Are you struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Do you always feel tired and long for natural, non-chemically induced, rejuvenating slumber? Using Ashwagandha for sleep may be just what you need.
What is Ashwagandha?
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Sometimes called Indian Ginseng and sometimes known as Winter Cherry, ashwagandha is a plant which is native to India, northern Africa and the Middle East. It has been prized for 3000 years in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens are natural substances which help the body cope with stressors. Ashwagandha has been shown to have nerve calming and relaxation inducing effects.
Does Ashwagandha Help You Sleep?
Ashwagandha is famed for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety levels. It does this through its ability to act upon the adrenal glands that trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol when you are in a state of stress. Compounds called withanolides, and primarily withaferin-A, are the active constituents extracted from ashwagandha. They are involved in most of the biological functions that give ashwagandha its modulating effect on the stress hormones and enable it to lower the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream. This in turn helps you relax more fully and fall asleep more easily at bedtime.
Ashwagandha’s ability to regulate cortisol also means your sleep is deeper and less disturbed than it would be if you had high levels of cortisol coursing through your blood vessels.
A further advantage of incorporating ashwagandha into your sleep routine is that it has been shown to regulate sleep cycles, promoting a more consistent sleep pattern. Because ashwagandha increases levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep/wake cycles. This can be especially helpful if you struggle with circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
Because high cortisol levels are linked to wakefulness and restlessness, ashwagandha’s ability to balance cortisol makes you mentally more relaxed and this has a calming effect on your body, inducing a deeper sleep.
A further factor in its usefulness as a sleep aid is that ashwagandha has been found to mimic the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter that regulates brain activity and soothes the nervous system. Its ability to increased GABA activity is a further reason ashwagandha reduces stress and improves sleep quality.
As well as having powerful properties for reducing cortisol levels, ashwagandha contains the active compound triethylene glycol, which helps to promote sleep.
Ashwagandha and Sleep Disorders
Ashwagandha can be especially helpful if you suffer from sleep disorders such as restless sleep. Studies have shown that it can be as effective as traditional sleep medication but without the side effects.
If you suffer with insomnia, ashwagandha has been found in studies to improve sleep quality, duration of sleep, onset latency (ie the time it takes to go from full wakefulness to sleep) and total sleep time.
It’s important to remember that ashwagandha is not a substitute for professional medical advice and if you continue to experience sleep disturbances, talk to your doctor about possible underlying medical conditions.
Combining Ashwagandha with Other Natural Supplements for Sleep
The most common combinations with ashwagandha are melatonin, magnesium, valerian root, L-theanine and chamomile.
Ashwagandha and Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body to regulate your sleep cycle. It can be taken alongside ashwagandha to work together in promoting better sleep. Best taken just before bedtime to avoid disrupting your natural sleep-wake cycle.
Ashwagandha and Magnesium
Because of its relaxation properties, magnesium helps by calming nerves, reducing stress and relieving muscle tension. When taken with ashwagandha the two have a synergistic effect to help with sleep. Magnesium Bisglycinate
Ashwagandha and Valerian Root
Valerian root has been shown to enhance GABA neurotransmitter levels, encouraging relaxation and sound sleep. When combined with ashwagandha it may help reduce anxiety and promote improved sleep quality. Valerian Root Extract
Ashwagandha and L-theanine
L-theanine can increase alpha brain waves connected with mental clarity. When taken together ashwagandha and L-theanine can promote a state of restfulness and improve sleep quality. Nootropic Complex containing Ashwagandha and L-Theanine
Ashwagandha and Chamomile
Chamomile tea is a well-known herbal remedy for sleeplessness. While ashwagandha helps reduce stress, chamomile has a calming effect on overactive thoughts. Taken together they can help prepare you for a restful sleep. Unwind Tisane – to relax and calm. Containing camomile and other calming herbs.
