I decided to try Nytol Herbal for a week in a situation when I know I tend to sleep worse – when I’m away from home and not in my own bed.
I know that it takes me a couple of nights to settle into a new bedroom, so it was a good time to try out a new sleep aid.
I have to admit, I was slightly skeptical that it would work, knowing that research into the sedative effect of valerian, hops, and passionflower is still inconclusive.
At the same time, some healthy skepticism could be a good thing if it helps reduce the potential for the placebo effect to influence my opinion.
Different types of Nytol
There are a few different versions of Nytol, so it’s useful to take a quick look at the difference between them:
Nytol Herbal Tablets – the one I tried first. It contains valerian, hops, and passionflower (photo above).
Nytol Herbal One-A-Night – only contains valerian (photo below).
Nytol Herbal Elixir – valerian in liquid form for those who struggle with tablets.
Nytol Original and Nytol One-A-Night – these aren’t herbal but contain the antihistamine diphenhydramine. They come in blue boxes, whereas the herbal range are in green boxes.
Nytol Liquid Caramel Flavour – it also contains an antihistamine, but as an oral solution for those who don’t like tablets.
Please note that this review is only for Nytol Herbal. To find out more about the stronger antihistamine version, you can read my review of Nytol One-A-Night.
My experience with Nytol Herbal Tablets
The first point to note is that the pills are very small, which meant they were easy to swallow. However, they did have a strong valerian smell since they come in tablet form rather than a capsule.
When I try a new sleep aid, the main problem is that it’s hard to judge how effective it is when it’s only meant to be a mild one when compared to strong prescription sleeping pills. And there are just too many other factors that can contribute to how well you sleep or not.
With a strong pharmaceutical sleeping pill, it’s usually pretty clear if it worked or not. You generally know when you’ve taken one of the strongest ones. Herbal sleep aids can be much more subtle though, so it’s not always easy to determine their effectiveness.
Having said that, I believe I felt a mild sedative effect on the second and third night that I took the Nytol. I slept badly the first night, but there was a big storm that night and the noise kept me up.
It’s a good example of how difficult it is to judge a sleep aid’s effectiveness if there are other factors that are powerful enough to cut through any sedative effect.
It’s possible that the sedative effect I felt on the second and third night was due to tiredness because I’d slept badly the first night. I don’t think it was though, as I felt a mild calming feeling on top of the physical relaxation.
Moreover, I slept reasonably well during the rest of the week too. I didn’t exactly get eight hours of solid sleep every night (I wish!), but I slept well enough to be content with the amount I got and function well the next day.
No side effects in the morning
Importantly, I had no noticeable side effects on any of the mornings after taking Nytol Herbal. I often have a fuzzy head the morning after taking sleep aids containing antihistamines. So it was good not to have the sleeping pill hangover that can take hours rather than minutes to clear sometimes.
Please bear in mind that this was just my experience. It doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed not to experience side effects as you might react differently to the ingredients.
Would I take Nytol Herbal again?
The question is, do they really work as a sleep aid? To my knowledge, no Nytol products have undergone clinical trials (they don’t need to in order to be sold as supplements in the UK), so there is no evidence that they work.
That means I have to decide how willing I am to take them again based on my personal experience and the broader evidence that valerian, hops, and passionflower can really help with sleep.
The scientific evidence is still inconclusive: some studies show they help, others that they don’t, and others that they only have a mild effect for some people.
For example, a review and meta-analysis of 60 previous studies of valerian by a team of Japanese and British researchers in 2020 found that “the outcomes of previous clinical studies are inconsistent”.
Interestingly, they had some room for optimism that valerian “could be a safe and effective herb to promote sleep”. Issues they highlighted include the way it’s prepared, the quantity used, and appropriate partnerships with other ingredients.
Back to my own experience, and I think I would take it again for two reasons. Firstly, I believe I slept reaonably well on the majority of the nights I took it. Secondly, I had no side effects that I could tell.
