Adaptogens are a class of herbs and mushrooms that support the body and mind in building resilience to stress.
Daily physiological and mental stress tends to have negative effects on sleep quality. Thus, many individuals have turned to adaptogens for sleep.
It is important to get enough sleep in order for your body’s biological repair processes to kick in. Research shows that getting optimal sleep not only repairs your physical body, it also increases memory consolidation, boosts immune function, and helps with waste clearance in the brain.
In this article, we will discuss the best adaptogens for sleep and reducing stress levels.
Table of Contents
Best Adaptogens for Sleep:
By regulating your body’s stress response, adaptogens can help to improve your sleep quality and quantity.
Most adaptogens can be grouped into a “stimulating” or “calming” category. These are the best types of adaptogens to use as a natural sleep aid.
The adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms mentioned below produce a healthy calm by either working to regulate cortisol levels or by reducing anxiety and/or depression.
Ashwagandha is the first and most well-known adaptogen for sleep.
During recent clinical research, participants with insomnia took an ashwagandha root extract and showed significant improvement in sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep). After the 10-week treatment period, a reduction in anxiety was also observed in the patients given ashwagandha.
Further, in a clinical trial with high-stress individuals, there was a significant decrease in serum cortisol levels when 250mg or 650mg of ashwagandha was administered. It should be noted that serum cortisol is the most commonly used marker for measuring and assessing stress.
In an animal study conducted in 2011, researchers found that ashwagandha may produce an anxiolytic effect similar to that of the pharmaceutical Lorazepam. Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine that is used for anxiety disorders. The study found that ashwagandha was able to decrease levels of tribulin, a marker for anxiety, after being given an anxiety-inducing agent.
Summary:Ashwagandha is one of the best adaptogens for sleep. It’s a reseach-backed herb that works to decrease stress and improve sleep quality.
2. American Ginseng
American Ginseng, also known as Panax quinquefolius, is a unique adaptogen in that it provides calming energy. This relaxed, focused effect could be highly beneficial when dealing with poor sleep.
Along with possible mood-modifying effects, American ginseng may have the ability to decrease the release of cortisol through regulation of the HPA axis. Lowering cortisol levels can support the release of melatonin and therefore improve sleep.
In an animal study, the phytochemicals in American ginseng were studied alongside the anxiolytic compound diazepam. While ginseng and diazepam both worked to reduce anxiety, researchers noted that the ginseng group did not experience loss of motor function, thus making ginseng a potentially better candidate for anxiety.
In a second animal study, ginseng was able to mitigate anxiety in subjects that were administered methamphetamine and endured forced-swim tests.
In regards to regulating cortisol, American ginseng may efficiently affect the HPA axis, and therefore the release of cortisol causes a decrease in stress-related anxiety. When there is a decrease in cortisol, there is an increase in melatonin, increasing the likelihood of improving sleep onset latency.
Summary:American ginseng is a calming adaptogen that may help to increase sleep by helping your body regulate stress and cortisol levels. More human clinical studies are needed to verify it’s precise effects on sleep.
3. Holy Basil
Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is a popular adaptogen for sleep. It’s native to India and highly revered for its potential as an anti-anxiety and antidepressant adaptogen. It’s thought that these calming effects can help to improve sleep quality.
Higher doses of tulsi have been known to significantly reduce anxiety and stress-related symptoms.
In a six-week trial, Ocimum Tenuiflorum (holy basil) was shown to be 39% more effective than the placebo when given to patients with stress symptoms. The extract also showed promise for reducing night-time sleep disturbances.
Having a closer look at tulsi and cortisol, a clinical study found that Ocimum sanctum, holy basil, could possibly manage stress in rats through the inhibition of cortisol.
Summary:Tulsi holy basil appears to be an effective herb for reducing anxiety. It’s thought that this anxiolytic property can help to contribute to better sleep at night.
Schisandra berries, known as “five flavor” berries, are an adaptogen fruit that is used in herbal medicine. It is potentially responsible for decreasing anxiety, depression, and improving sleep through the reduction of cortisol levels.
Researchers found that Schisandra chinensis tincture seemed to calm and ease tension in schizophrenic participants. The participants’ mood changed after an administration of 15-25 drops of the tincture.
In a study of schizophrenic individuals, a Schisandra chinensis tincture seemingly calmed the patient’s moods and eased tension and anxiety.
In an animal study, the active lignan component of schisandra, Schisandrin B, showed promising sleep aid effects. Researchers noted that the overall sleep index improved. Examples include shorter time to fall asleep, increased total sleep time, and longer sleep duration.
Another major bioactive constituent of the schisandra berry, Gomisin N, seems to show sedative effects in mice. Its effects are reduced physical activity and increased sleep duration. Researchers believe Gomisin N contains hopeful sleep hypnotic effects.
Summary:Schisandra is a herb that has been studied for it’s anti-anxiety effects. It appears to be particularly effective for schizophrenic individuals. This anxiety-reducing effect appears to help increase sleep quality. Additionally, it appears that phytochemcials in schisandra may be able to improve various sleep quality markers.
Our final adaptogen for sleep is the famed medicinal mushroom, reishi. Ganoderma lucidum is commonly promoted for health and longevity and has been known to exhibit both anxiolytic and potential hypnotic (sleep encouraging) effects.
Interestingly, researchers found a connection between sleep-promoting neurotransmitters in mice and the administration of Ganoderma lucidum. Further, they found that reishi-enriched gut bacteria had a positive correlation with sleeping behaviors.
Another animal study provided hopeful evidence for reishi and sleep. The study found that reishi extract increased total sleep time. Interestingly, the researchers also found that reishi helped to increase time spent in the NREM stage of sleep. This hypnotic effect is thought to be attributed to the modulation of cytokines.
An animal study looking at the impact of reishi on sleep showed that it worked in tandem with Pentobarbital, a sleep sedative drug, to decrease sleep latency. It also worked to increase total sleep time, as well as non-REM sleep time.
Additionally, a 2013 animal study found that reishi mycelium also exerted a possible anxiolytic effect in subjects that had memory-dependent and/or stress-induced anxiety. For example, reishi prevented rats from becoming immobile during a contextual-fear conditioning test.
Summary:Animal studies show that Reishi mushroom may be a helpful adaptogen for increasing sleep quality, specifcally the non-REM stage of sleep. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
How Adaptogens Impact Sleep:
Research shows that adaptogens work with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in order to balance stress. The HPA axis is responsible for secreting the stress hormone known as cortisol.
When cortisol levels are elevated in the body, studies show that it interferes with the release of the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin. In turn, this causes disruption in the quality and length of sleep time.
Adaptogens work to lower cortisol levels, which decreases your body’s stress response, which helps to ensure sleep quality and a balanced circadian rhythm.
Adaptogens may also help to reduce anxiety and depression. This systemic calming effect helps with decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep at night.
In conclusion, the above-mentioned adaptogens for sleep show potential for promoting a healthy sleep cycle through stress adaptation.
Lowering levels of anxiety, depression, and cortisol all play a role in encouraging a balanced circadian rhythm.
While adaptogenic herbs may not directly induce sleep, they all share a promising path toward supporting the mechanisms that create quality sleep and homeostasis.
So if you’re looking for a better night of rest, consider using adaptogens to improve your sleep quality.
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