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Health

Rest in
Peace

Rest in
Peace

Sleeping_man

What to take to get to sleep.

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.

Natural Available 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.

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