May 17, 2022 7 min read

Struggling to sleep is frustrating and has a huge impact on your quality of life, but common sleep-aids aren’t always the best options. Not only do they come with side effects of their own, but some are even habit forming and can make sleep issues worse over time. If you, like many, are looking for a natural remedy to help you sleep, you may want to consider sleep-supporting herbs.

Here, we’ll cover some of the most popular herbs for sleep, as well as some other natural sleep remedies that may pair well with your sleep wellness routine. Then, you can build a full coverage regimen that helps you get back to your best sleep. Let’s jump in:

A collection of herbs, teas, and a sleep mask for supporting better sleep quality

Top 7 Herbal Remedies for Sleep

Take a look at some of the most popular herbs used for sleep (that have some evidence to back up their potential benefits):

1. Valerian root

A 2013 review labeled it the most popular herb used to treat insomnia, citing that various extracts, teas, and other supplements are commonly used. The use of valerian root to treat sleep-related ailments dates back centuries, though the extracts and isolated versions found on the market today are thought to be more advanced.

A 2020 meta-review found that valerian root could be beneficial for managing a small variety of sleep disorders, but there is very little information concerning the efficacy of different doses and preparations. Still, the study concluded that valerian root is likely safe for most people with only a few mild, rare side effects, including upset stomach and nausea.

2. Chamomile

Chamomile is another popular herb for sleep that’s easy to find, though little is known about how it works. In a 2017 clinical trial, participants experienced improved sleep quality after taking 200 mg of chamomile twice daily for 28 days. Another study used slightly higher doses of 270 mg daily for the same time period, but the chamomile group did not respond any better or worse than the placebo group.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that chamomile is likely safe for most people when used daily for a short period of time. Most people find that using chamomile for a period of 2-4 weeks is sufficient for resetting their sleep cycles.

Side effects of chamomile for sleep are rare, but may include mild symptoms like nausea, dizziness. Allergic reactions are the most severe threat. Do not use chamomile if you are allergic to daisies, ragweed, chrysanthemum, or marigold.

3. Lavender

Lavender is well known for its calming effects. Which some sources suggest may lead to better sleep. However, research regarding the use of lavender for sleep often focuses on specific compounds found in lavender, like silexan or linalool.

A 2015 study found that patients who took silexan experienced lower anxiety levels and improved sleep quality compared to the placebo group. A 2019 study offers similar results, claiming that silexans' ability to improve sleep is linked to its ability to help reduce anxiety, and not to any sedative effects.

In other words, lavender may be an option for improving sleep if you find that you lose sleep due to anxiety or stress, and it may do so without any overwhelming sedative effects or next-day grogginess.

In general, lavender is thought to be safe for most people who do not have an allergy to lavender. It can be diffused and inhaled, applied directly to the skin (often using a carrier oil for dilution), taken as a tea, or taken in supplement form.

4. Cannabis

It probably comes as no surprise, but cannabis easily makes the list as one of the most popular herbs used to improve sleep. Much of the anecdotal evidence suggests that THC’s sedative-like effects are at play in cannabis’ ability to help consumers fall asleep at night. More recently, though, researchers have found interest in some of the non-psychoactive components, like CBD and CBN (but we'll touch more on these below).

Some cannabis strains also contain the terpene linalool, which is also one of the primary therapeutics found in lavender. Many of these strains are thought to have even more potent sleep-enhancing effects. In fact, linalool is often extracted and added to certain cannabis preparations, like hemp tinctures, to create sleep-targeted products.

However, research regarding THC’s sleep-enhancing potential is limited. One study does confirm that it may be beneficial for managing sleep disruptions caused by certain conditions, like PTSD or multiple sclerosis. Another study found that cannabis may help ease the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, which is known to decrease sleep quality.

On the other hand, some research has found that cannabis could actually decrease sleep quality over time, so most recommendations involve short-term use.

5. CBN

CBN is one of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp material that interacts with the body’s Endocannabinoid System to potentially help regulate sleep cycles. Research more commonly evaluates CBN’s potential ability to manage pain, fight bacteria, and reduce inflammation.

One study, however, found CBN to potentially boost THC’s sedative effects. THC transforms to CBN as it degrades, which is why cannabis is thought to have a more potent sedative effect as it ages. Another study evaluated these effects independently of THC by offering isolated CBN to mice. This study found that CBN may help increase sleep time overall.

