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I Had Insomnia For a Decade—These 5 Products Helped Me Overcome It

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The 5 Products That Help Me Sleep Better Every Night

Amazon

We all know the feeling of struggling to sleep. You turn the lights out, find a comfortable position, close your eyes—and wait. And wait. And wait. The next thing you know it’s 2:00 a.m. and you’re more alert than you were before lying down. The panic sets in, and you know tomorrow is going to be painful. 

This was my nightly routine from early high school through my late twenties. And even on the nights when I was finally able to drift off, I’d wake up at least four or five times without explanation. When talking to friends and family about it, they’d viciously nod in agreement saying they experienced something similar. But no one had a real solution. The sad truth is insomnia is incredibly common, with one out of every three people reporting experiencing it in 2019 alone.

While many people suffer from the pain of sleepless nights, it’s important to know when to see a specialist.

“If you have multiple nights a week (3+) or feel that you routinely have trouble with the quality or quantity of your sleep multiple nights a week, talk with your doctor or a sleep specialist. There are a lot of effective treatments out there, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia,” says Shelby Harris, PsyD, Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis and licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine (BSM).

Insomnia is commonly linked to mental disorders such as stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. As someone with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I had no idea whether my anxiety was the cause or the symptom of my insomnia. But I knew the two together created a ruthless cycle of stressful days and sleepless nights that was feeding itself like an ugly two-headed monster living under my bed. 

After more than a decade of trial and error, I finally have my sleep under control and average eight hours of restorative slumber per night. A lot of it came down to creating a strict routine that includes putting away my phone by 9:00 p.m. and meditating in bed (which isn’t recommended but works for me). But I also owe my blissful nights to a few products that I now can’t live without such as bamboo sheets, a cooling mattress, and a contour face mask

Here are the 5 (mostly inexpensive) products that helped me overcome insomnia.

This Sleep Mask Blocks Light and Doesn’t Smoosh My Lashes

Slip Silk Contour Sleep Mask

Amazon

Slip Silk Contour Sleep Mask, $55; amazon.com

Light has always bothered me when trying to sleep so I decided to give sleep masks a try. I went through a few pairs that were comfortable enough, but unfortunately crinkled and flattened my eyelashes. No mascara was strong enough to keep me from looking like Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street during the day. Eventually, I found Slip Silk Contour Sleep Mask

This sleep mask leaves enough room for your lashes to lay undisturbed by providing a cushy raised ring of padding around your eyes. The silk fabric is smooth on your skin and won’t cause breakouts. I’ve also found it’s easy to wash—I just throw it in on a cold load with my other clothes and hang it dry. It’s perfect for anyone who has longer lashes and feels like they need complete darkness to drift off.

Cooling Bamboo Sheets that Feel Weighted and Soft

Bedsure cooling sheets

Amazon

Bedsure Bamboo Sheets, $60; amazon.com

Remember how I said insomnia is often tied to mental disorders such as anxiety? A great way to reduce stress is through weighted blankets or sheets as the weight calms your autonomic nervous system (which is the part of your nervous system that controls things like your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion). The Bedsure Bamboo Sheets feel heavier than most and are silky soft to the touch, which provides a calming effect. 

They also feature a serious cooling sensation, which helps with sleep as elevated body temperatures have been associated with wakefulness throughout the night. “Body temperature drops slowly while you’re sleeping and rises again in the morning. This happens in sync with your circadian rhythm and is an essential part of falling and staying asleep. If your body temperature is too warm, it can interfere with your deep sleep and cause you to wake up more frequently throughout the night, affecting your sleep quality and quantity,” Dr. Harris explains. 

I love these Bedsure sheets because they keep my body temperature regulated and cool so it’s easier to both fall asleep and stay asleep—sweat-free. If you’re someone who wakes up from night sweats or struggles to sleep because your body is roasting, these sheets are for you.

A Foam Mattress with Cooling Effects and Lumbar Support

Puffy Mattress

Puffy

Puffy Mattress, $700 with discount code (was $1450); puffy.com

Just as cooling sheets were a game changer for me, a cooling mattress made a huge difference in my ability to fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer. The Puffy Mattress is a foam mattress with multiple layers—two of which provide a cooling sensation that keeps you from overheating at night. 

I usually prefer softer, plush mattresses, so when I found that I loved the firmness of the Puffy I was pretty surprised. Unlike other firm mattresses, it doesn’t feel like I’m sleeping on a block of cement. What’s more, I suffer from severe allergies, and this mattress is hypoallergenic so I don’t wake up sneezing in the middle of the night. It also comes in a compressed box for easy delivery and offers a 101-night sleep trial so if your insomnia doesn’t ease up you’re not locked in.

Ear Plugs That Reduce Noise and Let Me Sleep On My Side

Tiliwame Reusable Earplugs

Amazon

Tiliwame Reusable Earplugs, $17; amazon.com

Even the slightest noise in the middle of the night would have me shoot up like a rocket, but earplugs never seemed like an option for me. For side sleepers like me, earplugs can feel like a sharp jab to your eardrums—making it impossible to doze off. 

I love the Tiliwame Earplugs because their base lays flush with my inner ear. They’re not completely noise-canceling, but more noise-reducing. But this is great for people who worry about not hearing their alarm in the morning, or who have kids that may need help in the middle of the night. These earplugs are also great because they’re reusable, which is better for the environment. 

It’s worth noting that I’ve found foam headphones to be more noise-canceling than the Tiliwame Earplugs. But foam can be a bad option for people with allergies, and are prone to growing bacteria so they need to be thrown out after a few uses. That means reusable plugs are the way to go if you’re worried about the environment.

Melatonin That Works and Tastes Great

Natrol Melatonin Sleep Aid Gummy

Amazon

Natrol Melatonin, $10; amazon.com

Melatonin has always worked well for me. While it’s by no means the cure for insomnia, it’s a natural remedy that can occasionally help ease you to sleep. “People think that melatonin is a natural cure for insomnia but there’s not a lot of data in support of this, and they also tend to take way too much,” Dr. Harris explains. “While it can help a few people with insomnia, it isn’t the panacea most people think it is,” she adds. So while we don’t recommend you run out to buy melatonin thinking it’s the be-all and end-all to your sleep struggles, it can be an occasional boost into slumber for some.

I’ve tried plenty of melatonin products that get the job done for me personally, but I love Natrol Melatonin because I believe chewable options hit me with sleepiness a little faster and harder. Plus, they taste great. Melatonin isn’t a sleeping pill—it won’t keep you asleep all night. But it takes the edge off by signaling to your body that it’s time to fall asleep.

What to Know About Melatonin Dosage

While melatonin is generally considered safe up to a 10-milligram dose, some people have reported adverse effects with higher doses, and there is likely no benefit from taking doses higher than 5 milligrams. It is recommended to start with a low dose (between 1-3 milligrams) of melatonin and to ask a healthcare professional before taking a melatonin supplement.

2 Sources
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  1. Krystal AD, Prather AA, Ashbrook LH. The assessment and management of insomnia: an update. World Psychiatry. 2019;18(3):337-352. doi:10.1002/wps.20674

  2.  Costello RB, Lentino CV, Boyd CC, et al. The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutr J. 2014;13:106. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-106