Tired of being tired? You’re not alone.
Lockdown fatigue is a very real challenge facing the nation right now, which some reports showing that although many of us have had more time for sleep during the pandemic, the quality of our slumber has become even worse.
As a team, we’ve all faced various sleep problems throughout the past year (and indeed, throughout our lives – from noisy neighbours to nightmares, these challenges are not a pandemic-specific issue, after all).
And as we’ve navigated them, we’ve discovered a few clever buys that have not only helped up drift off into the land of nod with ease but also helped us to achieve deeper, more refreshing and ultimately, just all-round better sleep once we get there.
Read more: The 10 best sleep aids to help you drift off
From products to help us set the scene (think cosy candles, body oils and dreamy – if you’ll pardon the pun – pyjamas) to practical buys like pillows and duvets, these are the items that have made our bedtime routines easier and more enjoyable.
We’ve even highlighted our favourite, genuinely delicious decaf coffee for those whom a good night’s sleep starts… well, around midday.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Eleanor Jones (Executive Editor)
Soft pillows: £25 for two, Premier Inn
I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some amazing hotels around the world over the years, but the pillows I have on my own bed are actually Premier Inn’s very own set of two, which cost a grand total of £25. They come in a choice of either firm or soft – mine are the latter, and have a satisfying squishiness which is also great if you like to prop them up for visual effect during the day. At night, I use them in tandem with my admittedly more boujie Simba hybrid pillow; the Simba supports my head while I use the Premier Inn version to prop myself up, as I’m a side sleeper (much to the despair of every skincare expert I’ve ever encountered, but I just can’t help myself regardless). They come with a protector and are machine washable; I’ve had them for a long time and despite my initial preconceptions, have been consistently impressed with the quality. When they eventually need replacing, I won’t hesitate to repurchase – especially at that price.
Eberjey Gisele pyjamas: £125, Selfridges
I appreciate that the price of these counteracts the affordability of my first pick, but hear me out: I typically hate sleeping in pyjamas. I’m a fidgety sleeper and waking up tangled in the sleeves, or with buttons or drawstrings digging into my skin drives me crazy, to the point where I’ve been firmly in the comically oversized T-shirt camp since my teenage years. But Eberjey has finally converted me. These jersey pyjamas are so incredibly soft, it’s impossible to get twisted, with a hyper stretchy waistband and comfortably baggy fit in your normal size (there’s no need to size up with this much give in the fabric). Looks-wise, I like the vintage look and relaxed silhouette; mine are grey but they also come in equally chic hues like navy or sorbet (a muted pink with contrasting retro piping). Fun fact: the Gisele PJs shot to fame when Meghan Markle wore a set during her stint on Suits. I sometimes wonder if she still has a set tucked away in her drawer too.
Emma Henderson (Editor)
Rituals of jing hair, body and bed mist, 50ml: £18, John Lewis & Partners
Making little changes to my pre-sleep routine has helped a lot with switching off and giving some separation from working from home. This is my favourite one: it’s the updated collection of the Rituals of dao scent, but if you’re not already familiar with it, it uses the fragrance of lotus and jujube which are both calming and are also used in traditional Chinese medicine.
I find the lightly floral scent now reminds me so much of relaxing that it’s a catalyst to sleep. I either spray the fine mist on myself, around me or on my pillow before sleep and let the scent help me get ready for the land of nod. It’s free of alcohol so doesn’t stain fabrics either, or irritate sensitive skin.
Nightire 100% bamboo sweet clementine eye mask: £18, Nightire
This is one of my favourite pyjama brands, which has made a name for itself for its beautiful prints in 100 per cent bamboo material, winning points for being very breathable as well as sustainable as it grows so quickly. My set became my go-to during the summer thanks to its comfort and ease to turn over in, but Nightire doesn’t just stop at jammies.
