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I’ve Been Struggling to Fall Asleep Since I Was 4 Years Old — Here’s What Actually Helps Me

products to help you sleep
Design: theSkimm | Images: Parachute, Moon Juice
March 11, 2024

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When one of your earliest memories involves wondering when you can finally get up for the day so you can relinquish yourself of the misery of being the only person in the world who is still awake, you know you have a problem sleeping. Though I’ve never been medically diagnosed as an insomniac, I identify as sort of one. It takes me forever to fall asleep, I sleep very lightly, and I often wake up in the middle of the night.

In pursuit of finally getting better sleep, I've been experimenting with lots of products and methods. Ahead are the ones that have worked best for me, either by actually inducing sleep (aka, they’re herbal sleep aids, as I will not eff around with Ambien), or promoting an overall sense of relaxation in the lead-up to bedtime. Now let's get that sweet, sweet REM.

For more help falling (and staying) asleep, click here.

moon juice magnesi-om
Moon Juice

The best herbal sleep supplement I’ve ever tried…

I’d thought I was pretty much immune to herbal sleep supplements…until I met Magnesi-Om. This actually shuts off both my body and my mind (a rarity) thanks to a combination of three types of melatonin and L-Theanine. About an hour after nursing a glass, I drift off into a very deep sleep, and I stay that way for a full eight hours. Sometimes I can't even finish a full glass before my eyes drift closed. It has a definite chalky vibe when dissolved in plain water, but it is ideal for a "Sleepy Girl Mocktail." I add a sachet to a glass filled with ice and cherry juice, and top it off with berry-flavored sparkling water. ($38, Moon Juice)

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yogi tea bedtime

The classic bedtime tea…

If for whatever reason I don’t want to take a more potent herbal sleep aid, I like brewing a cup of Bedtime tea — a classic crutch for insomniacs everywhere. It contains valerian root, chamomile, and lavender, all of which have been used as herbal sleep aids for centuries. I like the soft minty flavor, which I find sweet enough to take without honey or sugar. This + hibernating underneath a fleece blanket = bliss. ($21.03, Amazon)

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apothekary do not disturb

An herbal sleep supplement with adaptogens...

For me, this herbal blend is less powerful than Magnesi-Om but still a step up from Bedtime tea. It makes me feel pleasantly drowsy, but doesn’t always knock me into sleep. So, a good option to drink nightly if I’m having a particularly rough bout of sleeping. The powdered blend contains holy basil for its adaptogenic properties, which the brand claims can lower cortisol levels when taken regularly so you can fall asleep more easily. I’ll be honest, the earthy flavor isn’t my favorite, but it’s grown on me. I stir a teaspoon into a mug of boiling water and add lemon and honey. ($45, Apothékary)

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saje sleep well restful sleep oil blend roll-on

An aromatherapeutic oil roller that promotes relaxation...

This is one of those products that helps create an overall sense of relaxation, not one that necessarily makes me fall asleep. That said, it’s become something of a sacred part of my bedtime routine. The blend includes valerian root, lavender, and chamomile (sound familiar?). I roll it on my temples, jawline, inner wrists, and the bottoms of my feet and let the grounding scent lull me into a sense of calm and safety. ($32, Saje)

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Tabino Yado Hot Springs Milky Bath Salts

Japanese bath salts to soak in before bed…

When I have a little extra time in the evening, I treat myself to a bath to help me unplug. I love pouring in these cult-favorite Japanese bath salts for a spa-like experience. This assorted pack includes four different fragrances, each inspired by a different Japanese onsen (or hot spring). They turn your bath into a softly fragranced, milky elixir that leaves your skin feeling so soft. I’m also a believer in salt’s natural ability to relax tension in your body — you just feel gooier when you step out. To that end, I always have a big bag of Dr. Teal’s lavender Epsom salts under my bathroom sink as well. ($29.96, Amazon

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kindle paperwhite

A Kindle so you don’t pick up your phone…

After a lifetime of swearing by physical books only, I recently became a Kindle convert — not least because it’s made my bedtime reading routine more seamless and gets me off my phone right before bed. Thanks to the lit screen, I can keep my bedroom lights low, and I don’t need to fuss with a separate reading light (though I like this one, if I am reading a print book). You can also shift the light from bright white to amber on a sliding scale and switch to dark mode to ease eye strain. I’ve reached for my Kindle in the middle of those stressful sleepless nights, and it’s provided so much solace. ($139.99+, Amazon)

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gaiam yoga blocks and strap

Yoga accessories for a relaxing PM flow…

I'm devoted to my daily morning yoga practice, and whenever possible, I also practice yoga in the evening. Mentally, it signals that the day’s work is done and it’s time to transition into rest; and physically, I have a harder time falling asleep when I still feel stuck energy in my body. I typically practice slower flows or Hatha at night, and for that, I need these blocks and strap. The support they provide can offer you a deeper stretch, and help you stay in poses longer and more comfortably without needing to overexert yourself. I can’t get in bed before I do a supported bridge and supported fish pose. Trust me, those two poses alone will change your life. ($16.99, Amazon)

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Parachute Percale Sheet Set

A set of crisp, hotel-like sheets…

Sheets are a deeply personal preference, but I’ve found I sleep best in crispy, hotel-like ones. (Super-soft sheets, like jersey and some bamboo blends, can make me feel clammy.) Percale is best for that cooling sensation. I’ve had my own percale sheets for several years too long (but they’ve held up well, a testament to the material’s durability), so this year, I’m upgrading to this Parachute set. It comes in eight nice neutral colors and includes two pillowcases and a fitted sheet. Or, you can choose the bundle that also comes with a top sheet if, like me, you think anyone who doesn’t sleep with a top sheet is straight-up crazy. ($139+, Parachute)

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philips hue led smart bulb

A smart bulb to create a peaceful lighting design...

My bedroom doesn’t have harsh overhead lighting (the beauty of living in a prewar building), but I recently popped this color-changing smart bulb in my wall sconce, and it’s been fun to play around with the different modes to create just the right restful lighting design. It connects to an app where you can curate different colors, brightness levels, and scale from cooler to warmer tones. You can also use one of the preset settings — like concentration or relaxation — if you don’t want to fuss with it too much. ($89.99, Amazon)

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D.S. & Durga Dream Lychee Candle
D.S. & Durga

A new seasonal candle (because you obviously need more candles)...

Lighting a candle at night is another mental signal that it’s time to wind down. Now that I’ve burned through my cache of winter candles, I’m turning toward fruitier, floral fragrances for spring. I currently have this D.S. & Durga candle on my bedside table. It’s a lovely combination of lychee, lily, rosewater, musk, and sandalwood that’s sparkling and bright, but not at all sickly sweet — it’s well-balanced and sophisticated. PS: Boy Smells’ Cameo is another all-time favorite for spring. ($70, D.S. & Durga

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