As someone with insomnia more often than not, I’m constantly looking for remedies to not only help me fall asleep, but also stay asleep through the night. While some people get prescriptions to help, I prefer the more holistic, old-fashioned approach and decided to see what the best products for insomnia are — and if they work.
But first, I found some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in my insomnia. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, NYC neuropsychologist and teaching faculty member at Columbia University, tells Bustle that roughly 60 million Americans are affected by sleep disorders each year. “Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep,” she says. “It is usually considered chronic if a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer.”
Dr. Hafeez says that practicing good sleep hygiene is a critical part of preventing insomnia. “One of the most important things anyone can do is to establish a regular sleep pattern, going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time each night and morning,” she says. “This helps you to keep the same circadian rhythms.” In addition, she says to make sure not to use your phone, tablet, or TV before bed — the blue lights they emit restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Dr. Hafeez also says to stop consuming caffeine at least four-to-six hours before bed, including caffeine found in chocolate and certain medications.
In addition to practicing good sleep hygiene, I also decided to test out various products to help me fall asleep — and stay asleep. Below are the six that have been working best for me as far as combating my insomnia.
1. nodpod, $29.99
While weighted blankets may be all the rage, especially when it comes to helping curb insomnia and anxiety, other weighted products are continually coming out, too. For instance, the nodpod is a weighted sleep mask, and when the company reached out and asked if I’d like to try it, I was in the middle of a bad bout of insomnia, so why not? It’s unlike any sleep mask I’ve used before — it’s more an eye pillow filled with microbeads — hence, the weight — and is similar to a bean bag feel.
You tie it around your head, but there’s no microbead filling in the back, so you don’t have to worry about sleeping on the microbead cushioning itself, unless you sleep on your side. In that case, you’ll have microbead cushioning under your head (which isn’t bad, but a different feeling than I was used to). Also, if you don’t tie the mask tightly enough, it may move around and come off, which defeats the purpose. Luckily, I eventually became a pro at tying it just right. The best part about the mask is that absolutely no light comes in through it — whether that’s a result of the weighted aspect or wearing the darkest one, in black, I’m not sure — which helps me stay asleep. So, it’s become my go-to sleep mask (and I’ve tested many over the years!).
2. PediPocket, $59.99, On Sale For $42.00
Even though sleep experts recommend keeping your bedroom temperature on the cooler side, I also found that the blanket I use is an important component of getting a good night’s rest. Although I used to love blasting the heat, I soon realized that the experts were right — I would often wake up in the middle of the night and have to turn it down, disrupting my sleep and sometimes keeping me up an hour or two. Instead, I started to listen to the pros and set my thermostat lower — and just had an extra blanket on hand if I got cold.
Enter the PediPocket, also known as the softest blanket ever. Not only do I use it at night, but since the bottom has pockets for your feet (!), it’s also great for lounging on the couch, taking a nap, or when you don’t want to wear socks to bed. (Sometimes, I use it as a pillow, too!) Suffice it to say, I’ve been sleeping more soundly since having it. My only advice? Most of the PediPockets are 50” x 70” and made for one person, which makes sense, but I’d recommend getting the XXL, which is 60” x 84” and would probably work better if using it as a bed blanket.
3. Plant Therapy Lavender Essential Oil, $7.12
I’m generally not a fan of lavender, but when a friend gave me an eye mask and Plant Therapy Lavender Essential Oil as a gift since she knew I had trouble sleeping, I became hooked due to its calming effect. She also put a few drops of the oil onto the main eye part of the mask — make sure not to put too much, as you don’t want to irritate your eyes — and recommended that I put a couple drops under my nose and on my wrists, too, right before bed. Plus, since you can get the oil in a small amount, 1/3 fl. oz., it makes it easy to travel with as well, which is important since sleeping in new places can promote insomnia for even the best sleepers out there.
4. Walgreens Swim Earplugs, $3.99
Over the years, I think I have tested every kind of earplug out there, from foam to silicone to silicone putty ones (the latter of which get stuck in my hair like bubble gum) and from cheap to moderate to pricey ones. Recently, I found the greatest ones ever — Walgreens Swim Earplugs — and you don’t hear a thing: no traffic noise, no loud roommates, and no chirping birds at dawn. I love them so much, I want to give them to every insomniac I know. I’ve used them on planes, trains, and every night at home.
The only thing is, wearing them took some getting used to since they’re not as soft as traditional foam ones — but it’s worth the silence.
“Swimming ear plugs are made of medical-grade silicone and have excellent noise cancellation benefits,” Dr. Niket Sonpal, a NYC internist and gastroenterologist, tells Bustle. “Also, the silicone can be cleaned and reused, meaning no harmful bacteria will linger to cause infection.”
Of course, always consult your doctor if earplugs continually hurt your ears or you have any ear trouble.
5. The Comfy, $39.99
If you’ve ever liked a blanket so much, you wanted to wear it, that’s exactly what you can do with The Comfy, which calls itself “the original blanket/sweatshirt.” If it sounds familiar, you may have seen it on ABC’s Shark Tank. The Comfy comes in lots of fun colors, from teal to purple — the company sent me a pink one to try out — and it’s reversible, too, so you can wear the velour side or the Sherpa fleece side. Although it’s marketed to wear anywhere, from outside to hanging out on the couch, I have been using it as a sleep aid and wearing it to bed to stay warm. The hood, too, serves as a makeshift pillow! It’s also great for napping — if you curl up into a ball, you can pull The Comfy over your feet. The only thing is, it just comes in one-size-for-all; I’d love if it came in others or had a drawstring to make it more snug.
6. Headspace, Free (And Subscriptions Range from $7.99-19.99/month)
My favorite combating-insomnia hack is Headspace. The app has an endless number of meditations to choose from, though I prefer one of their Sleep or Basic ones. I don’t know if it’s the male narrator’s British voice, the content itself, or both, but it’s a surefire way to calm your mind and fall asleep. The Basic meditations are free, but you can also subscribe so that you have more personalized choices, such as the sleep meditations, or else ones focused on managing anxiety or relationships.
All in all, the products above have become essential for me when it comes to battling my insomnia and sleeping the whole night through. Of course, what works best for one person may not work for another — but it’s worth a try finding out.