We all know how much—and how well—you sleep affects both your athletic and professional performance. One study found that basketball players’ free-throw and three-point-shot accuracy increased by 9 percent when they slept an extra 108 minutes per night.
But becoming a better sleeper isn’t easy.
So I called Cheri Mah, author of the basketball study and a research fellow at UC San Francisco, for advice on what gear to buy to boost sleep quality.
“Adequate sleep is essential—it’s as important as training or nutrition,” says Mah. “That’s easier said than done, because sleep is the first thing that gets sacrificed when you have so many things to juggle.” Athletes should try to get eight to ten hours of sleep per night, says Mah. The following seven products will help you make each hour count.
“Some people prefer to take their own pillow traveling,” says Mah. If you travel light and can’t afford the extra room, ask the hotel management what kind of pillows they use. Many offer different options, and if you have a preference—like foam or down—having the right pillow can vastly improve sleep quality when you’re on the road.
We like: Bed Gear BG-X All Position Pillow ($92)
This pillow has a moisture-wicking cover and air gussets to help you shed nighttime heat.
An ideal sleep environment is a quiet one, but not everyone has the luxury of quiet room. Whether you live near a busy street or share a bed with a snoring partner, you can block out the noise with earplugs.
We like: Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs ($6)
I’ve been traveling with Mack’s earplugs for the past decade. The silicone plugs mold perfectly into my ears, giving just the right amount of noise protection. Bonus: They pull double duty while I’m surfing or kayaking because they’re waterproof.
“Cooler temperature is associated with better sleep quality,” says Mah. A fan is an effective, inexpensive way to regulate the temperature in your bedoom.
We like: Lasko 12-Inch Performance Table Fan ($30)
It’s inexpensive, quiet, and has a small footprint, making winter storage easy.
Comfy Mattress or Mattress Cover
A mattress should be comfortable. It should also sleep cool. Many athletes perspire at night, Mah says, so ensuring that you have a cool bedroom and comfortable bedding can boost sleep quality.
We like: Novaform 3-Inch Seasonal Memory Foam Mattress Topper ($190)
This Novaform mattress topper costs about a tenth of a brand-name memory foam mattress without sacrificing any of the plush, enveloping feel. Nice touch: The side is infused with gel designed to pull heat away from your body and circulate air for a cooler night’s sleep.
“Some consumer devices have helped people learn about and be more cognizant of how many hours they sleep,” says Mah. “If you wake up and stop to think about how you slept for 10 more seconds in the morning than you would have otherwise, that’s a step in the right direction to get healthy sleep every day.”
We like: Fitbit Surge ($250)
I’ve been testing the Surge for months and have been impressed with its data tracking, but I was particularly interested in how well it monitors sleep. One tester realized he’d toss around for 45 minutes after his aging dog’s 3 a.m. pee breaks.
“Eye masks are good if you travel or are on the road a lot,” says Mah. “It’s a good idea to bring your own in case blackout curtains are not available where you’re staying.”
We like: Bucky 40 Blinks Sleep Masks ($11)
This mask lightly cups your eyes and has a more adjustable head strap than any of its competitors I’ve tested.
Sure, blocking morning light will help you sleep longer, but it’ll also help you sleep better. “Morning sunlight can affect sleep, and often people may not realize that light may be disrupting their sleep,” says Mah.
We like: Insola Kate 63-Inch Rod Pocket Blackout Window Curtain ($16)
I don’t pretend to be an interior designer, but when it comes to utility-to-price ratio, it’s hard to beat these $16 blackout curtains. They block 99 percent of outside light and 40 percent of outside noise.
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