I Ditched Melatonin for $55 Personalized Sleep Supplements to Optimize My Zzz’s

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Melatonin supplements have had a constant home on my nightstand since I was 12 years old—so I guess you could say that sleep and I have had quite the rocky relationship over the years. And, in that regard, I'm hardly alone: When Well+Good surveyed 1,500 readers last year about their sleep habits and woes, 92 percent reported feeling fatigued more than once a week, and 53 percent said they use melatonin to remedy their tossing and turning. But in the age of personalized…everything, I decided to try a new regimen in the hopes of it helping me clock precious hours of sleep with ease. And that's how I came to know Remrise.

To be clear, when I say "personalized," I mean that the company's formulas are far more complex than the difference between taking, say, 3 milligrams and 10 milligrams (which is what happens when I'm deciding between different bottles of melatonin at the drugstore). Rather, Remrise asks its customers to take a quick quiz that places them in one of five different categories, or sleep profiles: "Chilled Out," "Rise & Shine," "Peace of Mind," "At Ease," and "Power Off."

Each profile is connected to a different plant-based formula, all of which are "inspired by centuries of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which recognizes that each person experiences unique sleep issues and requires a unique resolution," says Remrise founder and CEO Veronica Lee. "We developed our sleep profiles based on the most common issues and lifestyle factors that prevent people from getting restorative rest."

Lee says Remrise provides unique formulas that combine Eastern and Western ingredients—and, it's true: Inside each packet ($55 for a month supply), you'll find herbal supplements you've likely never heard of (like gastrodia rhizome, a tension-reducer) as well as the usual suspects (like magnesium). Check out the five profiles, the supplements prescribed for each below.

The 5 sleep profiles

Rise & Shine: anemarrhenn rhizome (zhi mu), fleeceflower vine (ye jiao teng), reishi (ling zhi), magnesium glycinate, phosphatidylserine, passionflower

Designed for: Those who wake up in the middle of the night or experience night sweats

Power Off: spine date seed (suan zao ren), albizza flower (he huan hua), cyperus rhizome (xiang fu), GABA, 5-htp, L-theanine

Designed for: Those who find it hard to fall asleep, get disturbing dreams, or feel agitated at night

At Ease: ginseng (ren shen), schisandra (wu wei zi), spirit poria (fu shen)

Designed for: Those who feel restless, waking up in the middle of the night, or rise too early

Peace of Mind: angelica root (dang gui), dragon eye fruit (long yan rou), polygala (yuan zhi), L-tryptophan, hops flower, L-theanine

Designed for: Those who have trouble falling asleep or feel drowsy during the day

Chilled Out: gastrodia rhizome (tian ma), polygala (yuan zhi), reishi (ling zhi)

Designed for: Those who experience difficulty staying asleep, or feel restless and agitated at night

You might have noticed there's no melatonin—but why?

What I found most interesting about Remrise before trying it for myself is that my beloved melatonin is absent from each of its formulas—a detail Lee says is intentional. "We’re striving to create unique, personalized formulas that differ from anything else on the market. While melatonin works fine for some people, others find it to be ineffective at treating sleep issues over time, as many build tolerance to it quickly. As melatonin is a hormone, we’re also catering to people who don’t want to put additional hormones in their bodies," she says.

To wit, research on the success of melatonin isn't yet conclusive. "Numerous large studies [on melatonin's sleep efficacy] have been performed in various patient populations; however, drawing firm conclusions from these studies remains difficult again because of varying dosages, formulations and timing of medications," says Madelyn Rosenthal, MD, a sleep medicine physician. That doesn't mean melatonin is ineffective, though—it still boasts strong anecdotal fervor. "Despite the research limitations, most data suggest a self-reported improvement in sleep onset, but not sleep maintenance or duration of sleep," Dr. Rosenthal adds.

"We’re striving to create unique, personalized formulas that differ from anything else on the market." —Veronica Lee, Remrise CEO

Quite simply: The oral form of the hormone doesn't have evidence to back it yet, but such is also the case with many of Remrise's ingredients. For example, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reports that passionflower—one of Remrise's ingredients—hasn't been studied extensively enough to draw any conclusions on its effects at mitigating symptoms of anxiety and other conditions. Similarly, polygala—another Remrise ingredient—has primarily been tested on rats.

However, as someone who's been more than happy with "well it works for me" as the sole evidence to support her enduring melatonin habit, I remained curious to try my own sleep prescription: a combination of spine date seed (a therapeutic herb shown to have sedative effects), albizza flower (which "calms the spirit and emotions"), cyperus rhizome (designed to decrease the body's stress response), GABA (an amino acid that creates a sense of calm), 5-HTP (which releases serotonin), and L-theanine (a green tea-derivative that produces a relaxed state), I decided to give melatonin two weeks off to TCM-ify my bedtime ritual to see if it might work better. To test whether any new sleeping patterns emerged, I wore my Whoop band—a fitness tracker that uses multiple heart measurements to detect the strength of its wearer's sleep—to bed before starting the experiment and during it.

What happened when I tried the personalized sleep supplements

Without formal instructions for when to take the supplements, I opted to open my first packet of four large pills a half-hour before bedtime. Similar to my experience with melatonin, I could barely keep my eyes open within 20 minutes. I decided to call it a night and then didn't budge until the next morning when my alarm went off. I felt super-groggy when I woke up, but since this is often the case with my standard supplement regimen, it didn't exactly stand out to me. As my two-week trial wore on, that general theme continued: I didn't notice a huge difference in how I felt using melatonin versus how I felt using Remrise.

However, one sleep metric provided by my Whoop band said otherwise: While I usually experience between 15 and 20 "sleep disturbances" on a nightly basis, Whoop reported that I only experienced about 10 each night when I took Remrise—and that matters. "Disturbances are brief periods of being awake, typically lasting less than 3 minutes," explains Emily Capodilupo, director of data science and research at Whoop. "Disturbances are significant because it's not abnormal to have a few every hour, or for the night's disturbances to total up to an hour or more of lost sleep that a user would not be aware of having lost."

Furthermore, the fewer sleep disturbances you have each night, the higher your sleep efficiency is. "So if, for example, you fall asleep at midnight with an alarm set for 7 a.m., at best, you are getting seven hours of sleep. The number and length of disturbances will determine if that ends up being close to seven hours, or more likely five or six," she adds.

Since I experienced fewer sleep disturbances on Remrise, that means, theoretically, Remrise may have helped me squeeze in extra precious moments of sleep.

Since I experienced fewer sleep disturbances on Remrise, that means, theoretically, Remrise may have helped me squeeze in extra precious moments of sleep. However, Dr. Rosenthal isn't convinced that lowering your rate of sleep disturbances will necessarily help your sleep hygiene as a whole. "These disturbances can be the result of multiple conditions, most of which are not pathologic in nature," she says. If you're curious about your own disturbances, she recommends getting evaluated by a sleep-medicine specialist rather than diving too deep into self-diagnoses.

For me, the drop in sleep disturbances didn't make enough of an impact on my waking hours to entice me to swap my $15 bottle of melatonin that I have to refresh every few months for a $55 per-month subscription. But for someone whose never tried to boost their sleep game with supplements, perhaps (with the guidance of a physician, of course), a personalized system like Remrise could prove useful. Because in the same vein of personalized supplements aiming to help on an individual level, there are also any number of ways each person can experiment with clocking those elusive zzz's.

Sleep robots are a thing now, too. And if you haven't tried "slow lit" to get to sleep faster, go for it. 

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