Your new natural sleep aid

Some studies suggest Valerian root can effectively alleviate insomnia.

Odds are, you've spent more than a few nights tossing and turning and willing yourself to sleep, watching your bedside clock creep closer to your wake-up call. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly half of Americans experience occasional insomnia, and about 10 to 15 percent suffer from a (nightmarish) chronic form of the condition. A possible fix: Valerian root, a flowering plant native to Europe, Asia, and the Americas, which has been used by herbal practitioners for centuries to suppress anxiety and promote sleepiness.

Science is skeptical, but some research has shown the root to have Sandman-like powers: A study reported by the Wall Street Journal noted that Valerian root helped cancer patients sleep longer hours during the night and fall asleep a little sooner. And unlike a prescription aid, the herb — available in capsules, extracts and even teas — sidesteps the side effects of narcotics.

If you'd prefer your Ambien au naturel, docs say there's no real risk to Valerian root. So, go ahead, knock yourself out — and sweet dreams.