I don't have the best track record when it comes to sleeping on time, or just in general.
A few years ago, I was at a point where sleeping at 2 A.M. was normal for me, usually with the TV on—there was a show on Netflix called Flowers I'd put on, which was basically just a video of different flowers blooming to classical music. Sometimes it worked, but when it didn't, I'd usually be up until 4. I've gotten better about my habits since then, though the progress isn't really anything to report on. The TV stays off, but 1 A.M. is my standard bedtime. Midnight is early for me, and anything before then is unheard of.
Once in a while I'll have one of those nights where I head to bed around a standard time, only to lie awake for hours, which could be maddening. I'd get so wrapped up in the stress over not being able to sleep, that I'd end up staying up all night and feel like a zombie all day at work. Ambien freaked me out during the brief period I tried it, so that and Lunesta were out of the question, so I sought out options, preferably that included melatonin since it's something your body naturally produces anyway.
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From melatonin-infused vitamin sprays, to actual bracelets designed to trigger a longer and deeper REM cycle, I test-drove these four products over a few weeks to find out which ones would actually help me sleep better.
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Instavit Sweet Dreams
HOW IT WORKS: Roughly 30 minutes before heading to bed, spray two pumps of this berry-flavored vitamin mist into your mouth. Dr. Jatin Joshi formulated Instavit's sleep formula to have the lowest concentration of melatonin on the market, which may seem contradictory, but since the purest form of the ingredient is absorbed directly into your bloodstream via your mouth's lining, you don't need as much.
RATING: 9/10. I used the spray as directed, albeit on my couch watching The Great British Bake-Off and not in bed, and 30 minutes into the episode, I was feeling the melatonin so heavily that I wasn't able to see who won the technical challenge. I slept through the night, and didn't feel groggy in the morning. My only gripe was that I wish the bottle was slightly bigger—I killed the entire thing in about 2 weeks.
Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet
HOW IT WORKS: Philip Stein's bracelet uses what is called Natural Frequency Technology to lull you to sleep, which is a fancy way of saying that it taps into the vibrations around you, then uses said vibrations to help your body produce more melatonin. There isn't an on or off switch—you simply apply the bracelet 15 to 20 minutes before going to bed, and you should achieve a deeper and longer sleep. It sounded a lot like crystal healing to me, which I never got down with other than for decorative reasons, but apparently it's good enough for Oprah, considering the brand made her Favorite Things list a few times.
RATING: 7/10. A few minutes after putting on the bracelet, I did feel tired enough to make my way to my bed, and slept the entire night. Normally, I'd wake up a few times between 3 and 6 A.M., but this time around, I woke up only a few minutes before my alarm went off. Sure, it appeared to do what it promised, but it's getting a 7 because I am slightly skeptical, and it's a cool $425. Earlier in the night I took a pole class at a higher level than what I was used to, which kind of kicked my ass and probably factored into the equation. I'll keep using it to see if it works, or if it's more of a placebo effect.
Olly Restful Sleep Vitamin Gummis
HOW IT WORKS: Pop two gummies about 30 minutes before sleeping. The formula is rich in the usual suspects of melatonin and chamomile, but also includes L-Theanine, which is an amino acid that allegedly evokes a calm, zen-like feeling.
RATING: 8/10. I liked these a little too much and would end up eating 3 or 4 instead of the recommended 2 gummies, left to wonder for a few minutes whether or not I'd be okay—that is, until I fell asleep from the effects of eating 4 melatonin-filled gummies. I don't have the best track record when it comes to gummi vitamins previously inhaled the better part of a jar over the course of an hour (is that bad??), though if you have more self-control than me, 2 gummies should do the trick. They did take slightly longer to kick in than Instavit's spray, likely because of the gummi medium, but effective overall. They get an 8 because I don't trust myself. The blackberry flavor is too good.
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
HOW IT WORKS: The This Works Pillow Spray is pretty straightforward—you basically apply a mist over your pillow before laying down, and let the chamomile and lavender aroma work its magic. One of my coworkers swore that it immediately put her to sleep, and when my boyfriend tried it out when on vacation with his friends, he claimed that it worked, as the brand name suggested. Though, the jetlag likely helped.
RATING: 5/10. For some reason I didn't have the same immediate effect everyone else did. The lavender scent did help take me down a level, and I'll admit, it did make me feel somewhat calmer, but it still took a little while for me to eventually fall asleep.