Fact Checked By Erica Digap, BS, CN
September 22, 2021
If you’ve suffered a rough day after a bad night of tossing and turning, you know how important those quality sleep hours are.
Being unable to fall asleep - and stay asleep - is frustrating. It’s especially difficult when you want to be at the top of your game but can’t due to sleep deprivation.
What’s worse, suffering from chronic sleep deprivation can have even more serious consequences on your mental state. It can even start to affect your physical health down the line.
So it’s no wonder that so many people turn to natural sleep aids to help them drift off.
Ashwagandha is one such option. This medicinal herb, which has been used for thousands of years to help combat stress and anxiety, has also been shown to be promising for helping users fall asleep.
Why You Need Enough Sleep At Night
A quality night’s sleep is essential for allowing you to recover from all the stress and activity it goes through during the day.
During the night, your muscles and cells repair, essential hormones are released, and your body is allowed to conserve energy. It’s even thought to be important for your “brain plasticity,” or your brain’s ability to adapt and learn (1).
For most adults, getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night is necessary for letting both your body and your mind recharge properly.
But many of us are not sleeping enough to reap those benefits. The Center for Disease Control And Prevention estimates that a whopping one-third of adults aren’t meeting their sleeping requirements (2).
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The number of hours you sleep doesn’t always tell you the whole story, either. Some people also experience poor sleep quality. They might wake up frequently during the night or have a hard time falling back asleep during the night.
And unfortunately, the consequences of sleep deprivation can be severe.
The most obvious consequence of sleep deprivation is its effects on your mental health and cognitive function. Suffering through a bad night’s sleep can lead to brain fog, a bad mood, and grogginess the next day.
But it can get even worse when your sleep deprivation is chronic. People who suffer from self-reported chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to also report mental distress, depression, anxiety, and even have higher rates of alcohol abuse (3).
What’s more, sleep deprivation can also impact your physical health. When you go for long periods of time without getting enough sleep, your body starts to release excessive amounts of cortisol.
This “stress hormone” is crucial for your “fight or flight response” during high-pressure and potentially dangerous situations.
But when your body is continuously releasing that hormone, it can actually change the way your body metabolizes food.
As a result, a continuous lack of quality sleep has been linked to chronic illnesses and conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even diabetes (4).
How Ashwagandha Can Help You Sleep Better
Because sleepless nights are so common and so frustrating, there are several supplements that are advertised to help you drift off at night. The answer for many could lie in a natural and ancient medicinal herb: ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha, otherwise known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is an herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for its stress-relieving properties.
Researchers have found that ashwagandha can help lower cortisol levels, which can help your body manage stress and anxiety even in the face of high-pressure situations. This makes it effective as an adaptogen, which are herbs that allow your body to maintain homeostasis in the face of chronic stress.
It is also often used as a nootropic, or a supplement that can help boost focus, memory, and overall mental performance.
Now, those same stress-busting properties are also proving to be useful as a sleep aid for people who have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep.
One study found that people who took ashwagandha root extract showed improved sleep onset latency - in other words, the amount of time it took people to fall asleep. But not only were they able to fall asleep faster, but they were also shown to have improved sleep quality as well (5)!
There are a couple of different reasons that this could happen.
The stress-relieving properties of ashwagandha could definitely play a role in how effective ashwagandha is as a sleep aid since chronic stress can often lead to sleepless nights.
In addition, ashwagandha also contains triethylene glycol, a water extract found in the leaves that is effective at inducing sleep (6).
Combined, these properties mean that ashwagandha is gaining popularity as a safe, natural, and effective sleep aid.
How To Take Ashwagandha To Improve Your Sleep
Ashwagandha and ashwagandha root extracts are available commercially in various forms as a dietary supplement. You can find it as a powder, capsule, or pill (take Clinical Effects’ Organic Ashwagandha supplement, for example). You can even find ashwagandha teas to sip on as part of your relaxing bedtime routine (7).
In addition, it’s also important to consider other factors that could be limiting your sleep ability.
While there’s evidence that ashwagandha can help induce sleep, it’s also a good idea to take your supplement in addition to other better sleep habits, especially if you are struggling with chronic sleep deprivation.
For the best results, you can combine ashwagandha supplementation with other healthy sleep habits, including:
Sometimes in our busy, stressful schedules, we tend to put sleep on the backburner.
But sleep is an integral and necessary if we want to be performing at our best during the day.
Ashwagandha supplements are a safe option that are backed by both science and ancient medicinal traditions, making them a great option for anyone who is sick and tired of endless nights filled with tossing and turning.
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