The herb valerian commonly gets used as a sleep aid, particularly by people who prefer not to use prescription sleeping pills. The herb appears to work by increasing the amount of the chemical gamma aminobutyric acid in the brain, which then helps calm and relax you, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. These effects may be useful as a sleep aid, but it can also have effects the morning after you take it.
Valerian and Sluggishness
Because of how valerian works in the body to help you sleep, some people do feel tired or sluggish the day after using it as a sleep aid. This effect more commonly occurs in people who take high doses of the supplement, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports. Because of how valerian can affect you and impair your abilities, you should not use it before driving or operating machinery. Also, don't take valerian to help you sleep without first consulting with a doctor who can advise you on how to use it safely.
When used to treat insomnia, the recommended safe dosing range is between 400 mg and 900 mg per day, taken 30 minutes to two hours before you go to bed, MedlinePlus reports. Because its long-term effects have not been thoroughly studied, you should take it for no more than four to six weeks. And when you stop using it as a sleep aid, you should slowly decrease your daily dose over one to two weeks instead of stopping abruptly. Before taking valerian to help you sleep, talk with a knowledgeable health practitioner who can advise you of how much to take.
Other Side Effects
In addition to feeling sluggish and tired the day after using valerian, you may also experience some other side effects. Some people develop headaches, feel dizzy, have an upset stomach or feel uneasy and excitable after using valerian. It can also have an opposite effect than that which is intended, with some users experiencing insomnia, anxiety and restlessness, even though these are the conditions for which it is most often used, MedlinePlus reports. In addition, if you take valerian for more than a month, you may experience withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking it. It's best to consult with a doctor before taking valerian so you know what to expect while using it.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children younger than 3 should not take valerian because its effects have not yet been thoroughly established, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements reports. Also, valerian can interact with certain medications. For example, you should not take the supplement along with a sedative because it can intensify the effects. Alcohol, too, should be avoided because it acts like a sedative in the body. Valerian can also affect how alprazolam and and medications changed by the liver work in the body. And you shouldn't take valerian with other herbal supplements that have a sedative effect, including melatonin and St. John's wort. Always discuss your use of valerian with a medical professional who knows your health history as well as all the medications and supplements you take.