like a warm hug,” we knew we were onto something. “I love the look and feel of this blanket,” one reviewer told us. “It looks like an expensive quilt, and I really enjoyed the smooth, cool feel of the fabric.” Another reviewer had never used a weighted blanket before and found it eye-opening that it improved his sleep. The 15-pound weight was deemed just right, and the bamboo-viscose material wicked away moisture. Plus, the company donates 10 percent of sales to organizations helping people without homes—making this a feel-good purchase in more ways than one.

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$80 per half;

“This is a game changer! No more pushing and pulling the comforter all night,” said Jenna Helwig, Real Simple’s food director, who was tired of the nightly games of tug-of-war with her husband. Each person orders a half-size comforter with their desired warmth level (light, medium, or extra). When the two halves arrive, you button them together to make a luxurious-feeling, attractive comforter. (Given its button center, though, you’ll probably want to glam it up with a duvet cover.) “Having one comforter with different levels of warmth is a dream come true,” Jenna said.

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The unique bamboo-rayon material of this bedding set wicks away moisture while being soft and durable—and our testers raved about the sheets’ cooling powers. “These sheets are amazing. There are days when I wake up soaked in sweat. With these, I woke up completely dry,” said one editor who sweats intensely due to a medication side effect. Another staffer said, “These sheets stayed cool, and I didn’t have to kick my comforter off in the middle of the night like I usually do.”

Best Sound Machines

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We were wowed by the customization this soothing little sleep aid offers. You can choose 10 different fan sounds, from industrial to vent to oscillating. Or opt for one of 10 white noise variations, including classic white (the sound of TV static), brown noise (the low hum of a brass instrument), and the new sleep-friendly darling, pink noise (akin to falling rain). You’re certain to find the perfect tone to lull you to sleep. “It’s on par with my air conditioner, which drowns out noise in the summer,” one enthusiastic tester said.

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Though a splurge, these earplug superheroes offer the priceless gift of blocking the sound of a snoring spouse or busy city street. The soft buds come in three sizes to ensure a comfortable seal in your ear. The companion app pipes in relaxing sounds (including specially engineered noise-masking tones) that you can play all night or set with a timer. “I must have fallen asleep within seven minutes. They effectively blocked street noise,” said Rachel Sylvester, a Real Simple senior editor. “The sound is really high quality,” another tester said. “It’s like sea waves breaking right outside your door. They are comfortable to sleep in, and I despise earplugs.”

Best Relaxation App

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$13 per month, $70 per year;

The Sleep section in the meditation app Headspace brings soothing to a new level. The “sleepcasts” offer meditation via storytelling; in one, a gentle voice leads you through an antiques store on a rainy day. The “Nighttime SOS” collection provides guided exercises if you wake up in the middle of the night. (“I so needed these!” one reviewer said.) “Wind downs” are exercises like body scans, which come in handy for sleep and morning meditation.

Best Pajamas

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$32 for bottoms, from $34 for tops;

“Soft, light, comfortable, and flattering,” our editors raved about these pajamas made with lightweight rayon. Hot sleepers gave them high marks for their immediate cooling effect and the “airy, not synthetic-feeling” fabric. The Cool Nights collection includes many styles—such as camis, T-shirts, shorts, and pants—that go up to size XXL. Choose pieces à la carte to create the perfect set for your body and temperature preference. “Putting these on got me excited for bedtime, and I didn’t want to take them off the next day,” said Jenny Brown, Real Simple’s copy and research chief.

Best Pillow Spray

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This essential oil formula, laced with chamomile, vetivert, and lavender, has become the gold standard of pillow mists. (The company was founded by a former Vogue UK beauty director.) The spa-scented elixir, which you spritz lightly onto your pillowcase or pj’s, won the hearts—and z’s—of our testers. “I sprayed my pillow after waking up early and went back to sleep until 9 a.m. I haven’t slept that late in years,” said Filomena Guzzardi, Real Simple’s editorial production director. Another tester clocked a “rare eight hours” while using it in her noisy apartment. Eco bonus: It’s free of phthalates, synthetic color and fragrance, parabens, and GMOs.

Best Alarm Clocks

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The incredible range of features is sure to impress—and improve your slumber. The clock analyzes room temperature, noise levels, light, and humidity to generate tips to improve your sleep environment. “Turns out my bedroom is warmer than ideal, which may be one reason I’m a sweaty sleeper,” a tester said. The sunset and sunrise settings help optimize bedroom lighting for sleep: “Waking up to a soft glow and birds chirping was so, so, so pleasant,” a reviewer noted. The blaring PowerWake setting was also appreciated, for those days when a gentle nudge doesn’t cut it.

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This amped-up version of a traditional alarm clock aims to stop nighttime doomscrolling. It offers key functions to encourage you to leave your phone out of reach. The two-alarm system (a soft ping to rouse you, followed by a stronger one to get you out of bed) is “a great, gentler way to wake up,” said Leslie Corona, Real Simple’s senior associate home editor. She didn’t realize how much the ambient light of her usual clock was interfering with her sleep until she tried Loftie’s blackout feature, which dims the digits for light-sensitive sleepers.

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As you snooze, Fitbit’s latest sensors keep tabs on your heart rate, skin temp, and oxygen levels to track the length and quality of your sleep. When you wake up, open the app and get your sleep score. “I thought I was sleeping eight hours a night, but I learned I’m only sleeping about six hours, so that was helpful,” one reviewer said. The premium app arms you with a library of meditations and breathing exercises to assist with falling asleep or drifting off again if you wake during the night. The watch also tracks other health metrics, like steps, irregular heartbeats, and menstrual cycles.