You need sleep to ensure good health, but more than 30% of adults sleep fewer than the recommended seven hours a night.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 36% of adults in the United States use some form of alternative medicine to help with or treat their ailments, and that includes sleep disorders. One remedy that is used as a natural treatment for sleep problems is ashwagandha4, a plant with sleep-inducing properties.
Ashwagandha may also be referred to as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. It’s a fairly common herbal medicine as part of traditional Ayurveda health care practices. It’s derived from the small evergreen shrub known as Withania somnifera – native to Southeast Asia and India. Used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is a treatment for many conditions, but more studies need to be done to confirm the safety.
Health Benefits: Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which is a group of herbs known to protect the body. While there’s limited research out there about the effects, preliminary research shows ashwagandha could effectively combat stress.
Ashwagandha may also improve functioning in the endocrine, cardiopulmonary and nervous, and 7 systems, plus it has anti-inflammatory or antioxidant properties. It may be used in the treatment of certain types of breast cancer along with anxiety, cognitive impairment, or diabetes. More scientific evidence is necessary to bolster these claims, though. Scientists still don’t know what the side effects really are.
Ashwagandha: Sleep Aid
Research shows that ashwagandha can help you fall asleep faster, remain asleep, and have better sleep quality. After consuming ashwagandha for six weeks, people in one study said their sleep was 72% better.
Many compounds in ashwagandha could be responsible for sleep-enhancing effects. Researchers say that triethylene glycol, which is naturally-occurring in the herb, could spur sleepiness. Other researchers say ashwagandha works on GABA receptors, a big part of the sleep-wake circuit. There are many other undiscovered compounds that could contribute to this herb’s therapeutic effects.
Ashwagandha has main active ingredients that include withanolides. These have many benefits, such as easing stress. Stress is connected to poor sleep quality and excessive daytime fatigue. If it helps you to take ashwagandha before bed, you may feel less stressed and be better able to sleep.
Using Ashwagandha for Sleep
Ashwagandha comes in many forms: powders, teas, gummies, pills, or tinctures. Price will depend on brand, quantity, and quality. You can also mix ashwagandha products with other vitamins or herbs.
When using it for sleep, it’s important to read the instructions. The optimal dosage of ashwagandha isn’t very clear, and could be different between supplements. Typical doses for sleep are between 250 milligrams and 600 milligrams. But don’t use ashwagandha for more than three months in a row.
Ashwagandha is a supplement, and the FDA will not review supplements for quality and safety. As a result, ashwagandha products could have unlisted ingredients. Always buy from retailers you trust, and be sure to check with your doctor before using it.
Comparison of Ashwagandha to Other Sleep Aids
There isn’t much research that directly compares ashwagandha to other natural, over-the-counter, or prescribed sleep aids. One review that compared 23 herbal remedies for insomnia revealed that valerian, ashwagandha and passion flower look to be the most promising. But, like many natural sleep aids, there is a lack of dependable research on ashwagandha so it’s tough to determine its effectiveness.
On the other hand, prescription sleep medications are overseen by the FDA and you need a prescription to get them. Over-the-counter sleep aids are accessible and more affordable. Whether natural, over-the-counter, or prescription, all sleep aids have potential side effects.
It will take some trial and error to see what works for you. Speak to your doctor if you can’t sleep. He or she can recommend sleep hygiene tips, provide treatment of an underlying sleep disorder such as insomnia, or outline a safe treatment plan that may feature alternative, natural, or pharmaceutical sleep aids.
Side Effects: Ashwagandha
While its long-term safety profile isn’t backed up by many studies, ashwagandha could be safe when you take it for less than three months. The most common side effects include:
- Upset stomach
Less common symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Cough and congestion
- Weight gain
Some evidence suggests ashwagandha supplements could result in liver damage. If you have side effects, especially symptoms like jaundice or itchy skin (evidence of liver damage), call your doctor right away.
Is Ashwagandha Right for You?
Ashwagandha could be a good choice for you if you’re interested in alternative remedies for sleep. But some people shouldn’t take ashwagandha, such as:
- Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Those who have autoimmune diseases
- Those who have recently undergone surgery, or those with upcoming surgical procedures
- Those with thyroid disorders
If the above describes you, speak to your doctor about safe sleep aids you can try instead. Always talk to your doctor before you decide to take ashwagandha so it doesn’t interfere with your other medications.
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