I Tried a Personalized Sleep Supplement—Here's What Happened
If you're like me (and a third of all Americans), then you probably don't get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night. And if you're also anything like me, then you're probably curious about all the popular sleep supplements—such as magnesium, melatonin, and CBD—on the market that promise better and deeper sleep.
Although there is some evidence that natural sleep aids can be effective, they don't work for everyone. That's why some newer companies are taking a more personalized approach to sleep supplements.
One such company is Remrise. Victoria Lee, founder and CEO, says she used to sleep only three hours a night. She tried taking over-the-counter meds to help her fall asleep but found that they knocked her out and gave her stomach issues and anxiety.
So she decided to use her background in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to create custom formulas, which blend traditional herbs with Western ingredients, tailored to an individual's sleep issues.
“We're using traditional Chinese medicine herbs that have been used for thousands of years, but because we're marketing it to the millennial generation, we want to have a modern spin on it," says Lee. “And we want to market ourselves as a modern sleep company that uses ancient ingredients in new and exciting ways."
The result is five different natural sleep supplements to suit a variety of sleepers, from those who have trouble sleeping and feel drowsy during the day ("Peace of Mind") to those who wake up too early and are unable to calm their minds at night ("At Ease").
The formulas have primarily been developed by a TCM expert, but Lee also has two Western medical experts on the board: Robert Stickgold, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition, and E Hanh Le, MD, senior director of medical affairs at Healthline.
Curious about whether a personalized sleep supplement could actually fix my longstanding sleep issues, I decided to try it out for myself.
The author started by taking a 19-question quiz about her sleep habits.
Finding my ideal sleep supplement
To find out which sleep supplement was right for me, I started by taking Remrise's 19-question quiz. I was asked to rate my current sleep quality, how stressed out I am, how often I drink alcohol, and how I feel when I wake up in the morning.
According to the quiz, my sleep profile was "Chilled Out" since I mostly keep waking up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to calm my racing mind enough to feel ready to go to bed.
The "Chilled Out" sleep supplement contains the herbs gastrodia rhizome (tian ma), polygala (yuan zhi), and reishi (ling zhi), all of which have some animal studies behind them pointing to their ability to aid in sleep.
What happened when I took my personalized sleep supplement
After receiving my "diagnosis," Remrise sent me a 30-day supply of pills (which cost $55) about a week later. (Remrise is a subscription service, so you save some money if you sign up for a three- or six-month membership.) There weren't specific instructions about when to take it, so I used my best judgment and took one about two hours before bed every night.
In the beginning, the supplement started working in about 30 minutes. In fact, I found it really hard to keep my eyes open once it kicked in—and I also felt pretty groggy in the morning. While I aimed for seven hours of sleep, I was getting closer to nine.
Lee explained to me that while using the supplement over time, my body would adjust itself so that my sleep cycle would follow the standard seven to eight hours. After about two weeks, that's exactly what happened. I started to feel sleepy about an hour after I took my supplement—and while I still woke up a little sleepy, I wasn't anywhere near as groggy as I was in the beginning.
I definitely experienced some tangible effects using my personalized sleep supplement, but I couldn't say it made a huge difference when compared with other holistic options I've tried in the past, like magnesium and CBD. That said, I did find it helped calm my racing mind just as effectively as those other natural sleep aids.
Reishi is one of the main ingredients in Remrise's "Chilled Out" sleep supplement.
What a doctor has to say about personalized sleep supplements
“The issue with any of these natural supplements that aren't FDA approved is the worry that none of them have really been proven to be as safe and effective as FDA drugs are," says Castriotta. "The laws are deliberately kept vague, and so even if you trust your supplier, there's the off chance the supplements could be laced with additional stimulants that produce similar effects."
Because a lot of the natural ingredients in sleep supplements haven't been studied well enough in humans, I could have been experiencing a placebo effect when consuming them, Castriotta adds. He does note that Chinese herbs have been used for many years with anecdotal evidence indicating that they work, "but they haven't had the Western-type trial-and-error proof of their ability to work," he says.
If you're interested in trying a natural sleep supplement, Castriotta says it's best to get one prescribed to you by a doctor who has experience with them. However, if you experience no side effects and want to look into a personalized sleep supplement, Castriotta says there's likely no harm—just as long as you do your best to not get dependent on it. “Try weaning off slowly over time, as you'll ideally want to be able to sleep soundly without one," he says.
Beyond sleep supplements
After I stopped taking my sleep supplement, I started to rely more on natural ways of preparing my body for bed, as per Castriotta's instructions.
That meant no blue light an hour before bed, lighter dinners, getting into bed only when it was time to sleep, and reducing my afternoon caffeine, among other things.
When following Castriotta's advice, I found it much easier to stay asleep throughout the night—and that's something money can't buy.
Interested in natural sleep solutions? Here are 14 things you can do right now for better sleep tonight.