Feeling tired? Here are the benefits of taking Ashwagandha for some quality sleep

AshwagandhaSleep

Feeling tired? Here are the benefits of taking Ashwagandha for some quality sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can make a big difference to one’s health and wellbeing. Good sleep means one wakes up refreshed, and ready to go about the activities of the day. On the other hand, having inadequate or broken sleep may lead to irritability, and increased emotional instability (1). Lack of sleep also affects brain health, especially in the areas of stress, anxiety, and cognition.

There are many things a person can do to ensure better quality of sleep. Apart from maintaining a well-balanced and healthy diet, taking supplements for sleep like ashwagandha can help. Ashwagandha helps promote better sleep, and at the same time supports the reduction of stress and anxiety, and supports mental clarity and cognition.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep is a biological function that is necessary for our continued wellbeing. The various recuperative activities that occur in the brain during sleep make it essential for maintaining strong levels of attention, memory, and learning.

During sleep, the body undergoes non-Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, and REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is further divided into: light sleep, wherein your body starts to relax, but you are still easy to wake up; this is followed by moderate sleep, wherein the mind continues to be active; after this is deep sleep or slow wave sleep when your muscles become more relaxed, and your heart rate slows. Following this, our body returns to a state of moderate sleep before going into REM sleep. During REM sleep, we experience vivid dreams. Throughout the night's sleep, we go through the cycle of non-REM and REM sleep multiple times (3).

Non-REM and REM sleep play a role in memory consolidation, the process when information we gather throughout the day goes into long-term storage in our brains (4).

It is particularly important to get deep sleep. Deep sleep is also referred to as "sleep-dependent memory processing". During this period, the brain restores itself. There is an increase in the metabolism of glucose in the brain due to this (5).

Other growth and repair processes in the body also happen during this period. Due to this, good sleep is also associated with keeping the heart and blood vessels healthy, as well as promoting the immune system, and helping control one’s weight and appetite (2).

Losing sleep

Despite the importance of getting a good night’s rest, four out of ten people in Australia regularly experience inadequate sleep (7). According to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, over 20% of people will experience poor or inadequate effects of insufficient sleep on a daily or near-daily basis.

While adults are recommended to get at least seven hours of sleep, another study found that 12% of adults get less than five and a half hour’s sleep at night. This is because nearly a quarter of adults find that their typical routines prevent them from getting enough sleep, especially among working adults from 18 to 44 years old. Another study commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation (SHF) found that 5.8% of adults experience excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) due to sleep disorders (7).

There are multiple causes for lack of sleep which include the following:

Late night work

The SHF reports that a lot of inadequate sleep results from peoples’ decision to forego sleep in favour of work, family, social, and leisure pursuits, and social media (7).

Working late nights, in particular, is attributed to losing sleep. Among people who do work an hour before sleeping several times a week, more than half had two or more sleeping problems. This is in comparison to adults who do not work before sleep, and have significantly less sleeping problems (7).

Devices

The use of electronic devices like tablets and smartphones are believed to have a negative effect on sleeping patterns (7). Young adults who spend time on their screens right before sleeping were found to be more vulnerable to poor sleep and sleep disturbances. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, binging shows on streaming services at night also frequently results in not getting quality sleep (30).

Other factors

Other environmental factors like exposure to artificial lighting, noise pollution, as from passing vehicles, and living in areas with higher security concerns affect the length and quality of sleep a person might get (7).

Sleep deprivation can also be caused by stressful events, worries, and certain physical conditions (3).

Life events, such as having a new baby, will also greatly affect one's regular sleeping patterns. Going through different phases of life, like going through adolescence, or menopause, may also affect sleep (1).

Impact of broken sleep

Here are some of the effects of insufficient sleep on different processes of the human body:

Fatigue

Among the immediate results of not getting enough sleep at night are fatigue, lack of energy, and drowsiness during one's daily activities. There is also a tendency to become irritable, and have difficulty in remembering and concentrating (3).

Cardiovascular complications

Long term sleep loss leads to disruptions in the circadian rhythm which has been linked to higher risks of severe medical conditions (7). It is also linked to various health conditions affecting the heart and blood pressure (2).

Blood glucose abnormality

The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health (AISH) reported that getting only five hours of sleep at night for five nights in a row reduces one's blood glucose levels to a prediabetic state (7).

Neurological complications

Lack of sleep also has a connection to neurodegenerative diseases. Because sleep plays an important role in helping remove toxins from the brain, lack of sleep allows these toxins to remain, increasing the risk of systemic brain disorders (7).

Memory and cognition impairment

Lack of sleep affects cognition. In addition to sleeplessness negatively affecting memory formation, it also puts people at the risk of forming false memories. It negatively affects one’s motor skills, ability to keep rhythm, and even some types of speech (9).

It was also found that people who stay awake for up to 16 hours at a time show similar performance to people with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, increasing the chances of accidents (1).

Stress

Stress both causes and arises as a result of sleep loss. One study found that adults who did not get enough sleep experienced increased stress. Similarly, adults with higher reported stress levels felt even more stressed when they did not get adequate sleep (10).

Stress has also been found to decrease slow wave sleep, REM sleep, resulting in more awakenings at night. Severe forms of stress, such as what causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also cause increased awakenings and less sleep efficiency (11).

Mental health issues

Lack of sleep also has a big effect on mental health. The National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) says that there is a connection between sleep health and mental health, and that losing sleep can contribute to the development of mental illness by lowering a person’s ability to be resilient against mental health problems.

