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Devices Designed to Help You Get Your ZZZs

It's estimated that more than 50 million Americans aren't getting enough sleep.

Whether it's trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, many of us struggle to get eight hours of shut-eye.

One-in-five of the people who responded to a Consumer Reports survey last year said they used medications at least once a week to help them get a better night's sleep.

But there are alternatives to drugs -- new gadgets on the market meant to help you get a more restful night.

And Dr. Carol Ash, a sleep expert, spotlighted several on "The Early Show Saturday Edition."

Ash, a board-certified sleep and pulmonary specialist with the Sleep For Life program of Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey, pointed out to co-anchor Erica Hill that sleep is a basic physiological need, but healthy sleep is dependent on learned habits.

The most important habit is ensuring a consistent time and amount of sleep. But even people who realize how important that habit is, it's hard to find the motivation to commit to and embrace it.

The gizmos Ash says can provide some help:

Good Nite Lite

$35; Available online

What I really like is that it is simple and provides a visual clue for three-to-five-year-olds just learning to grasp this basic sleep habit. Unlike traditional night lights we have relied on, the Good Night Sleep Light has a changing display. A blue, smiling moon means it's time for bed. The light changes to a bright, smiling face when it's time to get up. Parents can easily program when the sun or moon appears, reinforcing the timing of their child's sleep schedule. The child will also know that, when he or she sees the moon, it's not time to get up. That helps a child get the right amount of sleep because, when they wake up at night, they learn to stay in bed. That would be a welcome relief for many parents!

Sleep Tracker Elite Watch

$149 - $179; Available on line

There are watches that track wake and sleep activity. What I really like about the Sleep Tracker Elite is it doesn't just track activity: It has an added alarm vibration to facilitate a consistent wake-up time. You can also download the information it monitors. That adds a visual tool. If you find you're tired, you can observe the sleep pattern and make adjustments.

Brookstone Tranquil Moments Sound Therapy System

$130; Available online and in stores

In 2008, Consumer Reports surveyed more than 1,500 people and found that sound machines were more effective than sedative hypnotics. Most liked the Brookstone Tranquil Moments Sound Therapy System. The machine uses calming sounds or white noise to reinforce a relaxing bedtime routine and shut out intrusive thoughts that would limit your ability to fall asleep and maintain a consistent schedule.

iPhone / iPod Touch/Blackberry Applications

$1 - $5

For people who have an iPhone or iPod touch, there's a new white noise option that accomplishes the same thing, but with a simple, inexpensive download. The application is available at the iTunes App Store and on the BlackBerry. For 99 cents, the iPhone application offers 40 sounds that aim to soothe you: waves crashing, crickets chirping -- even an air conditioner humming. White Noise Lite is free.

iPhone Proactive Sleep Alarm Clock

$4.99; available at iTunes

This is the next generation of alarm clocks. Unlike an alarm clock that just wakes you up, this alarm clock enables you to get personalized feedback about the consistency of your sleep schedule. It records and tracks when you go to bed, based on when you set the alarm and when you get up, based on when the alarm goes off. It records and tracks how many times you awaken at night, based on when you press a button. You then play a stimulating game in the morning that suggests your level of fatigue.

Behavioral treatments for insomnia have been shown to just as effective as medications. This device gives you a tool that helps you set a schedule, then monitors it and records the outcome or level of fatigue. This application provides you with an alternative that would otherwise require professional support that could be expensive. The cost means iPhone and iPod users can try it without much downside. If, after a month, you're still struggling, you can reach out to a sleep specialist and have information to show them.

Brookstone Anti-Snore Pillow

$99

This pillow essentially gives you a simple alternative to eliminate snoring, so you can get the right amount of sleep. Snoring can be disruptive to a bed partners' sleep, but the snorer's sleep can be interrupted by apnea. This pillow keeps you on your side, which can eliminate the noise and can help to eliminate the apnea that will keep you from getting the right amount of sleep.