A Guide to Natural Sleep Aids

You live in a world full of stress and stimulation: global warming, 24-hour access to fast food, reality TV shows about shooting hogs from helicopters, The Economy, Twitters and Facebooks and Tumblrs that update themselves every time you click reload, insurmountable student loan debt, and anime. Is it any wonder you can’t sleep?

Sure, there’s stuff like Ambien, and Ambien’s great, but it can be addictive, plus wouldn’t it be nice to be able to fall asleep without hearing music that isn’t playing or telling your boyfriend that his face looks like a plate of fruit? There are, it turns out, more natural ways to deal with insomnia. Here’s a guide to some of them.

Warm milk
If this helps you sleep, you don’t have anything that could properly be termed “insomnia.” Isn’t that nice for you.

Chamomile tea
See above.

Feng shui
What? No.

Total darkness
For a while, it seemed like all health-tip articles were about how even the glow from your alarm clock was too much light for you to get a good night’s sleep, but if that’s true, then why is an afternoon couch nap the most satisfying form of sleep achievable by human beings? Hmm? “Experts”?

Relaxation techniques
Well, yeah, obviously relaxing works, but if you could relax, you wouldn’t need sleep aids in the first place. I have tried this. I have tried that thing where you relax your toes, and then your feet, and then your ankles, and so on, but even if I can stop worrying about the heat death of the universe or what earrings I’m going to wear the next day, I start worrying about whether I’m doing the relaxation thing correctly. I mean, my yoga teacher makes us relax our hearts, I can’t relax my heart, and if I did, wouldn’t that cause problems, like, with my blood? Augh, just thinking about trying to relax is stressing me out.

Studies are inconclusive. I bet if you believed real hard, you could get a placebo effect for a few days even if it doesn’t work for real.

Studies are inconclusive on this one too, but I really think I fall asleep easier when I take 6 milligrams instead of the recommended dosage of 3 milligrams. (Legal disclaimer: You are hereby not allowed to OD on melatonin and then sue me.)

Melatonin brownies
If you want to take melatonin in the most ridiculous form available, there’s always Lazy Cakes, the melatonin brownies that have been cited by the FDA (not because the FDA necessarily thinks melatonin is dangerous, but because they don’t allow unregulated supplements in conventional foods). The reason Lazy Cakes are so ridiculous is that they pretend to be pot brownies instead of studies-are-inconclusive-about-this-natural-sleep-supplement brownies. The box says, “Relaxation Baked In,” and the mascot is a stoned-looking brownie, and there’s a slogan on the website that says — oh my God, I just went to their terrible/perfect website to check the slogan, and they’ve been renamed “Lazy Larrys.” What does that mean? How could a brownie…be a Larry? In any case, one Larry has 8 milligrams of melatonin (as opposed to the 3 in a normal pill). You’re only supposed to eat half a Larry at a time, according to the box, but I ate whole ones. They seemed to make me sleepy. It was nice, if caloric.

Of course, there are more holistic steps you can take to help yourself sleep better, but you already know about those. You can exercise regularly; avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol; somehow rearrange the elements of your life into a less stressful pattern. And then every once in a while, when that all gets too hard, you can take a pill. Or eat a weirdo brownie that’s been deemed unsafe by the US government, like nature intended.

Previously: Make Your Own Powerfully Fragrant Body Butter.

Lauren O’Neal grew up near Berkeley, California, but didn’t become a dirty hippie until after moving to Texas.