I have a distinct memory from five years ago, when I was fresh out of college and happy to work until 2 a.m. on a deadline, of humble-bragging to my boss that I could get by on merely four hours of sleep. (“I just drink a Red Bull and I’m fine!”) She groaned an ominous warning: “Just wait.”
Now, at 29, I realize my youthful naïveté. Along with a newfound inability to handle the hangover I’ll get after two rosés, I’m now unable to function with any less than seven hours of sleep. As I’ve gotten older and more curmudgeonly about going to bed early, this hasn’t been too much of an issue. But a few months ago, on top of an already chaotic news cycle that’s wreaked havoc on normally sound sleepers, I found myself suffering from insomnia.
Not one to really ever prioritize my health (see: taking pride in sleep deprivation), I didn’t do much to seek out treatment. I caffeinated, I upped my under-eye concealer, and slogged through the day like a yawning zombie. That didn’t quite cut it. (Weird, right?)
But I had tried sleeping pills in the past and felt foggy in the morning, so I didn’t want to go down that road again. I’d heard about melatonin tablets and adaptogens—options normally lauded as solid natural sleep-aids—but already over-tired, the thought of having to road-test these and titrate the right amounts before landing on something that would work for me just exacerbated my agita. So my ill-advised solution was to pop an Ativan (which I’m prescribed, as-needed, for anxiety attacks), hoping it would knock me out. As you can imagine, this went horribly, as going off-label or against doctor’s instructions often does. Not only was this misuse of anxiety meds making me groggy, it was screwing with my mood.
I’d recently attended Goop Fest, Gwyneth Paltrow’s bougie wellness summit, to share an outsider’s view on the convention. For my participation, I walked away with a literal suitcase full of health swag including everything from mushroom matcha mix to collagen protein bars to paleo supplements. I ended up giving away most of it with one intriguing exception: four bottles of Som Sleep’s “Sleep Formula.” A drink that promises to help you doze off, which I promptly placed in my fridge and forgot about for the foreseeable future.
I never heard of a sleep water before, but it wasn’t that hard to figure out. You put it in the fridge, and then drink it 30 minutes before you want to go to bed. From there, magnesium and melatonin (among other ingredients said to promote relaxation) go to work to naturally tell your body that it’s time to turn in. It’s essentially the anti-Red Bull. So, one night when I was having a particularly difficult time winding down, I remembered I had a case of this stuff stashed in my fridge and cracked one open. Fifteen minutes into the show I was watching, I started to yawn. By the time the credits were rolling, I was ready for bed.
I awoke the next the morning surprisingly refreshed. Getting up to my alarm felt a little easier, and come 4 p.m. that day, I wasn’t dragging and in need of another coffee. Since Som claims its formula is non-habit forming, I chugged one again the next night to the same delightful result.
An occupational hazard of working as a beauty editor is that I get access to, and then sample, all kinds of supplements. And something I’ve noticed among them, whether it’s “beauty water” or collagen drinks, is that many have a funky taste. This berry-flavored formula is a little more polite on the palate. There’s a slight aftertaste, but overall it’s actually quite refreshing (the original slightly moreso than the sugar-free version). And like most things that are Goop-approved, it comes with a lot of no‘s: no gluten, no dairy, no preservatives, and no artificial flavors.
As for a different no: By no means am I saying a sleepy-time supplement is a cure for anxiety or insomnia. It’s not. Eventually, I did make the call to loop in my doctor, who helped me land on a better anxiety-med dosage. That, I’m pretty sure, is what has ultimately helped me get better sleep. But at least once or twice a week when I still have trouble unwinding—these days, likely from a too-intense episode of The Handmaid’s Tale—I reach for one of these cans and feel the blissful effects of the sleep water at work. Whether it’s the placebo affect or the real deal, me and my full eight hours are not complaining.
Plus, it’s nice to be able to brag about my sleeping habits again.
Som Sleep The Original Som Sleep Formula, $30 for 12, amazon.com
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