Although I’ve never been an eye-mask wearing sleeper, it’s only because I’d never found the right one. Until now. Previously, it’s either never had enough coverage or has an ill-fitting band around the head, meaning it’s pulled too tight over my eyes – the antithesis of aiding good sleep. But this one is super soft thanks to the bamboo material, is lightweight and is a generous size over the eyes and around the head. I sometimes find annoying light keeps me awake, whether it’s through cracks in the shutters, glows from chargers or the alarm clock, but as soon as I pop this on it’s a sound night of slumber ahead. Utter bliss. I love this summery print, but it’s also available in four other colourways.
Tal Dekel Daks (Audience Lead)
Slip silk pillowcase: Was £85, now £65, LookFantastic
Promising smoother skin, less frizz and cooler sleeping temperatures, we’ve all heard about the benefits of sleeping on silk by now – though I have to admit I hadn’t believed the hype at first after initially purchasing a much cheaper satin pillowcase on Amazon. That all changed when I tried the much raved about mulberry silk pillowcase from Slip and saw the difference first hand.
Unlike standard cotton pillowcases, silk pillowcases allow the skin to breathe and glide, which reduces pressure and creases, and also prevents my hair from tangling or getting damaged while I sleep. Plus, being less absorbent than your traditional pillowcase, they can also help my skin stay hydrated and keep any recently applied night creams locked in. If you really want to invest in this beauty hero, you can also pick up the matching sleep mask.
Ellie Fry (Deputy Editor)
Bondi Sands self-tanning sheet protector: £29.99, Bondi Sands
As an avid fake tanner, this silky number helps me drift off knowing my bedsheets will never be stained again. Aside from the dreaded biscuit-like smell, or looking like a loaf of tiger bread a week after application when it’s time to exfoliate your tan off, the bane of a fake tanner’s life is the product transferring onto your sheets, and this gloriously simple product alleviates that very problem. The sheet, which is made from polyester, doesn’t slip and slide during the night and feels comfortable to sleep in. The built-in pillow slip, as well as press studs along the side of the sheet, help with this, almost like a sleeping bag without the restrictiveness. It doesn’t disrupt my partner in the night either, although sometimes I wish it would, as he constantly wakes me up snoring and I’d like to get him back from time to time.
Eva Waite-Taylor (writer)
John Lewis & Partners natural duck down duvet, 10.5 tog: £115, John Lewis & Partners
My bedding is something I’ve perfected over the years. It started when I went to university and wanted to create a haven of comfort for days spent hungover or homesick. It’s now dubbed the “feather fest” and has even become renowned in my friendship group. For me, creating this sanctuary all started with a duvet I could cocoon in, and the one that I swear by comes from John Lewis & Partners. It’s lightweight and made from a blend of duck down (90 per cent) and duck feather (10 per cent) and can be washed on a 40C cycle. Perfect for wintery evenings when the weather’s cold and you need something to snuggle up in.
Louise Whitbread (freelance)
Lumie body clock spark 100: £79, John Lewis & Partners
My go-to for a good night’s sleep is the Lumie body clock spark 100, a SAD lamp that uses light to help you drift off and wake up, rather than sound. There are two main settings that I swear by, the sunset and sunrise feature. It emits a gradual light that brightens at the time you set to wake up alongside a gentle alarm sound, or you can gradually dim a bright room into darkness over 30 minutes to help you wind down.
To snooze, you simply have to tap the dome (very easily done from under a duvet). It makes getting to sleep and waking up so much more pleasant and chilled with no blaring noise from my iPhone jolting me awake. I can’t recommend it enough if you’re struggling to get out of bed in the mornings – £80 on an alarm clock may sound a lot but it really is worth every penny.
Summer Fridays lip butter balm: £19.50, Cult Beauty
I cannot stand the feeling of dry, chapped lips so before I go to bed I slather on lip balm to keep them moisturised. This one from Summer Fridays is by far my favourite. Packaged in a tube that’s a miniature design of its jet lag face mask (which is also brilliant), it’s a mix between an oil and a buttery texture that feels silky on the skin, instantly soothing but isn’t greasy or sticky in the slightest. It has a subtle scent of vanilla, but nothing too overpowering and a little goes a long way. While not cheap it’s a lockdown expense I can live with and when I wake up in the morning, my lips are still soft and smooth.
