My Struggle with Insomnia (and How I Managed It)
The importance of getting enough good-quality sleep cannot be understated—it is a biological necessity, just like food and water. Every single day of my struggle with insomnia reinforced just how important sleep is for basic functioning. Adults should be getting 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep (roughly 5 to 6 sleep cycles) per night, but I was (barely) surviving on 5 to 6 hours.
After trying out multiple remedies and making several lifestyle changes, I finally found a routine that worked well for me.
What is Insomnia?
In simple terms, insomnia refers to a chronic difficulty in falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Sleep impairment can also manifest as waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back asleep.
Insomnia has had a severe impact on my quality of life. I have struggled with poor concentration and memory, irritable moods, daytime drowsiness, low energy, and decreases in productivity.
Indeed, studies have shown that insomniacs are 2.5 to 4.5 times more likely to have an accident.
This is not to mention the physical toll it has taken on my appearance: puffy bloodshot eyes, dark under-eye circles, and a lustreless complexion. This is hardly surprising; after all, it is during sleep that your body makes more collagen and replenishes its cells.
Causes of insomnia vary from person to person. Short-term causes include jet lag, excessive napping during the day, alcohol (which blocks REM sleep), and caffeine (which stays in your system for 12 hours).
In my case it was mainly due to anxiety and stress. I would go to bed with a lot of things on my mind, and then as I tossed and turned, struggling to fall asleep, I would start getting anxious about not falling asleep. This resulted in a vicious cycle, a never-ending feedback loop: I would be anxious about work-related or interpersonal issues, which made it hard to fall asleep, and then this in turn led to anxiety about not falling asleep or not getting enough sleep, which fed on itself and multiplied exponentially. It’s really hard to quiet the overactive mind once you’re stuck in this kind of mental rut.
What’s worse is that sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety levels the next day. Studies have suggested that just one night of insufficient sleep can increase anxiety levels by 30% the next day, because deep sleep is actually a natural anxiety inhibitor. This is in keeping with my experience, which is why I was desperate to find a sustainable long-term solution that would target both my insomnia and anxiety.
Remedies I Tried
In the course of my struggle with insomnia, I tried all the usual remedies.
Melatonin supplements: I tried taking melatonin supplements but there was literally no effect. I still had difficulty falling asleep, and there was no improvement in my sleep quality either—I continued to wake up feeling unrefreshed. I also found out that taking melatonin supplements in the long-term was not recommended (it was more suited for short-term usage).
Abstaining from caffeine and alcohol: This lifestyle change helped a little, but it was not enough because my insomnia was primarily caused by anxiety. I needed something in addition to this to manage my anxiety and sleepless nights.
Mindfulness meditation: This was recommended, but I just didn’t have the patience to stick with it. Effective meditation requires discipline and proper practice, but I wanted results quickly, so I became frustrated.
Prescription medication: I ended up seeking professional medical help, and was prescribed a variety of medications, but none were the right fit. Benzodiazepines were effective but not suitable for the long-term—I soon developed a tolerance and had to keep increasing the dosage. Also, while they helped me to fall asleep quickly, they did not improve my quality of sleep, and I continued to wake up during the night. I also tried other prescription medication, but they were too effective—the next-day hangover was awful, and I felt groggy and drowsy all the time.
What Worked For Me
Fed up and desperate, I went down a Google rabbit hole one sleepless night and chanced upon something called Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is a natural supplement that has been used for centuries as a sleep aid. It is an adaptogen—a natural substance that helps your body to adapt to existing conditions. More specifically, Ashwagandha helps your body to adapt to stress by exerting a normalizing effect on bodily processes. This sounded practically ideal for my chronic anxiety-fuelled insomnia. In fact, Ashwagandha’s most well-known benefit is its ability to help your body cope with stress by maintaining healthy cortisol levels, which in turn promotes resistance to anxiety.
As I did more research, I found out that Ashwagandha also helps to improve sleep quality. A recent study found that a regular intake of Ashwagandha was linked to a significant improvement in multiple sleep parameters—namely, a reduction in sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), and an increase in sleep efficiency, sleep quality, and total sleep time.
I ordered a variety of Ashwagandha supplements and to determine whether they helped to improve my quality of sleep, I used my Fitbit device to track how well I slept for a given night. I was able to experience an improvement in my insomnia relatively quickly—within the first week of usage, I noticed that I was able to fall asleep much more quickly (within 30 minutes of going to bed), and I also woke up fewer times during the night.
When I did wake up, I was able to fall back asleep. Eventually, after a few more weeks of regular Ashwagandha intake, I managed to completely stop waking up in the middle of the night. I also observed that there were no next-day “hangover” effects—in fact, I felt more refreshed and energized when I woke up the next day.
What I also love about Ashwagandha is that it’s not just a sleep aid—it’s so much more. It has many other therapeutic effects apart from improving sleep quality.
To begin with, it enhances cardiorespiratory endurance and promotes muscle development and muscle recovery by reducing the natural muscle damage that results from exercise. It also helps me to manage my weight because its high level of antioxidants decreases inflammation and speeds up metabolism so that more fat is burned.
Ashwagandha also boosts immunity levels by increasing immune cell activity and the level of blood serum antibodies, so that my body becomes more resistant to infections and diseases.
Some studies have even shown that regular consumption of a high-concentration Ashwagandha root extract can improve sexual satisfaction, lubrication, and arousal for women. Other studies have suggested that Ashwagandha enhances one’s cognitive functions, especially in terms of improving memory, concentration, and information-processing speed.
However, it is important to note that not all Ashwagandha products are created equal—I found that certain brands and formulations were more effective than others. Below is a list of criteria to keep in mind when selecting your Ashwagandha product.
