Product review: SleepPhones

Welcome to my seventh product review. Every few weeks I will be testing and reviewing a sleep-related product. This time it is SleepPhones.

SleepPhones…”pajamas for your ears” the tagline reads. How cute!

SleepPhones are ear bud speakers encased within a soft, fleece headband that you wear around your head (covering your ears) and plug into your iPod, mp3 player, CD player or other audio device (they are compatible with most audio devices). They are designed to be worn comfortably in bed, to help users relax and fall asleep faster and to help drown out unwanted noises.

When testing SleepPhones I focused on six key factors: Comfort, Sound Quality, Relaxation, Sleep Onset, Noise-Blocker and Portability. Here’s my review under each heading:

Comfort – Are they comfortable enough to sleep in, even if you’re a side-sleeper?

Yes! The fleecy headband is very soft, lightweight and extremely comfortable. The ear buds are nearly flat so, even when I lay on my side, they don’t prod me in the ear or feel painful as standard headphones can. And, because the ear buds are enclosed in the headband, they can’t fall out of your ears like conventional headphones can.

Sound Quality – Does the music sound any good?

Yes, SleepPhones sound good; I was impressed.  Audiophiles may disagree, but I would expect most people to be satisfied with the sound quality.

Relaxation – Do they help you to relax?

If you find listening to music relaxing, then yes. Although, for me, it really depends on what I’m listening to. Soft, classical music is my top choice for relaxing at bedtime.

SleepPhones will play whatever you have on your iPod / CD player though, so you can listen to, for example, audiobooks, hypnosis or meditation if you prefer.

Sleep Onset – Do they help you to fall asleep faster?

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know, taking time to relax and prepare for sleep is important for falling asleep and good quality snoozing. Listening to soft, classical music at bedtime definitely helps me to fall asleep faster.

Noise-blocker – Are they effective at drowning out unwanted noises?

Yes, they are wonderful at drowning out Louis’ early morning wake up calls! And if they can do that, I expect they’d be equally good at blocking out snoring or noises from loud neighbours.

Conversely, SleepPhones are ideal if you want to listen to music or an audiobook in bed without disturbing your bed-mate.

Portability – Are they good for travelling?

Yep, they’re small and lightweight so would hardly take up any room in your hand luggage. Plus, they also double up as a comfortable eye mask – so you actually get two products in one! I’ll certainly be packing them for my next flight.

I loved SleepPhones. They’re a great product for anyone who loves listening to music in bed, anyone who struggles to relax or fall asleep at bedtime and anyone who wants to block out unwanted noises at bedtime. Top marks from me!

SleepPhones are available from We Love Sleep. They come in three sizes (Extra Small, One Size Fits Most and Extra Large) and are available in black, grey or lavender.

Sleeping separately – the Sleep Geek shares his views

Today, I’m treating you to an article written by James Wilson – the Sleep Geek – and founder of We Love Sleep, which was published earlier this month in Verita Magazine. Here he offers his thoughts on the topic of couples sleeping separately:

“I am often asked for my views on the best option for couples: to sleep side by side or to have separate beds or even separate rooms. My answer is always the same: you should do whatever helps you to sleep better.

In my experience, the main reason couples consider sleeping apart is due to one or both partners doing something that disturbs the other’s sleep. This could be snoring, hogging the duvet, sleep talking, wriggling and fidgeting, rolling towards your bed-mate or taking up too much bed space (some people sleep in a starfish shape, for example, which can leave little space for their partner to sleep comfortably!).

Sleep habits such as these can have a detrimental impact on relationships. The loss of sleep, for both partners, can cause frustration, stress, resentment and loss of intimacy. In such situations, it can sometimes feel that the only solution (to ensure good sleep and improve the relationship) is to sleep apart from your loved one, either in separate beds or bedrooms.

It is this blinkered line of thinking that is often repeated in the mainstream media and reinforced by advice from the Sleep Council (be aware that, despite its name, the Sleep Council’s main aim is to encourage you to buy more mattresses!).

Whilst sleeping separately might work for some couples, I do have some issues with this advice, not least the practical considerations. There is a presumption that our bedrooms are large enough to accommodate two beds and that we all have spare bedrooms to allow each partner to sleep comfortably in separate rooms. For many people, that’s just not the case.

Also, in my experience, couples want to sleep together, where possible, and only consider sleeping apart as a last resort. In fact, some people find it very difficult to sleep without their partner, because they feel less secure. I can identify with this since, when my girlfriend is away, I sleep lighter and my sleep is broken as I wake at any little sound. Feeling secure and relaxed is very important for a good quality night’s sleep. By sleeping separately, you could end up solving one problem but creating another. Sleeping together can also be important for maintaining a connection with your partner, and so sleeping apart can actually further damage your relationship.

My preferred approach is to focus on dealing with the key issue – the sleeping problem or habit that is creating the problem.

Below are some of [my] top tips to help you overcome the common problems that can make sleeping together a chore:

• Snoring – Of all the sleep problems I deal with, snoring has by far the most detrimental impact on relationships but can often be alleviated simply by changing your sleeping position (research indicates that over 60% of snorers will stop snoring or snore less when sleeping on their sides). While sleeping on your side sounds simple enough, the challenge is maintaining that sleeping position on your own once you fall asleep, but there are products available which help with this.

