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I spent £150 a week trying to cure my insomnia – here's what actually works

 Having tried everything from prescriptions to pillow sprays, brand founder Rosie Davies-Smith shares the treatment that helped combat her insomnia

Brunette woman drinking a hot drink on a white sofa
Updated: March 11, 2024
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I've grappled with persistent insomnia for the past two and a half years, which I think is tied to unsettling complications during the birth of my daughter, Isla, two.

Each night I go to bed between 10 and 11 pm and without fail, wake between 2 or 3 am and don't drift back off until 6.30 am. By which time, I need to get up as my two young girls (aged two and three) wake around this time.

Strangely, it's as if the more effort I put into overcoming my insomnia, the worse the problem becomes.

Woman with her two young children
Rosie with her daughters

My sleeplessness impacts every part of my existence and is connected with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Despite my daughter now being healthy, happy and sleeping uninterruptedly, my mind appears incapable of understanding everything is okay. It feels as though I've been reprogrammed to stay awake while everyone else rests. The routine of tossing and turning became the norm and I'm very well acquainted with the small hours.

How does insomnia make me feel?

Possibly the hardest part of insomnia is the constant struggle to perform tasks effectively on so little sleep. I then feel as though I need to inform my team about my sleeplessness and I feel maternal guilt for having hardly any energy for my girls.

MORE FROM ROSIE: I overhauled my entire life on a whim – here's what happened 

What have I tried for insomnia?

I've explored costly therapies such as acupuncture and therapy. I've also invested in a variety of products such as CBD oil, sleep tea and sleep supplements.

These remedies and solutions all create a financial strain, adding an extra issue to the pile. I’ve spent up to £150 a week trying different therapies and remedies to cure my insomnia.

Brunette woman smiling at a table
Rosie Davies-Smith has tried countless remedies for her insomnia

The one blessing of all the money I've spent is that I now have an insomnia toolkit, knowing exactly what works and what doesn't. ;

From prescribed medications to over-the-counter remedies, holistic practices, therapeutic approaches, treatments, lifestyle adjustments and even the incorporation of technology, here's everything I've tried, along with if it actually helped me.

SHOP: 12 best mattresses to buy right now for an amazing night's sleep 

What didn't work for my insomnia

Doctor-prescribed solutions for insomnia

I've delved into medical solutions, with prescriptions such as Amitriptyline, Sertraline, Promethazine, and Zolpidem.

The medication left me feeling awful and drowsy. I hated all of these medications. They covered the cracks rather than tackling the issues that were causing my insomnia – though I know they can be life-changing for some people.

REVEALED: Why can't I sleep during menopause? The real reason

Over-the-counter solutions for insomnia

In my pursuit of sleep, I've explored over-the-counter options, including Night Nurse, which worked but made me excessively sleepy the following day.

Nytol also provided temporary relief, while Rescue Peaceful Night capsules and ashwagandha were also briefly helpful in my ongoing battle against insomnia.

There were all good short-term solutions but were either short-lived or caused unpleasant side effects the following day.

Woman looking out over a river
Rosie Davies-Smith didn't get on with prescription medication for insomnia

Sleep tea, supplements and exercise to help insomnia

Heights and Dirtea sleep teas offered respite from my insomnia, as did CBD Night Drops from Dreem Distillery. They were great products and helped me sleep, but they failed to tackle the root cause of why I was awake.

I’ve incorporated yoga and meditation into my daily routine and although I generally feel better for it, I can’t see an improvement in my sleep. I also tried HIIT / running exercises, spending more time outdoors and taking breaks from parental responsibilities - none of which worked.

Separate beds, weighted blankets and eye masks for insomnia

Experimenting with changes such as separate sleeping arrangements from my partner, different pillows, beds, and pyjamas, and the comforting embrace of a weighted blanket and eye mask sadly had no effect and I was still up at 3 am.

Sleep hygiene to help insomnia

I've followed all of the recommended sleep hygiene practices such as eliminating screens, a pre-sleep walk and no caffeine, winding down, notepad next to my bed, no TV or bright lights, having my contraceptive coil removed and abstaining from alcohol.

I get recommended these a lot and I know people mean well but for a chronic insomniac, switching off the light isn’t going to stop me waking at 3am.

What did work for my insomnia?

Therapy for insomnia

While supplements, exercise and sleep hygiene made a dent in my sleeplessness, what really helped me was getting to the root cause of my insomnia through therapy.

I started with hypnotherapy to try and relax my mind and calm my nervous system and although it was great it didn’t crack my insomnia.

READ: How hypnotherapy healed my heartbreak

I then moved on to EMDR therapy which initially provided relief, yet the effectiveness proved to be short-term. During EMDR we discussed my daughter's birth, how I struggled with becoming a mother before moving on to breaking down my childhood. Which was not traumatic at all but was interesting to revisit.

Woman working at her computer with a baby on her lap
Rosie's lack of sleep impacts her work and parenting

I often broke down during sessions, so I was convinced that we had solved the problem based on my emotional reaction - sadly not.

Sleep restriction for insomnia

Sleep restriction, which sees you limit the amount of time you spend in bed to minimise the time you spend awake, was effective in treating my insomnia, but the demanding nature made it a challenging long-term solution.

RELATED: What is TRE and can it help ease trauma? I tried it 

Magnesium supplements for insomnia

I had health tests that revealed I was magnesium deficient, so I started supplementing it.

Magnesium has been consistently effective in easing my insomnia since I started taking it.

 READ: The 20-minute ritual that switched off my busy brain instantly 

Kinesiology for insomnia

At this point, I started to doubt that getting to the root cause was going to solve my insomnia until I tried kinesiology.

I have never heard of kinesiology previously but as everyone who knows me would say, I will try anything to help me sleep.

Kinesiology is a holistic approach that monitors your muscles to discover imbalances in the body that could be causing issues and in my session, it was uncovered that my go-to feeling is guilt.

I feel guilt that others have to look after my girls when I find it challenging because of sleep deprivation, as well as guilt that I am letting my team down - basically guilt about everything, meaning my lack of sleep is caused by an emotional problem.

woman in her office with her daughter
Rosie experiences mum guilt, which impacts her sleep

Knowing this inspired me more time to clear my mind without feeling guilty, breaking down the emotion I am feeling, being present more, enjoying moments and generally being kind to myself.

Kinesiology didn’t fix me, but it gave me something to focus on. I can work on breaking down what could be triggering my insomnia.

Since doing this, paired with the right supplements, I have started to see a noticeable improvement in my sleep.

I found that homing in on the actual problem has massively helped me to re-evaluate my whole life. Slowing down, not taking on too much, doing yoga every day, and taking time when I want it without feeling guilty.

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