How to use herbs and remedies to sleep well at night

Sleep can be elusive to many of us and frustrating when the zzz won’t come easily at night. Everyone wants to wake up with ease and feel refreshed, but a good night’s sleep plays a part in much more than how awake you feel the next day. Sleep is an essential part of your physical and mental health.

On a study of collegiate basketball players, sleep was found to maximize athletic performance, increasing speed, accuracy, reaction times and mental wellbeing. Another study shows that sleep improves the human body’s cellular immune function. Proper sleep also plays a part in memory, learning, muscle recovery, long term brain health,

In this post, you’ll learn about how herbs can help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper, the best ways to incorporate herbs into your nighttime routine, and the best herbs for sleep.


How can herbs help you sleep better

A good night’s sleep has two components - quantity (hours of sleep) and quality of sleep. Natural herbs can tackle both, while supporting underlying causes of poor sleep like stress and anxiety. Herbs for sleep support can help you , relax your body and tense muscles, help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. 

How can herbs help you sleep:

  • calm your mind, quiet your thoughts,
  • act as nervine relaxants,
  • soothe anxiety
  • relax your muscles
  • act as natural sedative herbs

Stress and anxiety are big culprits behind bad sleep. For some people, high levels of cortisol in your body in the evening, when the levels should be the lowest of the day, can make it incredibly hard to fall asleep. 

Cortisol has its own circadian rhythm that rises and falls over 24 hours. These changes in cortisol levels help you fall asleep at night, stay asleep and wake up in the morning. When this cortisol rhythm is thrown off, so to can your sleep-wake cycle.

Stress can:

  • send your thoughts racing, make you restless and cause you anxiety - all making it very challenging to shut off and fall asleep at night.
  • decrease the amount of slow wave sleep time - this is the restorative part of your sleep and super important! (e.g. for memory formation)
  • disrupt your circadian rhythm, which can lead to sleepiness during the day.

It’s really important that we make stress reduction in our day-to-day a top priority to reduce chronic stress and get our sleep back!

A great way to help support your body during daily stress is to add adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms to your diet. Adaptogens work at a cellular level to tone your body and balance your adrenal response. Two important adaptogens for calm and sleep are reishi and ashwagandha. We’ll dive into those later in this post.

 

dried herbs for sleep

7 Helpful Herbs for Sleep:

Passionflower

Passionflower is a climbing shrub. The flower and leaves of the plant are used for their sedative and soothing properties [1]. Passionflower is a nerve tonic and muscle relaxant, so it’s a good choice for people who experience restlessness and/or wake up throughout the night. In times of stress, passionflower is a good choice for its calming and relaxing effects.


Valerian Root

Valerian is one of the most relaxing nervine herbs used by herbalists to reduce tension and anxiety. [2] Valerian is a flowering plant native to Europe and Asia. It acts as a mild sedative to help you fall asleep faster. Studies show valerian to be effective for people who suffer from sleeplessness, but effectiveness for insomnia is inconclusive. We recommend you try valerian for sleep support in teas and tincture. The smell of valerian can be off-putting, but made into a balanced tea blend, it adds a subtle earthiness that’s quite tasty. Valerian doesn’t cause any trouble waking up the next day or create any grogginess in the morning [3].

Can you take passionflower and valerian together? Yes! Valerian and passionflower actually work synergistically - valerian can work more effectively for some people when combined with passionflower.


Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family, but has a gentle lemon flavour. Lemon balm is often used in sleep and digestive remedies to help with relieve gas. Lemon balm has a calming effect, especially during times of stress. It has been shown to support anxiety and restlessness and help lift spirits [4]. The volatile oils in lemon balm are calming to the nervous system, so it’s important to steep lemon balm teas covered to keep the oils from escaping!


Chamomile

Chamomile has a relaxing effect on the nerves and can reduce symptoms of anxiety [5]. Although chamomile is synonymous with bedtime, but it is also useful for digestive problems that are related to nervous irritability. What does this mean? If you struggle with anxiety that’s causing digestive issues and restlessness at night, chamomile can be a good place to start to calm your mind and your belly. Chamomile can be enjoyed throughout the day for it’s digestive and muscle relaxing benefits without making you feel sleepy.

