Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I believe that the same is true for sleep.
When people have sleep issues, they suffer in their own way. There are so many reasons that someone may not be able to sleep. In some cases, it could be the result of a medical issue such as sleep apnea. That is why I encourage you to have a conversation with your doctor if you are struggling to sleep.
In this article, first I am going to talk about the problems that I personally experienced with sleep so that you can see if your own experiences line up with mine.
In the second section, I go through the natural sleep remedies that really work for me. They all improved my sleep in some way, though one had some pretty bad side effects. Keep in mind that these are my own individual results. I cannot guarantee that your experiences will be the same as mine.
Please remember that I am not a health professional and this article is for informational purposes. It details my own experiences with various natural sleep remedies. Read my full medical disclaimer here.
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My Sleep Story: Tired But Can’t Sleep
Ever since I can remember, I have always had trouble with sleep. I was the kid that never wanted to go to sleep.
I always fought my parents against bedtime. Every night was a struggle. Even when I did get into bed on time, I would often lay awake for a couple of hours, feeling too restless to fall asleep.
If my nights were tough, my mornings were even more of a struggle. I didn’t want to wake up, I didn’t want to eat breakfast, and I definitely didn’t want to go to school.
The inability to fall asleep was having an impact on my grades and my happiness as a young child.
When I was in the third grade, I got more into reading and would read a book in bed while I was supposed to sleep. It certainly helped with the boredom and restlessness at night, but terrible headaches began to plague me daily. By the end of that year, I gave up my reading habit.
My problems continued throughout middle school and high school. During those years, I often wished to take a whole year off so that I could get some sleep. I always felt like a zombie and like I was not putting forth my best work.
People would often comment that I looked physically exhausted.
My problems were very mysterious to me. On one hand, I only slept about 5 hours during the week and was exhausted. On the other hand, I could stay awake in class and perform pretty well in my classes. Pretty much everyone talked about being tired in high school so I did not consider myself too far out of the norm.
College was a huge relief for me. Most of my classes started later in the day so I was able to sleep at the times that I preferred. I liked taking a nap in the afternoon after my classes and going to bed late. It was pretty ideal for me.
Then, after college, I got my first full-time job. It began early in the morning so I began to feel exhausted again.
Back then, I was attached to the thought that if I just got into a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday, I would find some relief. It did not work, however, and my job performance suffered.
From there, I went to grad school but suffered from the same issues. By this time, my problems were mounting to an unbearable level.
I had much more work than undergrad and my symptoms were much, much worse. I could not concentrate and my grades reflected it.
I went to see a therapist but I felt silly talking about my sleep issues. I thoroughly believed that sleep should come naturally.
We worked on my sleep hygiene and I was able to get into a routine, but I was amazed by how one little mistake could throw everything off for me.
I would go to bed everyday at ten and if I wanted to stay up a little later on the weekends, I would suffer the next week. Not to say that sleep hygiene can’t help. My problems were just too stubborn for it.
In the end, grad school was too much for me. I returned home with a new determination to heal myself. There were so many things that I missed out on because I could not sleep.
We went on a family vacation to Hawaii and I wasn’t really able to enjoy it because I was always exhausted. I spent a summer in New York doing a research project but barely left the room to see the city because I simply didn’t have the energy.
More than anything, I just wanted to live.
I wanted to experience the world and meet new people and live each day to the fullest but I felt terribly hindered by the fact that I could not sleep.
I knew that I needed to take action so I went to the doctor and got a sleep study done. The main reason for this was to rule out anything serious such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy. We found out that I didn’t have those. At the same time, I didn’t get any answers for what to do.
At that point I started to look for natural remedies for my sleep problems. I researched online for delayed sleep phase syndrome, which my doctor indicated that I might have. Luckily enough, all the products had some positive impact on my sleep. Listed below are the products that I tried out. I did full reviews for some of them and will have links for those.
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UVEX Ultra Spec 2000 Glasses
In modern times, we are exposed to more blue light than ever before because it can come from computer screens, TVs and even light bulbs.
