Benefits of Ashwagandha for Sleep

Ashwagandha has been used as an herbal medicine for thousands of years to combat stress, improve vitality, and support overall health. Today, many people supplement with ashwagandha for various benefits, …

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Written by: Jack Cincotta, MS
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ashwagandha has been used as an herbal medicine for thousands of years to combat stress, improve vitality, and support overall health. Today, many people supplement with ashwagandha for various benefits, including improved sleep quality. 

This article covers the potential health benefits of ashwagandha for sleep, the possible mechanisms behind this effect, and how to best use ashwagandha for sleep enhancement. 

taking ashwagandha root extract for sleep

Overview of Ashwagandha:

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb found mainly in India, the Middle East, and parts of North Africa. It is one of the most revered herbal medicines in Ayurveda primarily due to its adaptogenic (or stress-balancing) properties.

In addition to stress management, it was used for boosting sexual function, improving energy, and supporting overall health.

Modern research shows that ashwagandha contains withanolides and other bioactive compounds, which are found at the highest concentrations in the roots. The withanolides and other bioactives are likely responsible for most of ashwagandha’s well-researched benefits, including:

  • Stress Management
  • Improved Sleep
  • Enhanced Brain Function
  • Boosted Athletic Performance
ashwagandha for sleep latency and insomnia

Benefits of Ashwagandha for Sleep:

One of the most well-researched benefits of ashwagandha is improved sleep quality. Several clinical trials support the benefits of ashwagandha for sleep, including its ability to improve total sleep quality, help treat insomnia, and help one to fall asleep faster. 

In a clinical trial on individuals with insomnia and anxiety symptoms, taking ashwagandha twice daily for 10 weeks led to shorter sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), improved sleep quality, and reduced anxiety compared to the placebo. Also, this study used both subjective (questionnaires) and objective (sleep actigraphy) markers, which enhances the reliability of these findings. 

In another clinical trial, researchers looked into the effects of ashwagandha root extract at 300mg twice daily on sleep parameters in healthy adults and those with insomnia. After 8 weeks, ashwagandha improved sleep quality, sleep onset latency, anxiety, and next-day mental alertness compared to the placebo. These benefits occurred in both the healthy adults and insomnia patients, however the benefits were even greater for those with insomnia. This suggests that ashwagandha may have even greater sleep improvements in those who struggle with sleep the most. 

One clinical trial examined the potential benefits of ashwagandha on sleep in otherwise healthy adults with frequent non-restorative sleep. Subjects were given a low dose (120mg) of ashwagandha, although it was in the form, Shoden®, which has a very high concentration of withanolides. After six weeks, ashwagandha led to a 72% increase in sleep quality compared to just 29% improvement in the placebo. In addition, those who took ashwagandha showed notably higher sleep quality, greater total sleep time, and fewer sleep disturbances compared to the control group. 

Overall, these clinical trials indicate that ashwagandha improves overall sleep quality, helps one to fall asleep faster, increases total sleep time, reduces night-time awakenings, and reduces stress and anxiety symptoms. 

How Does Ashwagandha Improve Sleep Quality?

There are several mechanisms underlying ashwagandha’s benefits for sleep, including modulation of stress hormones, increased levels of GABA and serotonin, and circadian rhythm regulation. 

One of the main ways ashwagandha may promote sleep is through its action on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic-adrenal medullary (SAM) axis.

Ashwagandha has been shown to modulate the HPA-axis and SAM-axis, which in turn decreases cortisol, adrenaline, and physiological markers of stress, such as heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, reduced stress hormones can improve sleep quality and make it easier to fall asleep. 

Ashwagandha also appears to increase levels of GABA and serotonin, which are both neurotransmitters implicated in sleep and mood. GABA can decrease brain activity, while serotonin is generally involved in sleep maintenance, as well as melatonin production. Together, this may lead to an easier time falling asleep and improved sleep quality. 

Additionally, ashwagandha may be able to regulate the circadian rhythm, which controls sleep-wake cycles. This has to be more thoroughly researched, but initial evidence shows that ashwagandha may balance the circadian rhythm, which can promote more natural sleep-wake cycles.

ashwagandha for sleep disorders

How Long Does it Take for Ashwagandha to Help with Sleep?

Based on clinical trials, ashwagandha typically takes at least four weeks to lead to the most noticeable health benefits for sleep, with a recent review indicating that at least 8 weeks was most effective for those with insomnia.

This doesn’t mean that it will take this long to experience any health benefits; in fact, some individuals may see sleep improvements within the first few nights of taking ashwagandha. However, the greatest benefits in sleep improvements found in clinical studies occur after several weeks of consistent use. 

How Much Ashwagandha to Take for Sleep?

For individuals specifically dealing with insomnia, clinical research shows that one should take at least 600mg of ashwagandha per day to promote sleep. For individuals with milder sleep issues or just wanting general sleep improvements, one can start with 300mg to 600mg per day. 

Importantly, this assumes that the supplement being used contains a withanolide concentration between above 1%.

As always, consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha or any supplement. As with all dietary supplements, results will vary. 

Click here for an in-depth guide going over the recommended dosages of ashwagandha.

Read More:

Below, we’ve compiled several articles going over additional information regarding Ashwagandha for further reading.

Ashwgandha Benefits: Dosage & Safety

• Ashwagandha Dosing: How Much Should You Take Per Day?

• Ashwagandha Side Effects & Safety

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Anxiety & Stress

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Men

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women

ashwagandha to improve sleep quality

Conclusion:

Ashwagandha can improve several aspects of sleep. Clinical trials show that ashwagandha may promote greater sleep quality, fewer nighttime awakenings, greater total sleep time, and improvement in related variables such as anxiety and next-day mental alertness. These effects are greatest when one supplements with at least 600mg and for at least 8 weeks.

Ashwagandha seems to promote better sleep by reducing stress hormones, increasing GABA and serotonin, and helping to regulate sleep/wake cycles. 

Additionally, ashwagandha has even greater sleep benefits for individuals with insomnia and stress-related sleep issues, so it may work the best for those who need it the most. Of course, not everyone will experience the same effects, but overall, ashwagandha is one of the most promising herbs for sleep out there. 

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About Jack Cincotta, MS

Jack has a Master of Science degree in Psychology and is also an AADP® Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and AFPA® Certified Holistic Health Coach. His passion is to help people develop optimal levels of health, particularly mental health.