In my younger and much unhealthier days, I consumed at least one energy drink per day, along with copious amounts of coffee (energy drink habit is now broken; coffee not so much). Of course, many nights, this left my body awake and restless long after my brain had given up on serious thought for the day. Enter Nyquil. God, I loved Nyquil. Cherry better than green, but I’d take any of it. Often, it gave me terrible, elaborate dreams, but — oh, the peace that came with drifting off into a sleepy Nyquil coma.
These days, though, I try to follow my body’s natural rhythms a little better. When I do occasionally need help falling asleep, I reach for Kava Kava extract.
What it is: Kava Kava extract is made from the kava shrub, which grows on islands in the western Pacific, and has a natural, mild sedative affect. I’ve only used it in liquid form, taking drops of the extract in water or tea (and then holding my nose and chugging; kava root does not have the most pleasing taste).
Kava root has been taken by Hawaaians and other Pacific Islanders for thousands of years. Apparently, it’s been gaining a bit of traction in the continental U.S. of late, with the appearance of “kava bars” now popping up as hang-out spots.
Risks: Like all herbal remedies, kava kava can have negative effects. The FDA warns that kava kava roots is associated with rare but severe liver damage. From what I’ve read, this seems to be associated mainly with long-term, frequent or excessive use of kava kava, but you may want to bring it up with your doctor just in case (and avoid it entirely if you have liver problems, of course).
[Just for giggles, some of the known side affects of Nyquil include: diarrhea, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, severe allergic reactions, difficulty urinating, fast or irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, seizures, stomach pain, vision changes, yellowing of skin or eyes, tremor and - oh, irony - trouble sleeping].