Can Ashwagandha Help You Sleep Better?
This blog is courtesy of Jamy Russell, who started Sleep Investor to teach people simple, yet effective ways to improve sleep. Falling asleep doesn’t have to be as difficult as many people make it out to be, and often there are many easy wins that people overlook in their quest for better sleep.
There’s a ton of information available on the internet about virtually every supplement known to man. One Google search and you’ll be overloaded with benefits, side effects and how to take it. The problem? Often, it’s just literature or the same sites regurgitating the same information.
General information is nice. But before you start, it’s also great to get some personal stories. At least, that’s what the deciding factor often is for me. It might be less scientific, but if one person has a good experience that resonates with me, it’s often enough to convince me to give it a try.
You’ve probably heard about ashwagandha. It’s an ayurvedic herb that people have been taking for thousands of years for all sorts of purposes. Many take it against stress. And it has been scientifically proven to do do exactly that in a study from 2012 in 64 adults.
But when it comes to ashwagandha and sleep, not much is investigated. But, according to the anti-stress effects, it might have a positive effect…
After all, stress is a major reason why it’s difficult to fall asleep.
What happens when you take ashwagandha before sleep?
Once you start looking for it, you can find some anecdotal reports from people sleeping better when taking ashwagandha. Here are some results people experience:
“I’m now in a much better mood when I wake up”
“I haven’t woken up with upper back/neck pain (something that used to happen, even with good posture)”
“I can think clearer after waking up without needing coffee (although I still drink it)”
Now, when you read those reports, doesn’t it make you want to check for yourself what ashwagandha could do for sleep? I thought the same thing:
2 months ago I was sleeping not as well as I used to. I was turning a lot and lay awake several times at night for about 20 minutes. I wanted to solve this and it seemed a great chance to try for myself what the effect of ashwagandha on my sleep would be. After going through the studies and the anecdotal reports I found online, I came up with the following list of expected and possible outcomes:
- Less stress
- Easier to wake up in the morning
- Less turning at night
- Clearer skin
- Vivid dreams
- Less dependent on coffee in the morning
The experiment was simple. I decided to take 500 mg of ashwagandha every night before bed. Sometimes this was 2 hours before going to sleep, and other times right before (or after laying for 10 minutes and remembering that I didn’t take it yet).
I did this for 3 weeks without days off.
Here’s what I learned
If you’re not sleeping as well at the moment as before, you're probably curious what you can do for that. If you’re wary of taking OTC sleeping pills to sleep better, then I completely understand that. Even though they work great (without side effects) for some people, it’s often a good idea to see if you can sleep better with natural supplements instead.
So here are the things I experienced when taking ashwagandha.
(note: if you’d like to see the complete log, see my full ashwagandha experiment here)
Ashwagandha helped me sleep deeper
Before taking ashwagandha I often woke up in the middle of the night and lay awake for 10 to 20 minutes. Maybe this was work-related stress, or something else that caused it. It was difficult to put my body in a comfortable position and I kept on turning to find a better spot.
After taking ashwagandha for about 4 days, these episodes became less.
Especially when looking back after the experiment, I can say that I’m sleeping deeper now. Most of the time I fall asleep quickly (after reading a book for 10-15 minutes), and only wake up in the morning again.
I also noticed that my naps became less frequent and shorter on average. Before I’d take around 3 naps of 20 minutes in a week. After the experiment this became 1 or 2 naps of 10 to 20 minutes. This is likely because my overall sleep quality increased and I needed the naps less.
This was also expected and probably the deeper sleep also helped with that. I felt less stressed and more emotionally in control during the entire experiment. I had no problem waking up in the morning and starting to work. Also, small things, such as missing a bus or train bothered me less. Instead of becoming impatient or nervous that something happened, it was easier to just accept it and deal with the situation for as much as I could.
I didn’t notice a big impact on my dreams, skin or how much I’d wanted coffee in the morning.
It’s been a little over a month now that I finished my experiment with ashwagandha. I stopped taking it daily because I wanted to see what would happen. Were the results lasting? Or did my sleep revert back to what it was before?
I’m happy to say that most of the changes still last. Even without taking ashwagandha daily. Now I take it once or twice per week whenever I feel I could use some extra ‘stress resilience’ or deep sleep.
Ashwagandha is a great supplement to have at home. Most people nowadays don’t sleep optimally and everything that helps you get better sleep without side effects is something to consider.