Insomnia sufferer Leslie Ellis spends 10 hours a day selling insurance. But even after she's done, the job often stays with her.
"My issue is always falling asleep," says Ellis. "Then I'm one of those people who hits the snooze alarm."
And it was that trouble waking up in the morning that prompted Ellis to try a product she noticed in a magazine ad called Wake Up On Time.
"You actually take it before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning, you wake up refreshed," she says.
Wake Up On Time is not a drug, but a dietary supplement; a combination of vitamins and herbal extracts. Its label promises the pills will help users "wake up in the morning feeling great and full of energy."
"It's an energy product with a special coating over the tablets to delay the release of the ingredients," says Cathy Beggan who runs the company Rise-N-Shine. "That's why you can take it at bed time without it keeping you awake. About six to eight hours later it kicks in."
And what provides the kick? Among the ingredients is Guarana seed extract with 22 percent caffeine.
"It is, but it's time-released, so it's not getting dumped into your body all at once," explains Beggan. "It's slowly and continuously released."
Wake Up On Time is classified as a dietary supplement, which means it is not regulated by the FDA and did not have to undergo any clinical trials to prove its effectiveness. Sleep researchers ABC7 spoke with were skeptical.
"There really isn't any evidence to indicate that any time-release preparations for caffeine have any significant benefit," says Dr. Clete Kushida who directs the Center for Human Sleep Research at Stanford.
The company sent us more than a half-dozen studies. The studies didn't focus on the product itself, but on the various ingredients used to make it. While most are considered safe and potentially beneficial to the body, Dr. Kushida has reservations about the active ingredient -- time-released caffeine.
"We really don't know the adverse effects of a time-release preparation of caffeine," he says. As for the other ingredients, sleep researcher Dr. David Claman at UCSF says there is just not good science to back up claims of herbs and vitamins helping with sleep.
"None of them have really been tested or evaluated in any scientific manner, and I think as we all know, there is a lot of placebo effect to medications," says Claman.
Ellis doesn't know how the pills work, she's just convinced they do for her.
"I don't take prescription sleep medications, but I still wake up groggy," says Ellis. "With this product I actually wake up within about five, 10 minutes feeling like I'm not groggy, like I'm OK, ready to go."
Researchers ABC7 spoke with also suggested that patients with high blood pressure could be adversely effected by time-release caffeine. Labels on the product itself warn customers to check with their doctor before taking the supplement.
Written and produced by Tim Didion