When looking for sleep aids, it can be hard to know which herbs to turn to. But your search ends here! There are many well researched natural ingredients and minerals out there that can provide the healthy, refreshing night’s sleep you dream about.
Here’s a closer look at four powerful herbs that support sleep–naturally:
Passionflower is a traditional sleep remedy that has been proven to enhance sleep quality and prolong sleep time. The herb is thought to work via the modulation of the body’s GABA system. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and decreases activity in our nervous system. Additionally, chrysin, a flavonoid (plant chemical) in passionflower, is largely believed to provide both the plant's sedative qualities, working to have a regulating effect on the sleep-wake cycle via impact on the circadian rhythm, and making Passionflower a powerful natural ingredient to support better sleep.
Reishi is a tonic, calming mushroom. Reishi is thought to have mild adaptogenic qualities (meaning it helps protect the body from the impacts of stress), and it is especially useful in stressful situations. Research has demonstrated the mushroom’s ability to prolong sleep time, as well as reduce anxiety, which is why it is particularly effective at improving anxiety-related sleep disturbances.
L-Theanine is an amino acid most often found in green tea, but don’t worry--it’s totally separate from the caffeine. L-Theanine actually gives green tea it’s calming and relaxing quality. One study on healthy adults showed that 200mg/day was sufficient to improve scores of sleep disturbance and the time it takes to fall asleep when compared to placebo. L-Theanine is believed to work by inhibiting excitement of the sympathetic nervous system - the part of the autonomic nervous system responsible for fight or flight, and the adrenaline that can come with such a response.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that the human body cannot function without. It is commonly consumed via dark leafy greens, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), and seaweeds, but over 50% of Americans are deficient in magnesium due to the refinement of grains and removal of magnesium from drinking water as early as the 20th century. A common sign of magnesium deficiency is biorhythm dysregulation (i.e., insomnia), so adding magnesium back into the diet has been shown to promote sleep. Similar to passionflower, magnesium has also been shown to have a regulating effect on the circadian rhythm.
Note: This information is for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before treating any disorder.
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Herbs & Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide, by Lesley Braun et al., 4th ed., vol. 2, Elsevier, 2015, pp. 679–679.