Since there is also research that may support the use of CBD for sleep, many people seek out products that combine the benefits of full-spectrum CBD and CBN like our Dream line of full spectrum CBD+CBN for sleep.

Vida Optima Dream CBN Sleep Tincture

6. Ashwagandha

Similarly to lavender, ashwagandha has been found to potentially improve sleep quality by managing anxiety and stress, although the available research is much more limited. Some researchers believe it’s because Ashwagandha acts on GABA receptors to impact the body’s sleep-wake circuit, while others believe that these potential benefits are due to the triethylene glycol found in Ashwagandha, which may have a sedative-like effect in moderate doses.

Ashwagandha is commonly used in powder or capsule form, although tinctures and other liquid preparations are becoming more and more popular.

Our CBN + CBD Sleep Tincture includes a therapeutic dose of Ashwagandha to help calm the body and mind.

7. Passionflower

There is a lack of research investigating the effect of passionflower on sleep. However, some research suggests that Passionflower is potentially beneficial when used alongside other herbs.

A 2013 study found that an herbal preparation of valerian, passionflower, and hops worked similarly to zolpidem, a prescription used to treat insomnia. This study concluded that passionflower may be useful when used alongside other herbs for a short period of time, although its safety and efficacy profile when used alone has not been thoroughly investigated.

Other Natural Options to Combat Sleep Disruptions

Many people prefer to combine herbs for sleep with certain lifestyle and behavioral strategies to help target sleep disruptions from all angles. If you’re looking for ways you can change your routine or other possible sleep-enhancing supplements, you may want to try the following:

Activity Changes

According to experts, some behavioral changes can help to change the atmosphere surrounding sleep to improve your sleep quality and feelings about your sleep routine. Some of these include behavioral therapies or at-home methods, including:

  • Relaxation training
  • Hypnosis
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Behavioral treatment for insomnia
  • Meditation
  • Exercise during the day

With the help of your doctor, you can determine which of these therapeutic pathways may be best for you. In some cases, your doctor may suggest that you try medication alongside some form of activity change or behavioral therapy.

Over-the-counter options

There are a few over-the-counter remedies that are not herbal remedies, but may still help improve sleep. Two options include melatonin and 5-HTP.

A bottle of melatonin spilled onto the table, a popular supplement for supporting sleep.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that's naturally produced in the brain. It's called the "darkness hormone" since it's produced in the absence of light, and (among many other things) it's one of the most crucial hormones in regulating your sleep-wake cycles and making you feel sleepy. Some people have low melatonin production due to health conditions or lifestyle factors, like too much exposure to blue light (like from cell phone screens).

You can buy melatonin tablets and liquid to help combat low melatonin levels. Generally, the dosage used is very low (between 1-5 milligrams) and melatonin can help onset sleep in about half an hour.

For some people, though, melatonin can cause them to feel groggy the next day. You should also be aware that taking melatonin for extended periods of time can suppress the body's natural melatonin production and potentially make matters worse.

5-HTP

5-HTP is another chemical that’s naturally produced in the body that may help with some sleep-related symptoms. Some sources suggest 5-HTP may help to regulate and increase serotonin production in the body. Serotonin can be converted by the body into melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles.

One study found that 5-HTP combined with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) decreased the amount of time it took for participants to fall asleep. The combination also improved sleep duration and quality compared to the placebo.

Another study looked at the benefits of 5-HTP for children experiencing sleep terrors. In this study, children were administered L-5-HTP nightly, and 93.5% of subjects experienced a positive response after 30 days.

Furthermore, 5-HTP has been shown in scientific studies to potentially promote relaxation and alleviate anxiety, which can both lead to better sleep quality at night. Anxiety is one primary cause of sleeplessness, which means 5-HTP could help target sleep issues from multiple angles.

More research is needed to confirm these effects, but 5-HTP may be an alternative to melatonin for some people since it may help support natural melatonin production and won’t suppress production over time.

All-in-One Herbal Sleep Formula

Vida Optima Herbal Sleep Formula

Our Full Spectrum CBN + CBD Sleep Tincture contains 300 mg CBN + 700 mg CBD per bottle, alongside a proprietary infusion of 5-HTP and Ashwagandha. This formula is designed to offer a powerful synergistic effect, sometimes known as “the ensemble effect,” to help optimize sleep cycles. According to anecdotal reports, this system-regulating combination of adaptogenic herbs and hemp-derived cannabinoids may help improve sleep quality over time.

To learn more about how this formula may work to improve sleep, you may want to read:


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