Daisy Lester (Production Journalist)
Audible subscription, £7.99, Audible
At the start of lockdown, after only being able to sleep in fitful bursts, I eased myself into a new routine – listening to audiobooks right before bed. I’ve had an Audible subscription for years but mostly listened on public transport or car journeys. In the past year, I’ve started listening to half an hour or so in bed, helping me wind down and switch off before sleeping. Subscriptions start from £7.99 a month, which allows you one free book and purchase however many more you want from the vast collections available. Some favourites from 2021 so far include David Sedaris’s Calypso and Deborah Orr’s Motherwell.
Pukka night time tea, £2.99, Holland and Barrett
When the first lockdown hit, I swapped a vino in the pub with a Pukka night time tea on the sofa, which did wonders for my sleep. Having never been a tea drinker (I don’t like the taste), I found this blend of oat flower, lavender and lime flower surprisingly nice while being both warming and soothing. It worked well to relax me and countered the (excessive) amount of coffee consumed in the day. The caffeine-free mixture is organically grown and ethically sourced.
Elle Magill (freelance)
Nautical Escape medium hourglass WoodWick trilogy candle: £20.99, Yankee Candle
A candle immediately changes the tone of any room and can help you transition from a chaotic workday to relaxation mode. WoodWick candles are a personal favourite of mine – they smell amazing, have a burn time of 130 hours, but for me, it’s their special wood wick which as the candle burns creates a soothing, crackling fire sound.
I love anything that smells like the sea so I picked the Nautical Escape scent, which as it burns reaches three layers of differently scented wax so you can never go “nose blind” to the smell. It’s hugely calming to use in the evenings – just don’t forget to blow it out before you sleep.
Neom perfect night’s sleep body oil: £35, Beauty Bay
My lovely aunt first got me into this when she noticed I only seemed to respond to her texts at around 3 am. I’d never tried out any of Neom’s products before she bought me the sleep set for Christmas, but now there is no going back.
In particular, I love the perfect night’s sleep body oil, which is packed full of skin-enriching essential oils like safflower oil and jojoba oil. The oil has a soothing scent of English lavender, sweet basil, and jasmine, which is absolutely divine. I massage a tiny bit of oil (a little goes a long way) on my sleep pressure points before I go to bed; my wrists, inner ankles and the back of my neck – and it works wonders. This product is now a staple part of my pre-sleep ritual and I simply can’t go without it.
Suzie McCracken (Senior production journalist)
Organic decaf coffee: £7.80, Horsham Coffee Roasters
A few years ago, fearing the decomposition of my insides, I went cold turkey on Diet Coke and caffeine. When I finally started to reintroduce bouji coffees, it was clear that they were affecting my sleep. It transpired I couldn’t have a cup of joe after midday. So I turned to decaf for its ability to give me a placebo-style boost after lunchtime.
Thankfully, the quality of decaf has improved exponentially, with new, chemical-free techniques removing the dreaded drug without destroying every ounce of taste. Horsham Coffee Roaster does an organic, Peruvian version (£7.80) that is flavourful but still affordable for a daily cup. It’s hard to find decaf profiles that go beyond “chocolatey”, and, although this definitely has that, it’s rounded out with a third-wave, red berry fruitiness. I make one with a V60 dripper – with a technique honed from watching too much James Hoffman on Youtube – just after lunch for a delicious pick-me-up that leaves my sleep pattern unbothered.
Evie Breese (freelance)
Zebra Mustard Velvet Eye Mask: £25, Elizabeth Scarlett
This must be one of the softest, most luxurious eye masks I’ve ever seen. As well as the stunningly intricate embroidery – gold thread on velvet! – this mask works perfectly. The large shape ensures zero light leaks in around the sides, and the elasticated, velvet encased strap doesn’t rub or tangle hair. It has even got lavender packed inside for a delicate fragrance to lull you asleep.
For more top picks from our editors read our work from home essentials the IndyBest team can’t live without; from coffee machines to laptop risers