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The best sleeping hacks for a good night’s rest

Curbed editors reveal how to get those ZZZs

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A bedroom with white bedding, and french doors open to the outside, lined by dark blue curtains.
An inviting bedroom in a midcentury modern home in the Hollywood Hills. See the full home tour, this way.
Photo by Sam Frost

Whether you’re preparing for a big race, trying to ace a presentation, or just want to stop grumbling at your kids, sleep makes everything better. The National Sleep Foundation reports that sleep is a vital indicator of our overall health and well-being, and that the average adult should be aiming for seven to nine hours each night.

Now for the bad news: At least 35 percent of American adults are sleeping less than seven hours each night. And even for people who do achieve the eight-hour goal, falling asleep, staying asleep, and feeling rested when you awake can all seem like an impossible task.

To tackle this challenge, we surveyed the editors at Curbed to get the scoop on all of their best sleeping hacks. We found a treasure trove of information, with not only tips on the best bedroom decor for sleeping—hello, holy grail of bed sheets—but also hot takes on when and how to catch those ZZZs. Behold, our editors’ guide to an amazing night’s sleep.

Invest in good sheets

bed sheets
Percale sheet sets available in five color options, $188-$288, Snowe.

Everyone knows that you should have a good mattress, and frankly, there’s a laundry list of direct-to-consumer mattress companies that can help you with everything from a firm twin to a plush California king. But after you’ve completed the giant task of finding the perfect mattress, good sheets can make or break a night’s sleep.

Linen sheets might be having a moment, but according to Kelsey Keith, Curbed’s editor-in-chief, the best set of sheets on the market are the percale sheets from Snowe. Percale sheets are made from matte cotton broadcloth sheeting constructed as one thread (warp) over one thread (weft). This results in a crisp, cool experience that only gets better each time you wash, as more than a few Curbed staffers can attest. If you like a softer sheet, we’ve rounded up the best linen, sateen, and silk options over here.

Make it dark

Your body is programmed to sleep in the dark, and the most restful sleep you can have is in a dark room. I’ve personally outfitted two houses with custom (but still relatively affordable) blackout blinds from SelectBlinds. These cordless honeycomb cellular blackout shades (available in multiple colors) are safe for kids and a feature a top-down/bottom-up system that lets you let in light from the top while maintaining privacy.

If you’re renting or don’t want to shell out for custom blinds, Curbed San Francisco editor Brock Keeling recommends these light-blocking curtain panels from Target. He lives next to the Bay Bridge and uses them to block out the very bright light that shines off of the bridge. Curbed cities director Sally Kuchar also likes the Tupplur blackout roller blind from Ikea, saying they are a “godsend” for keeping out the light and are “super easy to install.”

Try a sound machine

Natural white noise creates an ideal environment for restful sleep and can help block background noise (thanks, loud neighbor). Curbed’s resident copy editor, Emma Alpern, reports that the Sleep Easy Sound Conditioner “changed her life”; quite the endorsement for a $29 product. The Marpac Dohm sound machine is also a good choice, and for travel, this battery-powered sound machine does the job (although the sound quality isn’t as good as the other options listed here).

Wind down with journaling

Writing can be a cathartic and relaxing way to ease into your evening routine. According to Curbed Detroit editor Robin Runyan, “If you have a lot on your mind, or anxiety about the day, journaling can help to get it out of your head and onto paper. Alternately, the end of the day is a good time to write down gratitudes in your life. Whatever your reason, it can help calm a variety of thoughts bouncing around your head that might prevent you from sleeping.”

A classic Moleskine notebook never goes out of style, or if you’d like to try bullet journaling, try this one from Leuchtturm1917.

Pillows make a difference

There was probably a time when you didn’t think much about what type of pillow you use. But for a truly good night’s sleep, the pillow matters. Kuchar loves this adjustable pillow from Coop Home Goods. She says, “The memory foam is shredded so you can take out as much as you like until it’s the ideal thickness.” The world agrees; the pillow has over 15,000 five-star reviews.

Other sleepers can opt for the Snowe Down Alternative Pillow—a firm and supportive pillow that works for side-sleepers who don’t like memory foam.

Make it smell nice

Create a good-smelling routine and your body will be more likely to drift off to sleep. Curbed’s social media manager Sharell Jeffrey loves the Calm Sleep Mist, a natural elixir of lavender, frankincense, chamomile, and clary sage essential oils. The small spray bottle is easily transportable so you can take it with you while you travel.

Another option is to launder your bedding in a yummy-smelling detergent. Kuchar reports that these rose laundry pods “make everything smell amazing.”

Finally, a diffuser for essential oils lets you customize which smells you prefer at night. The Victsing wood-grain aromatherapy oil diffuser features LED lights and six to 10 hours of mist time. Start with an essential oil set of nine different smells—we like a blend of lavender and eucalyptus at night.

Try meditation

A plethora of new apps make it easier than ever to fall asleep. The Calm app features meditations, video lessons on mindful movement, relaxing music, and 25-minute sleep stories that will rock you to sleep.

Similarly, Headspace is a well-designed app that features hundreds of themed meditation sessions that can reduce stress and anxiety, and fit into busy schedules with adjustable lengths. The sleep section uses three- to 20-minute meditations and an array of sleep sounds; the app even includes mediations specifically designed to help kids fall asleep.

Worried about keeping your partner up when you’re listening? These Bluetooth wireless SleepPhones are headphones set into a headband that makes it both comfortable and practical to fall asleep.

Invest in a weighted blanket

Weighted blankets are a common tool in therapy, especially for kids with autism, so it makes sense that they’ve entered the adult sleeping market. They won’t necessarily cure your sleep problems, but they can reduce anxiety if you’re already a person who likes the feeling of a heavy blanket. They can, however, feel too heavy if you’re a sleeper that turns from side to side naturally at night. If you want to try one, check out the SensaCalm Custom Weighted Blanket, from a company that makes lots of different sizes and weights.