The Power of Ashwagandha: A Natural Aid for Restorative Sleep
Sleep - we all need it, yet most of us aren't getting enough of it. In our fast-paced, stressed-out world, sleep deprivation has become the norm, not the exception. According to recent surveys, between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. This would be a bleak enough state of affairs if poor sleep simply zapped us of our energy, making us weary and unproductive. But according to mountains of scientific research, the harms of sleep deprivation extend to just about every aspect of health. Indeed, poor sleep is not only a powerful driver of mental health problems like anxiety and depression, but it is even linked with physical ailments like heart disease and diabetes.
It’s clear, on the basis of the scientific literature, that we need to take our sleep seriously. Along with exercising, eating well, and managing stress, prioritizing quality sleep is one of the most powerful things we can do to remedy disease and optimize wellness.
Ashwagandha, a plant revered in Ayurvedic medicine, has long been touted as a natural solution to sleep woes. Known scientifically as Withania somnifera and colloquially as winter cherry, Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. As it turns out, recent scientific studies have begun to back up these traditional uses with plenty of hard evidence.
Ashwagandha and Sleep: What Does the Science Say?
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2019 found that Ashwagandha root extract significantly reduced stress and improved sleep in healthy adults. Participants in the study took either 250 mg or 600 mg of Ashwagandha daily for eight weeks. Both dosages resulted in significant reductions in stress, and improvements in sleep.
Another, similarly designed study published in 2020 had similar findings; people given Ashwagandha for six weeks reported a 72% increase in sleep quality, compared to 29% for people given a placebo.
Delving Deeper into the Science
While there are a host of mechanisms through which Ashwagandha exerts its beneficial effects, research suggests that the compound reliably reduces levels of cortisol, a hormone that the adrenal glands produce in response to stress. High cortisol levels are linked with anxiety, mood swings, and – you guessed it – trouble sleeping. While the compound has dozens of physiological effects, by helping to regulate cortisol, Ashwagandha helps promote a relaxed body, tranquil mind, and on that basis, better sleep.
It’s worth noting that chronic stress not only keeps us up at night; it can also induce a wide range of health issues with serious consequences such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, endocrine dysfunction, and visceral obesity. Ashwagandha, therefore, has the potential to assist the body in a wide range of important health-related aims.
A Natural Solution
In a world that is quick to push synthetic sedatives as a solution for sleep problems, the research behind compounds like Ashwagandha is a compelling reminder of the power of natural remedies. Importantly, Ashwagandha not only promises to promote better sleep, but it does so with minimal side effects (unlike many common sleep aids).
Lopresti, A. L., Smith, S. J., Malvi, H., & Kodgule, R. (2019). An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine, 98(37). Link
Deshpande, A., Irani, N., Balkrishnan, R., & Benny, I. R. (2020). A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep quality in healthy adults. Sleep medicine, 72, 28-36.
Salve, J., Pate, S., Debnath, K., & Langade, D. (2019). Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus, 11(12). Link