Ashwagandha with Lavender and Frankincense Oil
Support ashwagandha by applying sleep herbs in the form of a pulse point oil to help gently soothe you to sleep. Sleep Pulse Point Oil
Make Ashwagandha Part of Your Bedtime Routine
If you are someone who finds it a struggle to fall asleep and sometimes lie awake for a couple of hours or more waiting for sleep to come, you may find it helpful to learn a few techniques to emerge from the latest scientific research on sleep.
The first thing to establish is what insomnia clinic jargon terms ‘sleep stability’. This simply means setting your bedtime to the same time every night and setting your waking up time at the same time every morning. This routine applies even at weekends or during holidays and it settles your body clock into a cycle that your brain understands, and your body responds to.
How much sleep you need is a very individual thing. The allotted eight hours per night is just a very rough guide as everyone is different in their needs. If you find it hard to achieve this eight-hour mark, don’t be too concerned, you probably don’t need that much and its far worse to worry about it than just be comfortable with the hours your brain and body seem to want. Obsessing about not sleeping causes you not to sleep!
Many people use over-the-counter sleep medication, but most off these drugs can lead to dependency. This is where ashwagandha can give natural, non-addictive support. In addition, try to adapt to a few basic good sleep habits such as:
- Not drinking caffeine in the evening
- Not exercising too late at night
- Not drinking alcohol just before bedtime
- Avoid snacking late at night
If you are still finding it hard to ‘drop off’, then rather than just lying there, it’s best to get up. Sleep scientists have established that it’s a bad thing to stay in bed when you are sleepless as it makes your brain associate bed with feelings of anxiety and the dread of hours of wakefulness. If you lie awake for fifteen minutes or more it’s recommended that you get up and go into another room not normally associated with sleeping. This change of scene for a short while will break the cycle. Maybe read something pleasant and non-troubling or listen to some music. You could perhaps do a short meditation or some gentle chair yoga.
It is also strongly recommended not to put on bright lights during the night as they will give your brain the message that sleep-time is over. Even if you just get out of bed to go to the bathroom, if you put on bright lights it will make it harder for you to get back to sleep. This is an important part of resetting your body clock.
The importance of light in terms of sleep stability has been found to be hugely important. Three American scientists, named Hall, Rosbash, and Young, won the 2017 Nobel Prize for their work on this subject. They discovered that natural light is vital to keeping our body clock in tune with its 24-hour rhythm. Exposure to the blue light of dawn and dusk are signals needed by your brain for its sleep/wake rhythms. Their findings suggest that minimising exposure to artificial lights such as TV and PC screens etc, and increasing time spent in the natural light of dawn and dusk will help sync your internal clock and allow your brain to set a consistent sleep pattern.
They compared our circadian rhythms to a time before the invention of clocks and artificial light, when it was likely that people, like animals and plants, slept to a more biological time frame.
Researchers in the field of circadian biology reported that the findings of the three scientists ‘had a major influence on their work in human health and medicine. Alzheimer’s, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other metabolic issues are among the many conditions that appear to be linked to circadian rhythms being out of whack.’
Ashwagandha has been found to be a natural help to regulating the sleep/wake cycle, promoting a more consistent sleep pattern. It has also been shown to increase levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps when you are struggling with circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
How to Use Ashwagandha for Sleep
If you wish to incorporate ashwagandha into your sleep routine, there are some things to keep in mind. Firstly, choose a supplement from an ethical and trusted supplier as the process by which the extraction of active compounds from the ashwagandha root is carried out is critical to its efficacy.
Here are a few suggested pointers to help you incorporate ashwagandha into your routine:
- When to take Ashwagandha – It’s fine to take ashwagandha at any time of day but when using Ashwagandha for sleep, taking it in the evening can help promote a more restful sleep. Try taking ashwagandha as part of your bedtime routine. After a short while this will help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and relax.
- Relaxation – Combining ashwagandha with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or meditation can increase its effectiveness in promoting sleep.