Blue light is often blamed for the poor sleep quality that many people experience. These glasses block out the blue light that prevents the body from releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone.
With the glasses blocking the blue light, we have higher levels of melatonin making it easier to fall asleep. These glasses were one of the first things that I tried out to improve my sleep.
They only cost about $10 and since they use the body’s own melatonin, there was a very low risk of harm from them.
I noticed that I was able to fall asleep right away with these and that I was able to sleep pretty well. At the time, I thought that I had found my solution but looking back, they didn’t provide the best quality of sleep for me.
I still had some issues with being tired during the day. That being said, the glasses had some advantages that I did not predict and I still use them to this day.
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Dynamic Health Tart Cherry Juice
I decided to give this product a try after hearing about it on TV. The tart cherry juice contains natural melatonin.
Using this, I was able to fall into a much deeper sleep. I also found that I didn’t feel drowsy the next morning. I was surprised by how much my sleep improved with the tart cherry juice because I thought that the glasses were the ultimate solution.
This product taught me that even though my sleep was much better, there was still room for improvement. My entire wellbeing really improved with this delicious juice.
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Even though I liked the tart cherry juice, it does have some drawbacks.
I frequently sleep away from home because I like to volunteer for organizations that provide shelter for the homeless. I found that the tart cherry juice and blue light glasses could be less than ideal for these situations, so I decided to try melatonin, which is a little more portable.
Unfortunately, I tend to have a bad reaction to melatonin. Every time that I take these, I get really bad migraines. This is strange, because melatonin is supposed to soothe migraines (I believe that it probably does soothe migraines in most people).
That being said, I do fall asleep easier when I take melatonin and sleep quite deeply. Taking natural supplement (and medicine for that matter) can be a risk, but one worth taking if they can improve your life.
Taking the synthetic melatonin definitely gave me a deeper appreciation of tart cherry juice.
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Veralux HappiLight Liberty
I decided to try this out after reading a review online. This lamp produces light that is similar to sunlight. You sit in front of it for about 20 minutes in the morning and it helps you wake up.
It is apparently very good for people with delayed sleep phase because it helps reset the circadian rhythm.
I also noticed a large increase in energy with this lamp. I could wake up much earlier and I would feel alert throughout the day. This product works well with the others, and it is even extremely effective on its own.
One issue that I noticed is that I cannot sit in front of it for an hour in the morning (the website actually recommends sitting in front of it for up to an hour).
If I sit in front of it for too long, I will end up with a migraine. I think that this is different for everyone and takes some trial and error.
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Breathe by Dr. Belisa Vranich
When I left grad school, I was looking at various ways to improve myself and one of those ways was assertiveness training (I got a book for that too).
The assertiveness book talked about physical barriers to assertiveness and one of the ways to overcome the physical barriers was through deep breathing. That book provided a breathing exercise and I noticed that I felt much calmer and more relaxed throughout the day doing those exercises.
I wanted to learn more so I bought the book Breathe and it completely blew my mind with the benefits of deep breathing. This book has even more exercises and she shows you how to create your own, personal deep breathing program.
For me, the exercises are very challenging, but they have become one of my favorite ways to relax. I have noticed that I sleep even deeper when I do these exercises and that I have more energy during the day.
Overall, I gained so much more than a good sleep when I chose to do something about my sleep problems. I gained the ability to advocate for myself, to turn my life into what I wanted it to be.
I became excited about the world again, excited to experience new things and new people because I realized that I could experience everything fully.
I also became curious. I wanted to see whether the natural remedies people recommended would actually have any sort of effect on me and how much it would take to see results.
The time that I spent having sleep problems was a very dark and hazy time, but I have gained so much and grown up so much since then. I will never get those years back, but I have a deep appreciation for what I have been through and what I have learned from it.
I hope that my story can help you take action in your own life, to advocate for yourself and find solutions to your problems.
Please let me hear your own stories down in the comment. Are you dealing with any issues right now? Did you overcome something in the past? Let me know!