A long winter's nap, for many, has become as luxurious as a Caribbean holiday. And it's a cheaper way to escape the relentless arctic blasts of 2014.
But sleep can be even more elusive than a vacation. At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
If pharmaceutical aids aren't an attractive option, there are alternatives: some new age-y investments, others ancient and cheap.
Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet
Lifestyle brand Philip Stein, whose Natural Frequency Technology watches gained fame as an Oprah Winfrey favorite, has spun the trademark technology into a Sleep Bracelet. It acts like an antenna, harnessing natural frequencies in the air and channeling them into a "relax" message for our bodies. One study showed that human cells exposed to Natural Frequency Technology produced melatonin at levels approximately 20 percent higher than those exposed to controls. Strapped on like a watch (though it doesn't tell time), the bracelet is made to be worn through the night, with a soft, perforated hypoallergenic microfiber band. It's being marketed especially to long-haul travelers, with airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways and Singapore Airlines selling it in-flight.
$395 at philipstein.com
Dr. Teal's Soothe & Sleep Epsom salt
An underrated mineral in Epsom salts not only relieves aches but also helps to regulate body temperature and sleep, says Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical doctor and author of "The Magnesium Miracle." Compared with a century ago, the amount of magnesium that people consume through their diets has dropped by about 60 percent. That's where soaking in a warm bath spiked with 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salts — magnesium sulfate — can fill in the gaps, or pores. Magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin, and Epsom salt is easily absorbed by the bank account. Bonus: As an anti-inflammatory, Epsom salt can temporarily shrink the appearance of waist and thighs, as seen on a recent anti-aging episode of "The Dr. Oz Show." Not a bath person? Eat magnesium-rich foods throughout the day, such as oatmeal, spinach, lentils and bananas
$5.99 at Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Target
Philips Wake-up Light
Adding insult to insomnia, sufferers typically fall asleep near dawn, just before the alarm blares like a garbage truck backing up on their bed. The Philips Wake-up Light eases re-entry into the wakeful world, as well as providing a deterrent to the dangerous epidemic of hitting the snooze button, which a survey recently found that nearly 6 out of 10 employed Americans do at least once a week. The digital clock is an orb ringed by a soft light that gradually brightens, simulating the sunrise, starting 30 minutes before the alarm is set to go off. Placed on a nightstand near the face, it signals the body to transition from sleep. Bonus: Available in four models; each can serve as a bedside lamp, with 10 to 20 different light settings.
$69.99 to $169.99 at amazon.com
SensorPedic SensorCool pillow
Memory foam earns the highest customer satisfaction ratings in mattress surveys. So no surprise, the technology is migrating to the head of the bed. A frequently cited drawback of memory foam mattresses is that they "sleep hot." But SensorPedic's SensorCool pillow lived up to the name, with a gel layer on each side of the pillow. The idea is that when one side warms to room temperature, a quick flip takes you to the other cool side. That provides a modicum of relief to women whose sleep is disturbed by night sweats associated with hormonal fluctuations. For those who prefer a firm pillow over a floppy one, the memory foam offers a comforting cradle for head and neck. Warning: Memory foam products are known for exuding an offensive chemical odor at first, and this pillow is no exception. It should be allowed to air out, uncovered, in a well-ventilated spot for at least 48 hours — our tester pillow needed a week — during the "off-gassing" period.
$60 to $80 at dillards.com
Aloha's The Foundation
You know the basics of what not to eat or drink in the hours before bedtime. But as cleanses and so-called clean eating continue to gain adherents, more beverages, supplements and foods are hitting the market that can abet sleep. Aloha, maker of nutrient-rich beverage mixers and supplements, offers The Foundation, a five-pill pack that supplies several nutrients, including magnesium, widely regarded as one of the best natural sleep aids. Aloha uses a gold-standard plant form that's then chelated — attached to amino acids — to enhance absorption by the body. More than half of Americans are reportedly deficient in magnesium because of modern farming practices, pollutants, caffeine and processed foods. Other supplements that can help regulate sleep include melatonin and L-theanine.
$95 for a 30-day supply at aloha.com
Good Night Bulb
Like electronics that emit blue light, typical light bulbs in nightstand lamps can thwart the body's natural production of melatonin, the hormone that helps people fall asleep. The Good Night LED light bulb, originally developed for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station, filters out about half of the blue light emitted by typical bulbs. It lasts as much as 50 times longer too; thus 50 times the price.
$69.99 at definitydigital.com
Kiss My Face Early to Bed gel (not pictured)
It's like night and day. Clove, chamomile, jasmine, lavender, neroli and ylang ylang conspire to induce a peaceful, sleepy feeling in the Kiss My Face Early to Bed Shower & Bath Gel, a favorite of our two testers. For the morning after, Kiss My Face's Early to Rise Shower & Bath Gel invigorates with bay, basil, eucalyptus, juniper, lemon, lemongrass, peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen botanicals. Pleasantly zingy, but we prefer dreamy.
$10.95 at Kissmyface.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun