Taking Those Gummies That Are Supposed To Help You Sleep Totally Changed My Thoughts On Supplements

Courtesy Olivia Muenter; Olly

One of the greatest ironies in my life is that I have trouble falling asleep when I have anxiety and when I can't sleep, my anxiety usually grows into a panic attack. You might know the feeling, too: Your mind is racing with what ifs and jumping to the worst conclusions. Then your heart starts to race. You can't get comfortable. And before you know it, it's been a couple hours of you tossing and turning, unable to shut off your brain or get shut-eye. The more tired you are, the worse this feeling is. If you've ever been through anything even similar to this scenario, then you'd probably try almost anything to solve the problem. Enter: sleep supplements and Olly Nutrition's Restful Sleep gummies.

If Olly sounds familiar, it might be because you remember the brand for its cute little cube-like containers or from the vitamin aisle at your local Target. With what seems like a new supplement or vitamin brand popping up every day, Olly has been around since 2014 and was at the forefront of the health and wellness boom that is still going very strong. Olly offers traditional supplements like multivitamins specifically formulated for men and women, but also offers, well, trendier supplements. The brand now has individual gummies designed to make skin glow, diminish stress, lessen blemishes, and, yes, help you get a good night's sleep.

As someone who deals with the occasional restless night, I thought I'd give the Restful Sleep gummies a try for 30 days. Even though the gummies are technically safe to take daily, I didn't want to take the gummies regularly myself (mostly because I didn't need them nightly). I decided that when I would come across a night I couldn't sleep, I'd take the suggested dose and see if it would work.

The Claim

Courtesy Olly

According to the Olly website, the Restful Sleep gummies "deliver a unique blend of active ingredients that work together to calm your mind and promote restful sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed." Made with a combination of melatonin, L-theanine, and a blend of chamomile, passionflower, and lemon balm, the gummies are designed to promote sleep and help you stay asleep.

Along with the claims, the Olly website also clearly notes that the FDA hasn't evaluated the claims. While the FDA does regulate dietary supplements such as melatonin, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, over-the-counter supplements like Olly's Restful Sleep gummies come with "less strict" regulations. And relatively speaking, Olly's Restful Sleep supplements have a low dose of melatonin — even for regular consumption.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, between two tenths of a milligram and five milligrams of melatonin is a suggested dose for an adult. The Olly gummies contain three milligrams in its two-gummy dose. Plus, the melatonin is actually a very small component compared to the levels of L-Theanine (200 milligrams) and fruit and plant extracts (51 milligrams) in the supplement. L-Theanine, which is an amino acid that comes from tea leaves, is often used to treat anxiety and restlessness by calming the brain without causing drowsiness. The benefits of the two ingredients combined with the traditional calm-promoting botanical ingredients like chamomile make it easy to understand why the Restful Sleep gummies would hypothetically work like a charm.

Since I wasn't suffering from serious sleep issues, I wanted to make sure when I took the gummies that I wasn't going to disrupt my sleeping habits long-term, so I consulted Ingrid Prueher, a certified pediatric and adult sleep consultant. Prueher explained to me that suffering from poor sleep is not only incredibly common, but can be caused by just about anything — diet, stress, smoking, etc. And while Prueher's goal in her programs is always to get to the root of the problem, she also told me that it's totally OK for people who suffer from occasional restfulness to take an OTC gummy or supplement.

"People want something tangible," Prueher says. And while getting to the root of the problem is always better, she does note that gummies and supplements can help and recommends them to people as safe to use — even if just for a placebo effect.

With an experts seal of approval, I felt even better about embarking on my experiment with the gummies.

The Experiment

Courtesy Olivia Muenter

Over the course of 30 days, I tried the gummies three times, all for different reasons. I wanted to see how my body reacted to them in different scenarios, and this turned out to be particularly interesting.

The first time I used the gummies was before a day of overseas travel. I was a little anxious about the journey itself, and I knew I needed a good night's sleep to handle 20+ hours of travel. I took the gummies about an hour before I went to bed (for no particular reason other than that's when I was brushing my teeth and doing other nightly habits) and was pleasantly surprised with the taste (they're sweet and blackberry-flavored). When I finally closed my eyes, I can't say I fell asleep any quicker than usual. But I was also hyper-aware that I had taken the gummies — so I was definitely thinking hard how fast it was taking me to fall asleep compared to usual. In retrospect, this probably did not help things. However, when I did eventually fall asleep about 30 minutes later, I stayed asleep. I didn't wake up when my dog walked over me trying to find a more comfortable spot on the bed, or when my boyfriend woke up super early to finish packing. I was out, and I did wake up feeling very rested. I'm not sure whether I was more rested than after any other decent night's rest, but I did feel pretty refreshed.

The second time I used the gummies, things went... a little off the rails. I was in Europe dealing with serious jet lag and resulting lack of sleep. One night, after not being able to fall asleep for over two hours, I decided to pop two of the gummies. After that, the longer it took me to fall asleep and the more restless I became, the more I started to panic. Two more hours went by and I still wasn't sleeping, although I felt a little more drowsy (whether because of the gummies or the lack of sleep, I don't know) but I was also starting to panic. Soon I was crying, hyperventilating — the whole deal. If you've had a night or two with no sleep, this probably won't surprise you. Exhaustion makes you feel like you are losing your grip on just about everything. Eventually, at 4:30 a.m., I fell asleep for a few hours.

After that experience, I was a little hesitant to try the gummies again — especially not in a situation where I was already exhausted. But I wanted to make sure I tried the gummies in a situation where I wasn't anxious. So on a day where I had woken up early, exercised, and had no where to be early the next morning, I tried the gummies a third time. And this time, they seemed to work like a charm. I fell asleep quickly, and I stayed asleep. I woke up feeling great.

The Verdict

I spoke with with Prueher and another sleep expert who explained to me something I hadn't thought about much before. Even before taking a over-the-counter sleep supplement, it's extremely important to think about how and when you're going to take the sleep supplements as well as assessing your sleep needs.

"Timing is everything," Dr. Alex Dimitriu, a psychiatrist and sleep expert, tells me in an email, and a lot of them "take time to take effect. If the goal is to help fall asleep, many substances, including ... melatonin, need to be taken about 90 minutes before the intended bed time."

I think that thinking more about timing before I had taken the gummies and gone to bed would have made a big difference for me in my experience. The first two times I took the gummies, I was so anxious for the product to start working that I think I ended up making myself more anxious instead of relaxing.

These gummies seem like they could be a great tool if you have occasional difficulty falling asleep, but I wouldn't rely on them exclusively — especially if you deal with a lot of anxiety around falling asleep or are suffering from long-term insomnia. As Prueher told me, "creating better sleep is like putting a puzzle piece together." Finding sleep solutions is often complicated, but it doesn't mean you can't find solutions if something like OTC gummies don't work for you.