What comes to mind when you think of a luxury? A massage? A Gucci tee? A super-yacht? What about a good night’s sleep? Because when was the last time you woke up really refreshed? Exactly.
Last year, The Sleep School in London (the UK’s largest insomniac treatment centre) found that we’re losing the equivalent of an entire night’s sleep each week. Out of the 11,000 people surveyed, 39% were suffering with chronic insomnia, and only 1% believed they woke up feeling refreshed. One per cent. Let’s just let that sink in.
“We’re in the middle of a sleeplessness epidemic, and my biggest fear for 2017 is that insomnia is becoming normalised,” says leading sleep psychologist Dr Guy Meadows. “Sleep should be a fundamental priority, but now it’s having to fight for a chance in our lives.”
But as we’re drifting along like an extra from The Walking Dead, the sleep industry has woken up with a money-making bang. There’s everything from gadgets to luxury hotels offering comprehensive sleep retreats. It’s a huge market – growing to £59 million in 2016 – but for us, the consumer, it’s pretty overwhelming. And expensive.
Realistically, eight hours of quality shut-eye might not be priceless (how many of us can afford to drop £6,000 on a mattress?), but it’s definitely valuable. So, what’s worth the investment?
"I want to cure my diagnosed insomnia"
Tester: Holly, Deputy Chief Sub Editor
The product: Backed by clinicians, the Alpha-Stim AID is a pocket-sized device that comes with electrodes that clip onto your earlobes and sends tiny electric currents (known as cranial electrotherapy stimulation) to the brain to increase ‘alpha’ (relaxing) activity. Sounds scary, but it’s totally safe.
My verdict: Name an insomnia treatment and there’s a good chance I’ve tried it (and it’s failed), from prescription medication to 5-HTP (serotonin-boosting) supplements, so I was cautiously optimistic about this sci-fi-sounding gadget. Following a phone consultation, I was instructed to get into bed, attach the clips and set the timer for one hour on level one (of five) for my sleep-onset insomnia. I fell asleep within the hour. The effects were cumulative – I trialled it for ten days and each night it seemed to bring me to a relaxed state, helping me to sleep better than I had in months. It’s not the most comfortable thing to wear in bed but, for me, the results make up for it.
Total cost: £538.80
"I want to feel more rested before bed"
Tester: Natalie, Deputy Picture Editor
The product: H7 Insomnia Control is a rubber disc secured with a patch which activates the body’s natural ability to calm down by ‘gently massaging’ the H7 insomnia pressure point on your wrist. You’re supposed to put it on 30 minutes before bed (and take it off in the morning) for ten nights, then on alternate nights.
My verdict: At first, I was applying the disc roughly to the area shown on the diagram, and not specifically to the natural groove in my wrist which aligns with my little finger. Once I nailed the application, I noticed a slight difference. After ten days, I wasn’t tossing and turning as much before I fell asleep, and after 20 days (one pack), I was waking up, on average, once instead of my usual three times. It doesn’t seem very scientific, but since I’ve stopped using them, my restlessness has returned, so it must have been doing something.
£9.90 per pack, available from
Total cost: £9.90
"I want to hit an emergency sleep reset"
Tester: Hanna, Entertainment Editor
The product: Sleep With Six Senses is a five-to-seven-day better-sleep regime, created by the hotel group and doctors. Before arriving at the Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal, I filled in a questionnaire for my ‘sleep ambassador’. At the hotel, I was shown my room, complete with bamboo-fibre PJs to stop me overheating, a supportive Hanse pillow for my sore neck, and a mattress sensor connected to a sleep-tracking gadget. My ambassador ran a wellness screening where sensors measured 13 body processes affecting sleep. My main issues were high heart rate at 93 bpm (it should be 70-80), and a high score on the HRV Stress Index (which measures heart rate variability). My body was too ‘wired’ at night, meaning that I couldn’t relax into the first ‘transition’ phase of sleep, and then once I did, I struggled to get into the ‘delta’ phase – the part that helps you wake up feeling refreshed. My prescription? Morning ashtanga yoga to boost serotonin, the feel-good hormone that regulates sleep cycles, followed by afternoon meditation.
My verdict: After four days, my heart rate had dropped to 70 bpm and my stress score from 175 to 100. By the final night, I was asleep within 14 minutes, my delta sleep increased by 60% and I woke up just twice. Since returning home, I’ve kept up the daily yoga via YouTube tutorials on the KinoYoga channel and love my PJs (try ) but, crucially, I’m over my sleep angst. Four nights of good sleep gave me a much-needed reset and showed me that I can sleep properly. My sleep ambassador taught me that the optimum amount of sleep is five cycles (each lasting 90 minutes), and setting my alarm seven and a half hours from when I fall asleep means it goes off when I’m in a lighter phase, so it’s easier to wake up. It’s expensive, but thanks to the high-tech tests, the programme was 100% personalised and gave me an insight into my body that I couldn’t have achieved on my own.
