Okay, so let’s talk about insomnia. Whether it is a one time thing or a chronic issue, it’s almost impossible for our bodies and minds to cope and renew are batteries if we are not getting enough sleep. Sleep is so powerful and essential for us to function in our daily lives. So what happens when that is interrupted? How do you remedy temporary insomnia? How do you battle chronic insomnia? Well, I am here to tell you what works for me based on my research of effective sleep hygiene.
Personally, I have battled insomnia for around a decade. Much of my insomnia is construed from my anxiety. I have been sleep deprived for almost 72 hours at one point. I have tried almost everything to remedy this issue, and what I have found is that your sleep hygiene is essential to coping with insomnia and anxiety.
First, I want to touch on some statistics about insomnia and the need for a normal sleep cycle, and then, I am going to dive into what I have tried over the years including my many different experiences with medication. DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a doctor or even a sleep specialist. This is simply my personal experience, what I have learned from reading many sleep articles, and what works for me. The medications I mention in this article were prescribed by my doctor or are over the counter and safe for everyone. Insomnia and sleep are a very sensitive and important topic for me as I have suffered from this for a decade.
The sleep statistics on insomnia:
- Over 70 million Americans suffer with some type of sleep disorder…..what?!? So that means many of us are trying to get a normal 6-8 hours of sleep. You are not alone!
- On average about 30% of people at some point experience short-term insomnia while about 10% of people suffer from long-term insomnia; myself included.
- These statistics mean that many of us are suffering from sleep deprivation which can take a toll on our mental and physical health. I don’t know about you, but some days, I cannot get enough caffeine in my system to get me out of my zombie trance from lack of sleep.
Wow. When I read this article, I was taken aback by the many people who suffer from insomnia, but it also made me feel less alone. Lack of sleep has impacted my life in so many ways. It could be a day where no matter what I do or how much coffee I drink, I am just not awake, alert, and able to actively participate in daily life and tasks. It also completely impacts my mental health. When I do not get enough sleep, I have intensified anxiety and depression because I don’t feel as if I am able to contribute to the world around me.
Now, what can we do about it? Well, your sister here has tried A LOT, and I am going to share my trials and tribulations so you can make an accurate decision on what you may need to do to break the cycle of short-term or long-term insomnia.
Over the counter medications and my reviews:
In my early days of insomnia, I wanted to take a more natural, less invasive approach to getting sleep. This consisted of particular medications and herbal teas to help aid sleep. The caveat to all of these though is that they are only meant for temporary sleep aiding.
- Melatonin. Gummies, pills, or liquids. For many people this helps regulate your sleep cycle in a more natural way. My sister and my husband take this to have a more normal sleep cycle. Typically, you will find melatonin in 3-10 mgs per dose, and many people take it as needed. Unfortunately, along with my insomnia I actually have a rarer condition that makes melatonin have the opposite effect on me. Regardless of the dosage, melatonin keeps me awake and exacerbates my insomnia. For many, this can happen too if you take too much melatonin and for too long. Much like anything else, moderaction and dosage matter, so be sure to use this in the appropriate way folks.
- Zzzquil and Unisom. Well, these are essentially the same thing. Actually, I am confident they are the same thing in different packaging. You can get them in 25mg doses or 50mg. These medications are over the counter and like melatonin, they are meant for temporary sleep correction. You should only take it as needed for short-term insomnia; it is not meant for a longer term solution to sleep. Early in my insomnia journey, I used Zzzquil or Unisom. I found that Unisom was less expensive because it is not as broadly marketed as Zzzquil. It did help me sleep, but as all medications, it can become less effective if you use it on a regular basis. For me, this is what happened. What was a temporary fix became a nightly need, and it became less and less effective for me. But all in all, it is an effective temporary fix to your sleep.
- Nyquil. Now, some people use this for relief from colds disrupting their sleep, and other people use it to sleep. While it is not meant for a sleep aid outside of cold relief, many people use it to sleep on a regular basis. I have used it for a cold, but I refuse to use it outside of that. The main reason behind this you ask? Many cough syrups and cold medications contain up to 10% alcohol. This is not a big deal unless you are a smaller child or someone who is in recovery from addiction. Be aware that these cough syrups contain alcohol. Read your labels! Recently, I had bronchitis and boy oh boy it lasted for over a month. Of course, I went to the doctor and got antibiotics and also a steroid to help aid my healing, but the doctor also recommended that I use Mucinex. Mucinex as a medication for cough or cold relief works the best for me in regards to over the counter medication, and they do have a nighttime one which also really helped me with my sleep and cough. However, you need to look for the Mucinex Free From.
