I couldn’t get to sleep so I tried 11 popular insomia cures

How did you sleep last night Insomnia rates have skyrocketed during consecutive bans: anyone would think that facing constant existential threats isn’t the ideal preparation for a refreshing eight hours. Recommended remedies abound – behavioral, pharmaceutical, nonsensical, and overt bleeding – and I’ve tried most of them.

Insomnia can be a competitive sport and I’m not a podium; I’m an ordinary or bad sleeper, rarely get more than five hours a night (luxury, I hear the real insomniacs hissing in red-eyed fury), often less and sometimes, luckily rarely, none. It’s not exceptional. It is not the stuff of insomnia memories, but I refuse to read any if they give ideas to my brain and body. But it bears. On nights when there is simply no sleep, I am desperate to realize that I won’t even get a short break from being on my own head.

I’ve never consulted a doctor about insomnia: I don’t know why, other than that there doesn’t seem to be much a harassed family doctor can do about it. My region is also not covered by the NHS CBT-based app Sleepio, which I hear good things about. In desperate times, I use the Valium that was prescribed for me for migraines – effective, but not a permanent solution. So, I’m mainly turning to DIY remedies for insomnia – and as someone who has tried them all, here is my very subjective opinion of what to try and what not to waste your many waking hours on.

Sprays and roll-ons

The insomniac is essentially a primitive, gullible being; one whose cognitive functions are likely to work at about 3% of optimal capacity. So I, an otherwise rational person, used a Balance Me Beauty Sleep Hyaluronic Mist and a Balance Me Beauty Sleep CBD concentrate rollerball every evening: everyone has “worked” once (yes, time for me to repeat correlation / cause 101) So I can never stop, even though they don’t seem to have made any significant difference to my sleep since then. These potions smell lovely, but the use of the word “beauty” is hilariously wrong: I look like a sentient bowl of porridge because I never sleep. I also heard great things about Elemis’ overbearingly named Quiet Mind Temple Balm, but was disappointed: it smells and feels like expensive tiger balm to me. My restless mind does not recommend.

Pillow sprays

In my experience, pillow spray is the weakest insomnia, Ave Maria, there is. If this stuff is 99% calvados and I soaked it on my pillow and then sucked it on it, it could work. While my This Works: Deep Sleep Pillow Spray with its “super mix of lavender, chamomile and vetiver” is pleasant, I regret to say that This Does Not Work: On Me.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique

Numerous studies suggest that breathing exercises are effective for relaxation. This is simple: inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then exhale for eight seconds. For me, however, any attempt to focus on breathing results in my being unable to breathe normally at all. Can I trust my lungs, which are just scary crumbs of meat, to make me fall asleep? Wouldn’t it be terribly easy to just stop breathing? You can imagine how relaxing yoga classes are for me.

Weight blankets

I love the idea of ​​a weighted blanket, a kind of hug made of heavy fabric, albeit with little-explored relaxation and sleep benefits. I bought a second-hand 14kg specimen, but was sad to discover that (not) sleeping under it feels like being relentlessly squeezed to death by boiling lava. It took all my strength to drag it into a closet so it wouldn’t come out again anytime soon.

CBD drops

The miracle active ingredient CBD is now in everything: chips, lipstick, toothpaste (everything is actually there). CBD reminds me of a family anecdote in which [redacted relative] gave to my mother [redacted controlled substance] on a Christmas morning. “It was of no use!” she complained sometime that evening. “Of course it did, you didn’t cry a single time,” replied [redacted relative]. This shapes my relationship with CBD: I don’t think it helps my sleep, but maybe it would be worse without it.


The hormone melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain to prepare the body for sleep. The secrets of international regulation mean you can buy a truckload of it at your local Whole Foods in the US (along with a $ 28 watermelon or some “deliciously dipped kale shapes”), but here it is only prescription-only, so am I was forced to get it from a friend in the US, who sent it to me in exchange for marigold bouillon powder, which, mysteriously, is not available in US Whole Foods stores. The melatonin itself – chewable and with a mild peppermint taste – did not noticeably shake my sleep world. If you’re looking to get something similarly disappointing, you can buy 5-HTP from health food stores here in the UK. It’s an amino acid that indirectly stimulates your melatonin production by a mechanism too complex for my insomnia brain to understand.

Count backwards from 1000 in 7s

Sure, math at 2 a.m. is definitely the best math. No.

Over-the-counter remedies from the pharmacy

I swear if someone tells me how “powerful” the night nurse is, I will bring a blood sacrifice to Morpheus. It’s not that I don’t believe them – the levels of vulnerability vary enormously. My stepdad gets stoned and delirious from taking over-the-counter pain medication. But to me, Night Nurse, Nytol and the like are basically useless. Many of these over-the-counter drugs are based on antihistamines. For me, any antihistamine strong enough to alter my sleep leaves a walking corpse the next day with a dry mouth, incapable of coherent thoughts, and forced to sit down to shower (actually much like my stepfather after a baby aspirin) .

The technology of the US Army

This “hack” can be found all over the internet along with claims that it works for 96% of people within two minutes after six weeks. Impressive numbers. The basics: you tense up, then relax your face, slacken your body, try not to think about anything, then picture a canoe in a calm lake or lie in a black velvet hammock. When these visualizations don’t work, you should tell yourself “don’t think, don’t think, don’t think” until your mind clears, then voilà, sleep. I get very angry when I think about it because I’ve spent several long, absurd nights muttering “black velvet hammock, black velvet hammock, black velvet hammock” to myself like some deranged 1980s magician because I got confused was and am bad at following instructions. Obviously I’ve never made it up to six weeks so can’t really vouch for the technique, but I’ve developed a visceral aversion to hammocks.

Salad water

I only tried the stupid TikTok tip to drink fortified water with lettuce before bed because it felt completely ridiculous. I wish I could surprise you with the revelation that it brought me my best night in a decade – lettuce seed oil is traditionally used as a sleep aid, so it’s not entirely absurd – but I drank an uncomfortable lukewarm cup of salad juice and slept very poorly last week : I don’t think there’s a viral TikTok there.

Cognitive mixing

The concept behind “cognitive mixing” is that focusing on a series of random, unrelated words replicates the visual images and “micro-dreams” that immediately precede sleep. I tried twice recently, but I figured you should just think of unrelated harmless nouns (sausage, paper clip, lamppost, say). My exhausted brain was overcome by roughly the eighth noun: success.

But if I read closer, I see now that you should choose a letter, imagine a noun that starts with that letter, and then visualize the noun before moving on to the next. Are you kidding me? I don’t get to bed following complex and precise instructions. I go to bed to heat the temperature of the earth’s core and wipe the sweat from my pillow under my chest, feeling murderous at the sound of my husband’s peaceful breathing, and then thinking about how I overheard my neighbors for 2009 three hours discussed how dirty my house was, how it is right and right. Bottom line: sometimes the remedy is worse than the cure.

So what’s left? I think I could still try a cooling mattress topper, white noise machine, or dog ear wax, which was apparently the beauty sleep hyaluronic crap of the 16th century. Right now, my most restful nights are when I can convince myself that it doesn’t really matter. The best medicine, I’m afraid, can be acceptance.


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