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Got insomnia? Seeking a natural solution? As a recovered insomniac, I am happy to bring you information on 3 popular adaptogens for sleep.
Unfortunately, sleep duration and quality have declined over the years in modern societies, with the CDC reporting 35.2% of Americans having a short sleep duration of less than 7 hours in 2014. That has almost certainly increased to date.
While many individuals opt for prescription sleep medications, the demand is high for natural solutions to improve sleep duration and quality. As an insomnia sufferer myself, I can attest to the struggle between wanting great sleep and not wanting to take a prescription medication.
Adaptogens for sleep, such as Ashwagandha, Monocot Grass Extract, and Ginseng provide natural solutions for sleep without the side effects of some prescription sleep medications.
What Is Sleep?
The definition of sleep is a state of reversible unconsciousness in which the brain is less responsive to external stimuli while the body cycles through four distinct stages as the sleep episode progresses.
Stress, Gut Health, and Sleep
Chronic stress, inadequate sleep and abdominal fat go hand in hand and therefore getting enough sleep is one of the most effective ways to drop fat in the abdominal region. A consistent lack of adequate sleep is a stressor on your body and increases cortisol production.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that affects both gut and brain health. Cortisol naturally increases and decreases throughout the day and is necessary to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up. External stressors disrupt the normal secretion of circadian cortisol, disturbing your normal sleep wake cycle.
Registered Dietian, Su-Nui Escobar, talks more about circadian rhythms and sleep in this post on her website Menopause Better.
Four Stages of Sleep
- Stage 1 NREM (non-rapid eye movement, lightest sleep stage, 1-5 minutes)
- Stage 2 NREM (non-rapid eye movement, body & brain begin to slow down, approximately 10-60 minutes)
- Stage 3 NREM (non-rapid eye movement, breathing & blood pressure slows, muscles relax, deep sleep, 20-40 minutes)
- Stage 4 REM (rapid eye movement, body fully relaxed, brain active and dreaming, 10-60 minutes)
The body is heavily dependent on sleep for brain development, memory, learning, heart and metabolic regulation, hormone balance, stress resilience, and optimal functioning during wakefulness.
While there are no hard and fast recommendations on sleep duration, a generally accepted definition of an adequate amount of sleep is when an individual feels well-rested upon waking up and can function at optimal levels throughout the day.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests that adults between the ages of 18-64 aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. The NSF lists consensus guidelines on sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep satisfaction that can be viewed here.
What Is Insomnia?
Chronic dissatisfaction with sleep quality and quantity, or Insomnia, means having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up early and not being able to fall back to sleep. In addition, insomnia causes fatigue, cognitive difficulty and disturbances in mood.
Health Consequences of Poor Sleep
The CDC reports that adults who regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep per 24 hours are more susceptible to 10 chronic health conditions when compared to those that get 7 or more hours of sleep. These chronic health conditions include heart attack, stroke, asthma, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and depression.
Pharmaceuticals for Sleep
Both natural and pharmaceutical interventions are available to help with insomnia, however interest in adaptogens for sleep has been growing due to the numerous side effects and addictive properties associated with the medications.
Common prescription medications used for sleep disturbances include benzodiazepines, sedating antidepressants, and sedating antihistamines, to name a few.
Non-Pharmaceutical Approaches for Sleep
The first line of defense for sleep disturbances and insomnia is not pharmaceuticals. Several holistic practices are available for individuals looking for natural approaches. You may need to work with someone specialized in each area to get the most benefit from these methods.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia
- Sleep hygiene
- Relaxation techniques
View additional natural recommendations for improving sleep in this article Stress Belly 101: The Basics.
*Items with an asterisk contain an affiliate link. If you order through this link I will earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. Enter the code 32844 for $10 off your first purchase*
Adaptogens for Sleep
Adaptogens are plant compounds that help the human body maintain balance. This balance comes from stabilizing the internal environment and offsetting external stressors, such as stressed states, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha reduces fatigue and aids in better overall sleep quality in individuals with insomnia without side effects. Interestingly, the root of the Ashwagandha plant contains the bioactive ingredients, such as withanolides, that give this plant its medicinal properties. Additional properties of this popular adaptogen include anti-stress, anti-oxidant, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory.
Monocot Grass Extract (Corn Grass)
Similarly, Monocot grass has significant anti-stress and relaxation benefits which are effective in improving sleep quality and stress-related mood states. This is likely due to its influence on serotonin levels.
The patented combination of corn grass, griffonia simplicifolia seed extract, B vitamins, vitamin C, Zinc and magnesium in this *Sleep+ supplement helps you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and spend more time in the deep sleep stages of sleep, stages 3 and 4. It supports serotonin & melatonin metabolism, improving sleep quality.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Panax ginseng is a traditional Chinese medicine herb. It has anti fatigue effects in individuals with chronic fatigue. Likewise, it is effective in improving thinking, memory and overall cognitive function.
No one should have to suffer from the chronic lack of good sleep. I struggled with insomnia for 3 years, spent over a year on a prescription medication to help me sleep. I have now been on a natural sleep supplement for over 2 years. If you have been suffering, I hope this article brings you clarity. There are natural solutions and adaptogens for sleep that will get you one step closer to a good night’s sleep.
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
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Liao LY, He YF, Li L, Meng H, Dong YM, Yi F, Xiao PG. A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chin Med. 2018 Nov 16;13:57. doi: 10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9. PMID: 30479654; PMCID: PMC6240259.
Sung WS, Kang HR, Jung CY, Park SS, Lee SH, Kim EJ. Efficacy of Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) for middle-aged and moderate level of chronic fatigue patients: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Jan;48:102246. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.102246. Epub 2019 Nov 19. PMID: 31987248.
Talbott SM, Talbott JA. Effect of Monocot Grass Extract (MGE) on mood state and sleep patterns in moderately stress subjects. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Dec 6;10(Suppl 1):P26. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-S1-P26. PMCID: PMC4044475.
Angela Lago is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She is passionate about researching the connection between gut health and mental wellness. Learn more about Angela’s journey from being depressed, anxious, and sleep deprived to being happy, healthy, and thriving!