Prices start from £1,229 for a five-night stay at Six Senses Douro Valley, including the four-night Sleep With Six Senses programme and return flights with TAP Air Portugal from London Gatwick. Book via . Visit
Total cost: £1,300
"I want to stop waking up after nightmares"
Tester: Ali, Deputy Features Editor
The product: Acupuncture – inserting fine needles into specific points – is often used for sleep issues. Studies have even found it to be as effective as medication. “It stimulates the central nervous system to help reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol,” explains Colette Assor, founder of Acupuncture Works North London, at my first session. “This promotes deeper sleep, and if we can reduce stress hormones, which continue to pump at night, you should wake less.”
My verdict: Ten minutes after needles are inserted into my head, ears and feet, I’m asleep on the treatment table. That night I stir, but I don’t have a nightmare. After three visits, Colette says: “Your body is starting to self-regulate and is producing less cortisol.” After my last session, I wake less and recall fewer dreams. Acupuncture has a cumulative effect, so the more treatments you have, the more likely you are to sleep soundly. Sign me up for four more.
£65 per session for six to eight weeks; . Find a practitioner at
Total cost: £390
"I want to feel like mum’s just tucked me in"
Tester: Natasha, Digital Strategy Director
The product: “Have a bath before bed” is hardly a new tip, but what about soaking in magnesium? Research links magnesium levels and the body’s ability to follow its sleep cycle efficiently. It seems 11% of us are magnesium deficient, leading to fatigue, restless legs, headaches and anxiety. It is absorbed through the skin, so sleep practitioner James Wilson suggests dissolving 250g of BetterYou Magnesium Flakes in a hot bath, and soaking for 20 minutes before bed, three times a week.
My verdict: Usually, I’m so exhausted at night (three kids will do that), I fall asleep clutching a glass of wine in front of the TV. The first time the water hit my skin, I felt a tingling sensation. I’m still using the flakes and, after four weeks, it’s cleared rough skin so I’m less itchy during the night (point score), and on ‘bath days’ it induces a soothing, soporific state to my pre-sleep routine (triple point score). Magically, it seems magnesium shifts calcium out of the muscles, making my body relax.
Total cost: £9.95
"I want to silence my Sunday night anxiety"
Tester: Kat, Social Media Editor
The product: Sleep With Me is a wildly popular podcast designed to distract your mind from racing thoughts by telling long, boring stories.
My verdict: I loved it. Sleep With Me’s premise is that it is monotonous, dull, and ridiculous – and that ends up being weirdly comforting. Unlike listening to an audiobook, there’s no plot to keep track of and stories are at least an hour long, which gives my brain enough to cling on to, while letting it zone out. I wasn’t expecting much, but it gave my buzzing mind something else to focus on other than the week ahead.
Available on iTunes and Android
Total cost: FREE
"I want to step away from the screen at night"
Tester: Alice, Senior Writer
The product: This Works Scent Well Portable Diffuser charges from a USB to heat up an aromatherapy ‘sleep-enhancing super blend’ of lavender, camomile and vetivert (sold separately, £18). One step up from a pillow spray, these essential oils are designed to waft around your room, making it as relaxing as possible.
My verdict: A diffuser? Really? As someone who’s tried leaving her phone outside of the room, to listening to Spotify’s ‘Sleep’ playlist, I wasn’t convinced. Still, I persevered. An hour before bed, I’d switch it on, jump in the shower, potter about and when I re-entered my bedroom, I was cocooned in soothing scent. Now, it doesn’t feel like bedtime without it. I’ve read about having a healthy sleep routine, I’ve just never made it a priority, until now. It’s reminded me how important it is to have a ‘wind down’ signal.
Total cost: £55
"I want to stop hitting the snooze button"
Tester: Leanne, Content Editor
The product: Lumie invented the ‘wake-up light’ back in the ’90s, and Bodyclock Luxe 700 is their most advanced. It mimics a sunrise to help us stir naturally and keep our sleep cycle on track, boosting mood and productivity. The clock features over 20 wake-up and sleep sounds (white noise, traffic, background café chat), a sunset setting, and cuts out blue light (the type of light used by your phone) that can lower sleep-inducing melatonin levels at night.
My verdict: On the first night, I set my morning light alarm and chose the waves audio setting, because who doesn’t like drifting off on the beach? But it was too distracting, so I stuck with the light function – and it worked. Thirty minutes before my alarm, a gradual sunrise filled the room, reaching 50% brightness (you can alter the settings for a longer, shorter or brighter one) and I woke up every morning before the alarm – unheard of. I also felt ready to get out of bed, instead of relying on snooze to bring me round.
Available from , John Lewis and
Total cost: £170
Your sleep-by-numbers guide
- 16 hours: The amount of time we should aim to be awake each day.
- 2 pm: The time we should stop drinking caffeine if we want to sleep well.
- 30 minutes: How long we should ‘prep’ ourselves for sleep by switching off tech, dimming lights or reading a book.
- 1.5-2 hours: How often we cycle between the four stages of sleep – transition, light, deep and rapid eye movement (REM).
- 7-8 hours: The average amount of sleep we need (although depending on your age, it ranges from 7-17 hours).
- 20 minutes: How much more sleep women need than men per night.
- 1-3 pm: The best time to take a nap – 26 minutes is all you need to boost productivity and alertness.
Is THIS the only sleep book you need?
by Jason Ellis, the only Professor of Sleep Science in the world is set to shake things up. Pulling together 10 years of pioneering, he promises to solve your sleep disorders in just seven days for £12.99. See if it worked for us here