Another study found that sleep deprivation may impair the ability of the brain to process negative emotions or experiences. Following this, poor sleep has been found to increase the risk of depression.

Sleep deprivation also increases the chance of developing anxiety disorders. For instance, people with chronic insomnia are at higher risk of developing anxiety disorders (12).

Related to this is that lack of sleep may result in feelings of confusion and frustration, as well as emotional instability (13).

Making up for lost sleep

While lack of sleep may be debilitating, the body is capable of tolerating some sleep loss. We are able to bounce back upon getting enough recovery sleep. Making up for lost sleep doesn't necessarily mean making up for lost hours of sleep. For example, if one loses seven hours of sleep over one night, it can be recovered with three extra hours of sleep the following night (3).  

Ashwagandha

Besides making up for lost sleep, it also helps to practice good bedtime habits to increase the chances of a comfortable sleep.

How to get better sleep

Here are some tips to help you get better sleep:

Practice good sleep hygiene

This includes good sleep habits, such as sleeping at a regular time, and avoiding things that may keep you awake, such as gadgets with screens, and coffee. Having a pattern you can follow leading up to bedtime can help you sleep more easily (1).

Prepare a comfortable environment

It helps to set a comfortable environment for sleeping, such as having your room at the temperature you prefer, as well as appropriately quiet and dark (2).

Don't overextend afternoon naps

While napping is a good way to get a power boost in the middle of the day, it helps to limit nap times to not more than half an hour so as not to affect your ability to sleep later (2).

Opt for supplements

We get most of the nutrients we need from the food we eat, but sometimes, we are not able to receive them sufficiently. In this case, supplementation can help us achieve our daily intake of specific vitamins and nutrients.

Some forms of supplementation can also help you achieve better quality of sleep. For instance, taking ashwagandha for sleep can help you reduce time to fall asleep and increase sleep quality. It also has a variety of other benefits for your brain.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, also called winter Cherry, Asana, or Ginseng Indien, is an evergreen shrub found in Africa and Asia (14). It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is classified as 'rasayana' or for rejuvenation (15). Rasayana herbs are said to promote a state of physical and mental health, as well as expand one's happiness (16).

Ashwagandha is used as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are substances that perform neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, and central nervous system-stimulating activities (17). Along this line, ashwagandha is believed to help the body endure physical and psychological stress. It has also been used to help with insomnia and mild feelings of anxiety (14).

Among the many reported benefits of taking ashwagandha are its benefits to brain health, especially in the areas of stress reduction, anxiety reduction, and sleep promotion.

Benefits of Ashwagandha

Here are some of the benefits of taking ashwagandha:

Improved cognitive function

Ashwagandha has a use in supporting memory formation and cognition.

In a study with elderly adults with mild cognitive impairment and psychological disorders, use of ashwagandha was seen to improve performance on cognitive tasks and reaction time (28).

Ashwagandha has also been found to improve immediate and general memory. Groups who took ashwagandha showed more improvement in executive function, attention, and information-processing speed (29).

Stress reduction

Accumulated stress causes negative effects in the brain, affecting cognition, attention, and memory. Stress also affects one's moods and levels of anxiety. When you are under stress, your brain prioritises dealing with what is stressing you out, whether it is a dangerous or emotionally intense situation. This leaves other parts of your brain with less resources to perform adequately (18).

Ashwagandha improves one's resistance to stress, as well as reduces the negative effects of chronic stress. Studies suggest that this is due to ashwagandha's moderating effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (15).

Among ashwagandha’s active components are sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides, which have anti-stress effects (19). These, along with other phytoconstituents of ashwagandha reportedly have key neuroprotective pharmacological effects against brain disorders, including various mood disorders, and depressive conditions (20).

Reduced mild anxiety

Anxiety also triggers the stress responses in your brain. Following this, repeated anxiety can lead to memory loss, as the brain's electrical activity increases, and more adrenaline and cortisol are produced. Anxiety disorders are related to memory loss, and may be a predictor of later cognitive decline and impairment (21).

Ashwagandha has been shown to outperform placebos when subject anxiety levels are measured. In a review of several studies that measured ashwagandha against placebos, it was found that ashwagandha had significantly more positive effects on anxiety and stress relief, although it was noted that additional research with larger sample sizes was needed to validate findings (22).

In animal studies, ashwagandha was also shown to induce a calming, anxiety-lessening effect on subjects, as seen in reduced levels of tribulin, a clinical marker of anxiety (23).

Improved sleep quality

Ashwagandha’s use as a substance that reduces sleeplessness and promotes refreshing sleep has been widely reported.

The alkaloids found in ashwagandha have sedative qualities (15). As a substance that improves sleep quality, ashwagandha is also natural and well-tolerated (24).

One study noted that ashwagandha root extract was found to improve sleep in patients with insomnia and anxiety (24). Other studies have found that subjects who take ashwagandha report better quality of sleep (25).  Another study found that it helped manage severe cases of trouble sleeping, as well as improved sleep quality (26).

Ashwagandha also contains the active sleep-inducing component triethylene glycol in its leaves. This component was seen to induce significant non-REM sleep, as well as slight changes to REM sleep.

Getting adequate sleep is important to maintain a wide variety of physical and mental systems. While losing a bit of sleep every now and then can be made up for, constant lack of sleep can result in more stress, anxiety, and decreased cognitive function.

References:

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