What You Need To Avoid
High Concentration of Withaferin A
Manufacturers sometimes formulate ashwagandha supplements using leaf extracts in a bid to save on costs. Ashwagandha extracts derived from the leaves have been shown to contain higher levels of Withaferin A (an undesirable cytotoxic compound).
Some manufacturers also fail to clearly assess the actual concentration of this particular compound, so you should opt for well-established formulations like KSM-66 that explicitly indicate negligible levels of Withaferin A.
Unnecessary Additives or Synthetic Fillers
You want to ensure you’re getting a premium product with the optimum concentration of ingredients in their purest form, with no unnecessary synthetic fillers or artificial additives.
Thousands of Singaporeans look to Lazada, Shopee or Amazon before purchasing their products, but most don’t realize that up to 60% of their reviews are written by individuals paid to leave positive feedback.
Prioritise Quality Over Price
It’s important to prioritize quality when consuming an ashwagandha supplement, even if that means that you pay a little more for a high-quality product which is safe and effective. Your health is much too valuable to take such a gamble.
Top 3 Ashwagandha Supplements To Improve Sleep
After doing a lot of research into the ashwagandha supplement space and looking at all the options that were available…my go-to brand is The Purest Co’s Ashwa Lychee Drink.
I believe their quality is one of the best in the market, coupled with the fact that I could not find any other concentrated ashwagandha drink! In my research, I found out that the best absorption rate comes from liquids, rather than pills or powders. While the Ashwa Lychee Drink from The Purest Co is not the cheapest option in the market, it’s probably the most effective!
Additionally, before purchasing the Ashwa Lychee Drink, I read up on a lot of reviews and customers have had really good things to say about the supplement and how it has helped them with their sleep issues.
We here at Superfood Reviews have done the research to find out what the best option for collagen supplements in the market. We have graded each choice through a stringent grading based on the following criteria:
Contains the top ashwagandha formulation - KSM-66
Includes effective complimentary ingredients like PharmaGaba ® and Camu Camu
No unnecessary ingredients or additives
Made in Taiwan and manufactured to HACCP and ISO22000 standards
Only available online
Regularly out of stock due to high demand, and takes a while to produce and restock
The Ashwa Lychee Drink is the number one choice for us due to its holistic formulation and with the brand’s focus on the customer experience.
The drink has the optimal amount of branded ashwagandha extract (KSM-66), which uses only root extract and is generally considered to be the most well-researched extract in the market. Additionally, The Purest Co has added good complimentary ingredients such as PharmaGaba ® and Camu Camu extract in their offering.
While many options of ashwagandha can be inherently bitter, the Ashwa Lychee Drink has a great taste due to the lychee concentrate juice, while not being overly sweet.
Additionally, the main difference is that the Ashwa Lychee Drink is one of the few if not the only concentrated ashwagandha drink in the market. While costly to produce as a liquid, the absorption rate of liquids beats any other form factor (gummies/pills/powders) by a large margin, according to research.
While not the cheapest option in the market, in terms of effectiveness, the Ashwa Lychee Drink is the top choice, and it helps customers reap the most benefits out of the ashwagandha supplement.
Contains the top ashwagandha formulation - KSM-66
Includes effective complimentary ingredients like Vitamin D
Low concentration of ashwagandha per gummy
Tastes too sweet and artificial
Gummies aren’t great with absorption rates
Gummies are too sticky and inconvenient
The Ashwagandha gummies by Goli are one of the few options for ashwagandha supplements in gummy form. While the interesting form factor can make it convenient for customers to eat, studies have shown that absorption rates through gummies compared to liquids is around half as effective.
Customers who have tried Goli gummies do raise certain concerns about its taste being too sweet however, and there is also a consensus that the gummies get too sticky in warmer climates, and taking individual gummies out of the bottle is a difficult ordeal.
As one of the pioneers in the gummy supplements industry, Goli is a brand that is well-known for producing high quality Apple Cider Vinegar gummies, hence you can rest assured that processing standards and safety are high.
Lastly, Goli has a good return policy, and you can send them back to the company within 30 days. Having said that, you are responsible for return shipping costs which could be high.
While Goli is a well-respected brand and their gummies are quick and convenient to consume, we believe that the gummies format (less effective), coupled with its sweetness, puts Goli at a slight disadvantage.
Made in the USA
Non-GMO and plant-based
Low ashwagandha concentration
No complimentary ingredients
Powders aren’t great with absorption rates
An up and coming brand from the United States, KOS has a broad range of functional powders and supplements. Their ashwagandha powder has good reviews across different marketplaces, with some customers praising its no frills and effective product.
KOS’s powder is produced in the USA to USDA standards, hence it is safe to say that processing standards are high. However, a large disadvantage for us would be that KOS does not use KSM-66, which is broadly regarded as the number one ashwagandha extract in the market today.
Additionally, due to the fact that the concentration of ashwagandha is not as high as the other options in the market, this has counted against KOS.
Lastly, powdered supplements may clump and result in inferior effectiveness rates for customers, as well as the additional work it takes to mix it into drinks.
For someone who struggles with both chronic insomnia and anxiety, Ashwagandha has been a game-changer in terms of helping me to fall asleep more easily and enhancing my overall sleep quality.
Of course, taking Ashwagandha alone is not enough; good sleep hygiene must also be practiced rigorously. I have found that a daily consumption of Ashwagandha combined with minimizing my caffeine and alcohol intake have helped me to keep insomnia at bay.
Other good habits that complement my consumption of Ashwagandha include regular exercise and sticking to a fixed sleep schedule in which I go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Ashwagandha’s other therapeutic effects have also been hugely welcome. So if you’re like me and you struggle with insomnia and anxiety, Ashwagandha might just be what you’re looking for. Unlike most prescription medications for sleep, Ashwagandha is non-habit-forming and safe for long-term usage.