From nightly hits
of ambien to L-tryptophan supplements that mimic the
soporific effects of a Thanksgiving turkey feast, never
before have so many different ways to treat your
insomnia been available. Whether you're a lark
(springing awake at 4 a.m.) or an owl (crawling into bed at
4 a.m.), there's a sleep aid guaranteed to
knock you out or gently send you off to sleep.
Over-the-counter Tylenol PM ($13.89 for 150 caplets at
Drugstore.com) is a tried-and-trusty drugstore aid that will
send you into a light stupor and, as a bonus, cure
your headache. Its sister product, Simply Sleep
($12.79 for 150 caplets at Drugstore.com), omits the
painkilling agent. Both medicines contain the antihistamine
diphenhydramine (known more commonly by its brand name
Benadryl), which depresses the central nervous system,
resulting in drowsiness. The effect is mild, lasting
from four to six hours.
in capsule, tea, tablet, or liquid extract form,
valerian root (Puritan's Pride, $2.21 for
100 450-milligram capsules at PuritanSale.com) has
been used by insomniacs since Greek antiquity.
Nevertheless, its efficacy is widely questioned, and it
tastes awful, even in pill form. Instead, consider
making tea from the South Pacific herb kava
kava (NakamalAtHome.com sells instant kava powder
starting at $17.75 for the 11-serving size.) A relaxing
brew, it'll help the imbiber to de-stress and
ease into a deep, dreamless sleep. It tastes kind of
pungent, your mouth will go numb, and you may feel a
little drunk, but you won't feel foggy the next day.
Another choice is
L-tryptophan (Cyence Labs, $19.99 for 60
capsules at Walgreens.com), the substance found in turkey
meat that's blamed for that
post-Thanksgiving dinner narcolepsy. Or try
melatonin (Nature's Bounty, $4.82 for 60
five-milligram tablets at Drugstore.com), a hormone
naturally released by your body's pineal gland
after sunset to promote sleepiness. It works wonders for
some, but beware -- it has been reported to give
others nightmares. If all else fails, there are always
the homespun yawn-inducing activities -- drinking
warm milk or chamomile tea, rubbing
lavender essential oil on the temples, and
of course sex.
PrescriptionAmbien is the nation's best-selling
prescription sleeping pill -- despite rare but widely
publicized reports of users bingeing on junk food and
"sleep driving" while under the
influence and then claiming no memory of having done so
afterward. Lunesta is a popular alternative,
though common complaints include a bitter aftertaste.
Ambien, Lunesta, and the also-popular Sonata
can be habit-forming and, according to the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration, are not necessarily safer than
their predecessors Valium and Xanax. All are thus
indicated only for short-term use.