• Duvet hogging – If you’re unlucky enough to sleep with a duvet-stealer, simply invest in separate duvets. If you each have you own duvet, then your partner can’t pinch it from you!

• Restless sleeping (wriggling, fidgeting, tossing and turning) – Often those who suffer from restless sleep do so because they aren’t relaxed when they go to bed. Taking time to relax and unwind before bed is important for good quality sleep – try taking a bath or shower, reading a book or Yogic breathing techniques to help you prepare for sleep.

• Strange sleep positions – If your partner takes up too much space in the bed, buying a bigger bed and mattress can help. Did you know that a standard double bed only gives each partner 68cm width space in bed, whereas a cot bed gives a toddler 70cm? By having a bigger bed and mattress you and your partner are less likely to clash in the night and more likely to enjoy deep uninterrupted sleep. If this is not feasible, changing your sleeping position to side sleeping will help to keep you sleeping on your own side of the bed and will improve your sleeping posture too.

So, for any couples out there who are considering sleeping apart because of unwelcome sleeping habits, my advice is this: Sleeping separately is not the only option and can sometimes do more harm than good! Why not solve the root of the problem instead, and restore harmony to the bedroom and your relationship?”

Thanks James! For two more views on this interesting issue, check out this article in the Guardian newspaper: “Sleep apart, stay together”.

What do you think? Do you prefer to sleep alone or with your other half by your side?

Amy x

How to beat the snore…..simply by wearing a t-shirt to bed!

I’m very lucky in many ways. But there’s one thing – I’ve come to realise – that I should be particularly thankful for: my other half doesn’t snore!

It’s not something I’ve often thought about. That is, until the new addition to our little family brought it home to me – literally. My puppy, Louis – a beautiful French bulldog – spends most of his life rasping and wheezing and snorting, poor little mite. And whilst I consider Louis’ snoring habit to be one of his endearing idiosyncrasies, I’m grateful that I don’t have to listen to him take each noisy breath whilst I’m trying to sleep (he sleeps downstairs, you see).

Honestly, I can’t imagine what it must be like to put up with the rattling racket of a snoring bed-mate, every night. Yet millions of people across the country do. According to an article written by the Director of the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association in spring 2007, “Current trends in the treatment of snoring & sleep apnoea”, every night an estimated 15 million snorers in the UK disturb the slumber of their bed partner and other family members, with noise levels reaching in excess of 90dB! 90dB is around the same noise level as a lawnmower, and only 10dB less than a chain saw or pneumatic drill! Crikey, I hope those unlucky folks have good ear-plugs!

And, I’ve learnt, it’s not just sleep quality that’s affected by your bed-buddy’s snoring – a partner’s snoring can have a huge, detrimental, impact on your relationship. Studies have found high divorce rates in couples where a partner snores. And snoring is also a common factor in why more couples are now sleeping apart. According to one American study in 2001, Dr Mansoor Madani found 80% of snoring couples slept in separate bedrooms! Maybe I’m naïve, but I’m truly shocked!

I bet Kevin Jonas’ wife, Danielle, isn’t so surprised. It was reported earlier this month that the Jonas Brother has a snoring problem, which forces his wife to sleep in a separate room, putting their baby plans on hold. Similarly, according to newspaper reports this August, Eastender Sid Owen and his fiancé, Polly, sleep in separate bedrooms due to him snoring “like a rhino”.

While I count my blessings, I urge all snorers out there to take action now to get their relationship and love-life back on track. How? Well, there are a number of things you could try:

  • If you’re very overweight, losing some weight will often reduce snoring.
  • You could try sleeping on a firmer pillow. A pillow that’s too soft can exacerbate snoring.
  • Quit smoking or at least stop smoking just before bedtime.
  • Don’t drink alcohol in the evening.
  • Watch what you eat before bed – don’t eat too much and avoid dairy products before bedtime, as they can cause mucus build-up.

But, of course, you want a quick-fix solution, right? Well, give this a go: the Anti-Snore T-Shirt. That’s right, a t-shirt!

Recommended by more than 600 doctors and dentists in North America, it works simply by correcting sleeping position. Research has shown that over 60% of snorers will stop snoring or snore less when sleeping on their sides. The Anti-Snore T-Shirt has inflatable bumpers on the back which ensure you do just that! It costs £45 from We Love Sleep. It’s just a shame they don’t do them in tiny sizes for my snuffling pig-dog!

Finally, a tip for those poor sleep-deprived partners of snorers: If you’re having trouble convincing your other half to take their snoring habit seriously, try video recording them snoring. And if listening to themselves snort and rattle doesn’t encourage your partner to do something about it, stick the recording on YouTube for the whole world to see and hear! Good luck!

Snoring could be a sign of a terrifying breathing disorder called sleep apnoea, whereby the sufferer frequently stops breathing when they are sleeping. If you are concerned that you may have sleep apnoea, you should seek medical advice.