- A calming environment – Create a calming sleep environment. A tidy, uncluttered room with neutral or light colours will encourage restfulness.
- Quality mattress – Investing in a good quality mattress with the perfect degree of support for your body makes a huge difference to your night’s sleep. Try different pillows until you find one that feels just right.
- Temperature – Your bedroom needs to be warm enough in winter, but not hot. It needs to be cool in the summer. Getting the temperature right for the season is well worth paying attention to.
- Caffeine and Alcohol – Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime and if you can eat early enough so that your digestive system isn’t working overtime to process your supper, that will help too. Indigestion is not great for peaceful sleep.
- Stimulation – Try to avoid watching, listening or reading anything too stressful or stimulating that will linger in your mind as your brain prepares for sleep.
Our ashwagandha root capsules are made using KSM-66 which is the highest concentration, full-spectrum root extract available. The roots of the ashwagandha plants used for our supplement are pre-treated in a process leading to retention of both hydrophilic and lipophilic components of the raw root. This results in a full-spectrum extract of extremely high potency.
Read more about our Ashwagandha Root Extract Capsules
Cautions When Taking Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a very safe herbal supplement with very few side effects reported. Its effectiveness has certainly stood the test of time. However, as with most herbal supplements there are certain instances where it may not mix well with pharmaceutical medications.
- Ashwagandha could cause short-term effects such as drowsiness, headache and stomach upset.
- It is not advisable to take ashwagandha during pregnancy as it could possibly cause miscarriage. It is also recommended not to use ashwagandha if you are breastfeeding as there is not sufficient evidence yet to prove it is safe.
- For anyone with stomach ulcer or liver disease, ashwagandha is not for you and could result in long-term liver damage.
- Anyone with autoimmune diseases should avoid ashwagandha as it has immunomodulatory properties.
Ashwagandha Interactions with Medications
There are certain instances when taking ashwagandha may prove very helpful, but medical management is advised:
Ashwagandha and Thyroid
Studies have shown that ashwagandha could help restore the correct balance of thyroid hormone levels if you have hypothyroidism. However, if your problem is hyperthyroidism, it could make your symptoms worse.
If you have thyroid issues, it is best to check with your GP before taking ashwagandha.
High Blood Pressure
If you are taking medication for lowering blood pressure then ashwagandha, which also lowers blood pressure, could make your BP fall too low. Be sure to keep a daily check on your levels and if your pressure is reducing, your GP may wish to suspend or lower your blood pressure meds.
A review of 24 studies, including five clinical studies with participants suffering with diabetes, found that ashwagandha significantly lowers blood sugar. If you are already taking medication for type-2 diabetes, you may find that taking ashwagandha will lower your blood glucose still further. In view of this, it’s a good idea to talk to your diabetes team about the possibility of reducing your medication to establish the correct levels.
Ten Key Takeaways
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used for centuries in Ayurveda medicine.
- Ashwagandha can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, increase relaxation, and balance cortisol levels.
- Ashwagandha can promote deeper, restful sleep and regulate sleep/wake cycles.
- Taking ashwagandha before bedtime can increase its effectiveness in promoting sleep.
- Combining ashwagandha with relaxation techniques may enhance its effects.
- Creating a calming sleep environment can make ashwagandha more effective.
- Ashwagandha can be as effective as pharmaceutical sleep medications for sleep disorders.
- Always consult a doctor before taking ashwagandha if you are taking thyroid medication or if you are being treated for diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Ashwagandha is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for sleep disorders.
- Combining good sleep habits with ashwagandha can lead to better quality sleep and overall mental wellbeing.
If you are struggling with sleep issues or if you have high stress in your life, incorporating ashwagandha into your sleep routine is a natural, non-addictive, and effective way to promote relaxation and rejuvenation.
Read our blog on The Importance of Sleep
When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we’re here for you and aim to help where we can. If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.