Non-prescription sedatives
November 19, 2005 6:16 PM   Subscribe

What are the most reliable and/or effective non-prescription sedatives on the market? Chamomile tea? Chamomile tablets? What's out there, exactly?
posted by iced_borsch to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
I swore by these things for a while. They're marketed as homeopathic but, well, they actually work. :p

I also found these helpful, but I don't think you're supposed to take kava kava for too long lest it cause liver damage. Someone who's more knowledgable can correct me there if necessary.

I found valerian root pills helpful as well, but they were kind of hit-or-miss; the Calms Forte really did the trick for me. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) would knock me out but I would often either wake up immediately after it wore off (~2 hours) or feel really, really groggy in the morning when I woke up.

Melatonin can work really nicely as well and it's probably the most "natural" thing of the bunch since it's the body's natural sleep regulator.
posted by Kosh at 6:27 PM on November 19, 2005

I took melatonin for a while. They're nice but they're very subtle, they don't make you feel actually sleepy, they just seem to make it easier to fall asleep if you try.
posted by shanevsevil at 6:37 PM on November 19, 2005

Diphenhydramine HCl - marketed as Benadryl and several other names - reduces motion sickness, works as an anti-histamine, and induces drowsiness. Over-the-counter. Buy the generic version (and check both the allergy section and the sleeping aid section, since it will probably be in both places and one may be significantly cheaper than the other).

Three 25mg tablets will knock out anyone.
posted by jellicle at 7:02 PM on November 19, 2005

I've heard that a lot of people wake up with a drugged, unrested feeling after using benadryl to fall asleep, though. Totally anecdotal but I suspect I'll be confirmed.
posted by abcde at 7:10 PM on November 19, 2005

Doxylamine succinate, which you can find under the name "Restavit" and "Dozile" and various other names, is over-the-counter and really works, but it's an antihistamine and as with Benadryl, you might feel drowsy the following day.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:22 PM on November 19, 2005

I personally find Diphenhydramine to be icky stuff. I wouldn't recommend using it regularly as a sleep aid - not if the goal is restful sleep and waking up feeling sharp and alert.

I like Valerian root.

Exercising and de-stressing is good, too. Having an orgasm usually makes me sleepy as well, and is at once a bit of exercise and anti-stress.

Another nearly surefire solution is a small pipe-bowl of quality herb - especially followed up by a snack, but your mileage may vary. (Pot + sugary/carbohydrate snack = almost guaranteed blood sugar manipulation and drowsiness. Avoid if diabetic or acutely hypoglycemic.)

Though, I'd guess if you were already open to the idea of smoking contraband plants you'd probably already know this trick.
posted by loquacious at 7:31 PM on November 19, 2005

The answer to the question is probably alcohol. Everyone knows about it already.

50 mg of diphenhydramine gets me seriously high - I feel like I'm in tune with the entire cosmos. Then I go to sleep and awake refreshed. I've never met anyone else who has had this euphoric experience on it, though.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:04 PM on November 19, 2005

Be careful about using alcohol as a regular thing for sleep. My favorite book about insomnia
Say Good Night to Insomnia says basically, it can help you fall asleep but it disturbs deep sleep. Hopefully, you don't need the whole book.

the thing that has helped me most, and i've tried a lot, is individually prescribed homeopathic constitutional remedies, but i'm a 'fragile sleeper'. I hope you aren't.

I don't know why the link above isn't working, but here's what it should be, try copying it.
posted by judybxxx at 9:31 PM on November 19, 2005

I listen to recorded books - the trick is to repeat one book until you are so familiar that you lose interest in the narrative. For what ever reason, my internal monologist shuts up and goes to sleep if someone else is talking. I find Bill Bryson reading his own work to be particularly effective - I've often wondered what I might say to him, were I to meet him at a book tour reading.. "Your work is *great* at putting me to sleep!"
posted by Triode at 10:08 PM on November 19, 2005

hibiscus leaf tea is great! It gets you a little bit goofy before you fall asleep, too.
posted by evariste at 10:10 PM on November 19, 2005

I like Tylenol Simply Sleep. It's the part of Benadryl that makes you sleepy without all of the crap you don't need. The best part is that I don't feel groggy when I wake up after taking it.
posted by Serena at 10:38 PM on November 19, 2005

There's only one part of Benadryl - Diphenhydramine HCL (also the sole ingredient in some formulas of Dramamine). I take Children's Benadryl, which is a half-dose (12.5mg), about the same amount you find in PM-formula pain relievers, but without unnecessary pain relievers. Bonus: the children's formula comes in chewable and fastmelt, neither of which are terribly nasty, and it works faster. The downside is there seem to be no store-brand versions of the chewable/fastmelts yet, so you pay top dollar for it.

More than the half-dose leaves me groggy and so thirsty I need to wake up and drink some water, except I can't wake up enough to actually do it.

Doxylamine succinate is my big guns - Unisom is another brand name. When I had my first hardcore experience with jetlag earlier this year, I would take a Unisom as I passed out at 9pm and could then sleep well past 2am. No dehydration or grogginess, but it packs a little more of a punch than I normally need. It curbed the lag-related nightmares, though, which diphenhydramine doesn't seem to do.

The Children's Benadryl is also pretty handy during the day when you need a little bit of antihistamine but it would be inappropriate to lay down on your office floor and drool for two hours after a full dose. In a pinch, I have used it to curb anxiety as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:55 PM on November 19, 2005

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the amino acid tryptophan. There are studies showing it to be a reliable sleep aid, and it sure puts me right to sleep.

You can't get it as a supplement in the U.S. anymore thanks to a scare a few years back. (Someone skimped on quality control, put out a batch with impurities in it, and a lot of people got sick. Pure tryptophan is almost certainly safe.) But you could try eating more tryptophan-rich foods. Turkey's a good source, as are milk and peanuts.

Or you could try 5-HTP. It's a tryptophan precursor that's usually marketed as a natural antidepressant but it tends to cause drowsiness too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2005

Yeah, alcohol sucks for getting a good sleep because it's an REM suppressant. A probably related phenomenon is that a lot of people wake up in the middle of the night with it. It's common knowledge that it's a bad choice for this, I don't know why ikku2 recommended it.
posted by abcde at 12:39 PM on November 20, 2005

abcde, the original question was about a sedative, not a sleeping aid. Alcohol is a very effective OTC sedative.
posted by keijo at 4:18 PM on November 20, 2005

I second Triode's solutioin. In fact, I've been falling asleep to Bill Bryson's "A Walk In The Woods" for the better part of a month now.
posted by dott8080 at 6:32 PM on November 20, 2005

I didn't recommend alcohol. I noted that it is a reliable, effective and commonly available sedative. It is far more reliable than valerian root, for instance; valerian root can be effective but the amount of activity can vary from plant to plant.

However, the literature suggests that if you're using moderate amounts of alcohol intermittently (less than once a week) it's actually a reliable and safe hypnotic. More than that and you run into rebound effects, tolerance, etc., just as you will with any sleep aid.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:48 AM on November 21, 2005

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