- Benadryl. It literally says on the label to not use it for sleep, but it is something that will make you drowsy while also relieving your allergy symptoms. I have used Benadryl to sleep, and I survived. One benefit of benadryl that people do not know is that it can also aid in relieving anxiety. Yes, it essentially will slow you down enough from the drowsiness to overcome whatever anxiety attack you are having. Disclaimer–do not use this on a regular basis to sleep. There are other and better medications that you can use. There is a reason that benadryl is limited to one package per consumer, and that is because many teenagers once used it to get high while taking an obscene amount to do so which can lead to overdose or death depending on how much you take. All in all, it works for sleep, but is not meant for sleep, so use it as stated on the bottle please.
These are only a few of the over-the-counter medications that I have tried. For me, the majority of these worked temporarily, but did not give me long lasting relief. When you sleep 2-3 hours of REM per night, you are willing to try anything.
Decaffeinated Tea and my reviews:
The one major thing I would like to mention to help you sleep, is the natural remedy for calm and anxiety relief that we can find in the natural world: TEA!
I have tried a lot of Teas, and I am happy to share what worked for me and what did not–beginning at the most helpful:
- Valerian Root Tea: This tea is extremely powerful and will put you to sleep. However, I would suggest using this sparingly for a few reasons. First, it is extremely hard on your liver when used long term or if you already have liver issues. Second, like anything else, the more you use it the less it will work effectively. This root is something that people have been using as a sleep aid for centuries. It is known to render you tired and sleepy. The internet has likened it’s effects to a sedative, and helps with anxiety to relieve you and help you be calm. For me personally, yes it works, but it does give me some pretty crazy dreams and it is smelly and tastes weird.
- Chamomile Tea: I like to drink chamomile when I am sick or need to relax. While it is not as powerful as valerian root, it will give you a sense of calm while you try and relax for sleep. Chamomile is my go to when I am sick as well. It works, but only if I am not overly filled with anxiety.
- Sleepy Time Extra: This tea is a good blend of different herbs known to help you sleep. Two of which are chamomile and valerian root. This tea will help put you to sleep in a comfortable and not overly foggy way like valerian root.
- Sleepy Time Tea: Is the exact same thing as sleepy time extra but without the valerian root. I have found this to be somewhat of help, but not overly helpful for my anxiety and insomnia ridden mind.
- Hey Girl Sleep Tea: This did not work for me at all. I bought it off Amazon because of the high reviews, but for me, it did nothing to help me ease into sleep.
Pillow Mist and my reviews:
I love, love, love pillow mists. One day, I will write an article on smell and how it links to memory in a very powerful way. Pillow mist at night right before I go to bed really helps me relax and it also signals to my brain that this scent means it’s time for sleep. So I use specific scents that I only smell at bedtime to help my unconscious brain recognize the time for sleep. There are particular smells that are used to sooth you such as lavender, but not everyone likes lavender, and to be honest, not all pillow mists are equally as good. I like a mist that will linger throughout the night, but is not so overpowering that it gives me a headache or makes me feel uncomfortable.
Here are a few that I have personally tried:
- Nature’s Truth Lavender Mist: This is my all time favorite pillow mist. I found my original one at Walgreens of all places, but you can also purchase it off Amazon with the attached link. It is strong enough and lasts the perfect amount of time for you to enjoy and fall asleep in a warm cloud of lavender.
- Casaluna Serenity Mist: I found this mist when browsing bedding with my husband at Target. The brand also has several other scents that may please you more than this one. While this is technically a room mist, I use it as a pillow mist, and I adore it. It is a very earthy smell and it is long lasting and helps me fall asleep faster.
Lastly, my ultimate holy grail to help me sleep is a nice hot and scented bath. Call me an odd ball, but I take a bath almost every single day at night about 2 hours before I go to bed. I have always loved a good bath, but as I grew older and began having sleep issues, I find that a bath helps me with several things. The first being my time to decompress and read a book after a long day. It also gives me some alone time since my husband does not like baths and he leaves it to me. The last is that it is so relaxing from the hot water and scents that you put into it that it really relaxes you to help you sleep. 10 out of 10 recommend it!