So even though I think Nytol Herbal is a relatively mild sleep aid, it’s one I’d take again if I was having trouble sleeping.
As always, I wouldn’t take it every night for weeks on end, but I would take it to help break a cycle of bad sleep if nothing else was working. And by nothing else, I mean all the usual good sleep habits which should in theory be enough to help me sleep well as long as I stick to them.
My experience with Nytol Herbal One-A-Night
After trying the original Nytol Herbal, I decided to test the One-A-Night, which only contains valerian, to find out if it was much different. Note that I tested it quite a long time afterward, not the next day!
The first thing I noticed is the improvement in the smell and taste. The previous type had a very strong valerian smell, as I mentioned earlier.
The One-A-Night tablets have a coating though, so the smell is hidden away better. They are larger tablets, but you only take one rather than two or more.
It’s suggested that valerian needs a couple of weeks to build up in your system before it’s most effective, so I duly decided to take it every night for a month in the name of experimentation.
Again, I think it did help a little, providing a mild sedative effect. It never knocked me out as such, but I do think it helped me relax at night.
I’m not sure the effect was much better in the second half of the month though really. If it was, then it wasn’t an effect I could objectively measure, either with my sleep diary or sleep tracker. So if valerian does need a couple of weeks to build up in your system, it’s not an effect I could tell.
On the whole though, I think I slept reasonably well most nights of the month. Interestingly, I couldn’t tell much difference between this version and the Nytol Herbal with all three herbs. Perhaps the valerian is the main player in the mix; perhaps it was just the placebo effect in both cases – it’s hard to say.
The ingredients of Nytol Herbal
According to the information sheet when I bought it, the ingredients are:
- 200 mg extract of hops
- 160 mg extract of valerian
- 130 mg extract of passion flower
- Calcium hydrogen phosphate
- Microcrystalline cellulose (E 460)
- Stearic acid
- Magnesium stearate
- Hypromellose 4500
- Polyethylene glycol 400
- Iron oxides (E 171)
- Titanium dioxide (E 171)
Out of these ingredients, it’s the hops, valerian and passionflower which are meant to have the sedative and calming effect.
Who shouldn’t take it
The sheet came with these warnings of situations when you shouldn’t take them:
- If you’ve ever had an allergy to hops, valerian or passionflower, or any of the other ingredients listed above.
- If you suffer from depression.
- If you’re under 12 years old.
- You shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery.
- You shouldn’t mix them with alcohol.
- You should talk to your doctor if you’re taking any other medications, especially beta blockers or any that can make you drowsy.
- You should talk to your doctor before taking them if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Possible side effects of Herbal Nytol
The information sheet advised speaking to your doctor if you experience any of these side effects:
- Stomach cramps.
- Palpitations or feeling faint.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Fever and headaches.
- Gastroenteritis or diarrhea.
As with any medication, if you notice any symptoms after taking them it’s wise to stop taking them and contact a medical professional.
Nytol Herbal One-A-Night information
This version only contains one active ingredient, valerian 385 mg, and came with fewer warnings.
Similar precautions are advised in terms of when not to take it:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- If you’re allergic to the ingredients.
- Don’t drive or operate machinery.
- Don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Consult your doctor if you take any other medication or sleep aids.
The possible side effects listed are:
- Abdominal cramps.
What others say about it
On the US Amazon site, Nytol Herbal has a rating of 4 out of 5 at the time of writing, with over 3600 customer ratings. On the UK Amazon site, it currently has a score of 4 out of 5, with over 4000 ratings in total.
For an over the counter sleep aid sold online, 4 out of 5 stars is a relatively high score (assuming you can trust the ratings). And it does mean that there are a large number of people who felt it didn’t help much.
Many readers have left comments since I first wrote this review, which has been helpful to read. Interestingly, some people find Nytol doesn’t work at all, whereas others have had a very positive experience.
So really, my feeling is that there’s just no way to predict how well it will work for you until you try it – if you decide to of course.
Have you tried Nytol Herbal or One-A-Night? Did you find it helped you sleep better?
Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.