The above mentioned benefits of chamomile can come from drinking it as a tea. The flavour and aroma of chamomile is also incredibly soothing. Looking for the best chamomile tea for sleep? Try our Deep Sleep Tea.


Lavender

Lavender is another flower that is well-known for relaxation and sleep, but the benefits of lavender stack up to a lot more. In a study of 221 people suffering from anxiety, lavender was shown to help with restlessness, disturbed sleep, and influenced overall well-being [6]. Lavender can be effective for headaches, particularly headaches caused by stress and tension. Lavender’s ability to soothe and calm your nerves and its lovely floral flavour makes lavender tea for sleep a great nighttime support.


Reishi

Have you ever tried reishi for sleep support? Reishi has a long list of benefits for stress, anxiety, mood and immune system function. With consistent use, reishi can help with your sleep-wake cycle (your internal clock), help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep better [7]. Reishi is also a nervous system sedative, helping you wind down, chill out and relax before bed.

As we’ve mentioned previously, stress can be a big reason why your sleep is disrupted. Adaptogens can help balance cortisol, the stress hormone, and create a healthy cortisol cycle with lower levels in the evening when you’re getting prepared for sleep. For full effect, reishi mushroom for sleep should be take regularly.


Ashwagandha

Last, but not least, is ashwagandha, an Indian herb used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha is also a calming adaptogen that supports endocrine function and helps the body manage stress. Ashwagandha has a reputation for clearing the mind, calming the nervous system and promoting deep sleep (but does not make you sleepy/tired.)

 

herbs for sleep

How to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer

Teas are an amazing vessel for nervine herbs where a lot of the benefits come from the volatile oils. Steeping your tea covered, ensures the beneficial properties do not escape and locks in the amazing aroma that plays a part in the calming experience as you sip tea. Try drinking a tea with sleep herbs 45 minutes to an hour before bed. Combine your tea with a nighttime calming ritual like reading, taking a bath, or journaling.

Adaptogens like reishi and ashwagandha do not make you sleepy and can be taken at different times of the day if you’re dealing with stress. Having them in the evening can help you wind down, chill out and prepare your mind and body for rest.

We have combined 5 of the above herbs for sleep into a herbal tea based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Principles. Our Deep Sleep Tea not only has the benefits listed above in our list, it has been formulated to harmonize the mind and heart before resting, which allows for a deep and restful sleep. Our sleep tea is great for people who overthink, are unable to relax before bed or wake up throughout the night.

best tea for sleep

TCM is an ancient practice, used in Asia for over 2000 years. It uses a holistic approach, looking at the whole body, mind and spirit. In TCM, health is a harmonious relationship between your internal condition, those interconnected systems, and the external environment. Health is maintained through a balance of yin and yang and a natural flow of qi, which is the body’s vital energy.


Conclusion

There is no one size fits all answer to sleep problems and some solutions are more fast-acting than others. If your sleeplessness is caused by stress, its best to take a two-pronged approach and tackle stress with consistent use of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms like reishi and ashwagandha. Meanwhile, you can experiment with different combinations of sleep supporting herbs to see which ones work the best for your body. Everyone is different, so be patient as you test out different herbs. The herbs outlined are generally safe, but it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare practitioner before taking new herbs if you have any concerns or existing health problems.

 

References

[1] Botanical medicine, Dr. Marissa Marciano and Dr. Nikita Vizniak. 

[2] ibid.

[3] Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Stephen Bent, Amy Padula, Dan Moore, Michael Patterson, Wolf Mehling. Am J Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 Apr 13.

[4] https://thenaturopathicherbalist.com/2015/09/13/melissa-officinalis/

[5] Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, Rockwell K, Mao JJ, Shults J. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009 Aug;29(4):378-82. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e3181ac935c. PMID: 19593179; PMCID: PMC3600416.

[6] Koulivand PH, Khaleghi Ghadiri M, Gorji A. Lavender and the nervous system. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:681304. doi:10.1155/2013/681304

[7] Chu QP, Wang LE, Cui XY, Fu HZ, Lin ZB, Lin SQ, Zhang YH. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007 Apr;86(4):693-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2007.02.015. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17383716.

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