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Will Taking Ashwagandha Help You Fall Asleep?

One reader reports success with an Ayurvedic herb for insomnia. Could the Indian herb ashwagandha help you sleep better too?
Will Taking Ashwagandha Help You Fall Asleep?
Ashwagandha superfood powder and root on cutting board on wooden table.

Lots of people have trouble sleeping. They may take medications to overcome insomnia but worry about the potential side effects. At this time, anxiety about infection or job insecurity may be keeping lots more people awake. Could the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha help you fall asleep? 

Could Ashwagandha Help You Sleep Better?

Q. I am high-strung and have had a lifelong struggle with insomnia. That is, until I added ashwagandha to my supplement regimen.

The change was slow and gradual and took a few months, but I started noticing that I could easily fall asleep.
Then, I had the reverse problem. I’m a night person. I love to stay up late after work to watch stuff I’ve taped off the TV, and now I find that I simply can’t stay awake. Every night I fall asleep in my armchair, wake up hours later, amble off to bed and sleep some more.

I could probably sleep ten hours a day if I wanted to (but I don’t). I know it’s the ashwagandha.

What Is Ashgandha?

A. Ashwagandha is the common name for an Indian herb known officially as Withania somnifera. In the Ayurvedic tradition, practitioners would prescribe it to people needing a tonic, a stimulant or an aphrodisiac (African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, July 3, 2011). They used it for children as well as frail elderly individuals.

That doesn’t sound like a promising candidate to combat insomnia. However, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial demonstrated stress-relieving activity for this plant-based compound (Medicine, Sept. 2019). Another eight-week, randomized placebo-controlled study found that people taking ashwagandha (250 mg/day or 600 mg/day) had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those on placebo (Cureus, Dec. 25, 2019). They also reported improved sleep quality. Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, one of the country’s leading experts on the scientific basis of botanical medicine, has described ashwagandha as helpful when a person is “tired but wired.”

Learn More:

To learn more about this herb and other natural approaches to overcoming insomnia, you may wish to consult our eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. This electronic resource is available in the Health eGuides section at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. In it, you will find information on the pros and cons of various sleeping pills, including those that you purchase without a prescription. In addition, there is a checklist of simple dos and don’ts that can be surprisingly helpful. And you will also learn how to use ashwagandha to help you get the sleep you need in these troubled times.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Singh N et al, "An overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayanda (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda." African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, July 3, 2011. oi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9
  • Lopresti AL et al, "An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study." Medicine, Sept. 2019. DOI: 10.1097/MD.0000000000017186
  • Salve J et al, "Adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha root extract in healthy adults: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study." Cureus, Dec. 25, 2019. DOI: 10.7759/cureus.6466
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