If you’re one of the 50 to 70 million Americans who struggle to get sleep at night, you’ll know the toll insomnia can take on your mental and physical health. So what’s the solution? As well as adopting a healthy bedtime routine, doctors suggest that some natural supplements may help you nod off.
Ashwagandha is one of them. Used for millennia in Ayurvedic medicine, this adaptogenic herb is well known for its ability to improve sleep quality.
But does ashwagandha really help treat insomnia? And what’s the evidence?
It’s clear that stress has a huge effect on sleep. Stress can throw your body clock out of whack, alter your blood sugar levels, flood the body with stress hormones and deplete your energy levels. In other words – all factors linked to insomnia.
That’s where ashwagandha comes in. By helping the adrenal system regulate hormones, this adaptogenic herb can revitalize the body and improve stress-related exhaustion. The result? A much better night’s sleep.
In fact, the clue to ashwagandha’s ability to fight insomnia is in the name. The second half of the herb’s Latin name – Withania somnifera – means “sleep-inducing”, hinting towards its traditional uses as a sleep aid.
Cortisol has a profound effect on our entire biology, from regulating the endocrine system to managing sex hormones. So when cortisol levels are out of whack, you know about it. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to hormone imbalances, mood changes and digestive issues, as well as insomnia.
So what can ashwagandha do? Thanks to its adaptogenic properties, this superfood can actually control and reduce the production of cortisol as a result of stressful situations. This makes it the perfect natural supplement for when your insomnia is linked to stress.
According to a 2017 study by Japanese researchers, ashwagandha’s ability to improve sleep is thanks to one particular compound – triethylene glycol. In an animal study, TEG was found to significantly improve non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and slightly improve rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Surprisingly, insomnia isn’t the result of too much energy, but too little. When the body is exhausted, not only does it lack the energy to shut off, but it can struggle to block stress messages in the body. This is why people often report higher levels of anxiety and worry at night.
Luckily, ashwagandha has been shown to help the body cope with anxious thoughts by boosting the neural receptors responsible for receiving GABA – a crucial neurotransmitter in coping with stress. When these receptors are activated, you may well feel calm enough to nod off.
It might seem like fat and insomnia have little crossover. But studies suggest that boosting our metabolism might be the secret to a good night’s sleep. Luckily, ashwagandha might be able to help. Studies suggest that this superfood can combat stress, reduce cravings and help adults under heavy stress to lose weight.
Studies suggest that the rise in cases of insomnia might be linked to an increase in environmental toxins. As toxins are fat soluble, it’s possible for them to interrupt the drainage of brain lymphatics – a factor connected to poor sleep.
To fight this free radical damage, it’s important to boost your intake of antioxidant-rich foods, including adaptogens like ashwagandha. Boasting an impressive amount of the bioactive constituent glycowithanolide, ashwagandha has been shown to induce an antioxidant effect in the brain and liver, which may well help support the body’s main lymph-cleaning organ.
Everyone’s response to supplements like ashwagandha will be unique, but there is a good level of evidence to suggest that this supplement can help improve sleep quality. If you’re struggling with insomnia yourself, consider purchasing ashwagandha as a supplement to support your day to day activity.
Insomnia isn’t the only thing ashwagandha is used to manage. Read more about this impressive new superfood here.