Everything You Need To Know About Ashwagandha And Sleep

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Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep are some of the most common complaints today. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, either, given the high-stress and high-productivity time we live in. 

Sleep experts say adults should get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night. To accomplish this, many people are turning to natural sleep aids, like Ashwagandha. This adaptogenic herb is deeply rooted in Ayurvedic tradition and has emerged as a promising ally in sleep support. If you find yourself struggling to catch the recommended Z’s, let’s dive into what Ashwagandha may have to offer.

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately.

Additionally, restrictions and regulations on supplements may vary by location. If you ever have any questions or concerns about a product you’re using, contact your doctor.

Long Story Short

  • Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement known to act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anxiety reducer.
  • Data is limited, but there is some evidence that Ashwagandha may help get a better night’s sleep. 
  • Getting the right dosage and timing is key when taking Ashwagandha for sleep.

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is an ancient medicinal herb that has been a staple in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Often called the “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry,” Ashwagandha belongs to the Solanaceae family along with other nightshades, like tomatoes and eggplant. It’s native to parts of India, the Middle East, and Africa. 

The name “Ashwagandha ” is derived from Sanskrit (an ancient Indo-European language), with “Ashwa” meaning horse and “Gandha” meaning smell. This reflects the traditional belief that the herb can impart the strength and vigor of a horse.

Furthermore, Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement and is also considered an adaptogen, acting as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and reducing anxiety,” says Dr. Carleara Weiss, PhD, MS, RN, and sleep scientist.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a group of herbs and substances that can help the body cope with stress and promote overall resilience and well-being. In nature, they strengthen an organism’s nonspecific stress response, increasing its ability to adapt and survive. Common examples include Panax ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Holy basil, Ashwagandha, and certain mushrooms like Reishi, Cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane.

The roots of the Ashwagandha plant contain bioactive compounds like withanolides, alkaloids, and steroidal lactones, which are thought to contribute to its therapeutic effects.(1)

Ashwagandha And Sleep

While Ashwagandha has historically been used predominantly for its adaptogenic properties, more recent research has focused on its potential benefits for specific areas of health — like sleep. 

A 2021 meta-analysis of five studies suggested that Ashwagandha may have a small but significant effect on overall sleep. The authors found that its effects on sleep were more prominent among adults with insomnia, who took a treatment dosage of at least 600 mg/day, and who continued this treatment for at least 8 weeks. (2)

However, while some participants noted mild side effects like viral fever, headache, acid reflux, and skin reactions, there is still a limited amount of data on the potential serious adverse effects of using Ashwagandha for this purpose. (2)

Additionally, a small 2022 double-blind randomized controlled trial among 60 college students (aged 18-50 years) examined the effects of taking 700 mg of full-spectrum Ashwagandha extract per day for 30 days. Compared to the placebo group, those who took the Ashwagandha reported an increased perceived well-being through having more energy, mental clarity, and enhanced sleep quality. (3)

Overall, there is some evidence that consistent but relatively short-term Ashwagandha use can improve sleep quality, but data is still limited. 

Ashwagandha And Anxiety 

As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha is best known for its stress reduction benefits. It’s also classified as an anxiolytic, which means it can help reduce feelings of anxiousness in the body. (4) Because ashwagandha can help reduce anxiety, Weiss says it’s particularly helpful for those experiencing sleep issues as a result of anxiety

Ashwagandha appears to help stress and anxiety through a variety of mechanisms, like helping to control specific stress mediators, like cortisol (often called “the stress hormone”). (4)

In one 2019 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial, 58 participants were randomized to receive capsules of Ashwagandha extract 125 mg, Ashwagandha extract 300 mg, or an identical placebo twice daily for eight weeks in a 1:1:1 ratio. Their stress was measured at baseline, four weeks, and eight weeks, and their anxiety was measured at baseline and eight weeks using a perceived stress scale (PSS) and Hamilton-Anxiety (HAM-A) scale and serum cortisol, respectively. (5)

At the end of the study, those who received Ashwagandha experienced less stress and anxiety. Additionally, those who received Ashwagandha had significantly improved sleep quality compared to the placebo group. Once again, this is a small sample size and more research is needed — in addition to exploring additional stress parameters — but preliminary results appear promising. (5)

How To Use Ashwagandha For Sleep

If you decide to try Ashwagandha for sleep, know that it’s not a long-term solution, nor is it a quick fix. It’s important to use it intentionally and understand that its effects on sleep may build up gradually. Keep in mind that, like any natural remedy, Ashwagandha may elicit different responses between people. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind if using Ashwagandha for sleep: 

  • Choose the right form: Ashwagandha can be purchased in tablet, capsule, gummy, or powder form. There are also topical creams and oils, as well as teas, made with Ashwagandha, but research is lacking on how well these work for sleep. 
  • Determine an appropriate dosage: The optimal dosage can vary from person to person. It’s advisable to start with a lower dose and gradually increase it if needed. “A safe dose ranges from 250-550 mg per day,” says Weiss. However, it’s crucial to follow the specific recommendations on the product label or consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.
  • Look for third-party tested options: Whenever you add a supplement or natural remedy to your lifestyle, it’s wise to look for ones that bear a third-party certification seal whenever possible. This indicates it has been independently tested for safety, purity, and quality. Examples include NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP®), and Consumer Lab.
  • Timing matters: Ashwagandha may either relax you right away or provide a boost of energy first before helping you wind down. If you experience the latter, consider taking it earlier in the day versus at bedtime. 
  • Consider combining with other relaxation methods: Some people like to combine Ashwagandha with other relaxation techniques. This may include practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or creating a soothing bedtime routine.

Before adding any supplement to your routine, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific health needs.

Other Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha 

In addition to supporting sleep, stress, and anxiety, Ashwagandha may have some other things going for it. While more research is needed, here are some of the other potential benefits Ashwagandha has to offer: 

  • Energy and stamina: As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha is believed to enhance overall vitality and energy levels. It may also help enhance athletic performance by increasing muscle strength and improving maximum oxygen consumption during exercise. (6)
  • Memory and attention: There is some evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha may have neuroprotective effects and could potentially enhance cognitive function, including memory and attention. (7)
  • Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits: The antioxidants in Ashwagandha may help combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals, and supporting cellular health. Withanolides have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory effects. (8) (9)
  • Blood sugar regulation: There is some evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha may help regulate blood sugar levels, making it potentially beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition. (10)
  • Male fertility: Some studies suggest Ashwagandha can help increase testosterone levels as well as sperm concentration, motility, and volume in men, which may support fertility — though more research is needed on this topic. (11) (12)

Side Effects Of Ashwagandha 

“Although considered ‘natural,’ all sleep aids have side effects and contraindications,” says Weiss. This also depends on the dosage used, the quality and purity of the product, the time of day it’s being taken, and individual factors. 

Generally speaking, Ashwagandha is not known to have severe side effects. Most people experience mild symptoms, like digestive upset, particularly if it’s taken on an empty stomach. Other reported side effects include headache and diarrhea. (2) (13)

According to Weiss, drowsiness, memory impairment, and difficulty with attention and concentration are also possible. “People taking medication such as anticoagulants to treat cardiovascular problems and diabetes should consult their primary care provider before using natural sleep aids because they interfere with these medications,” she adds.

Always speak with your healthcare provider before adding something new to your routine, even if it’s considered a natural sleep aid, especially if you have existing health conditions or are taking other medications or supplements.

Ashwagandha Compared To Other Sleep Aids

Individual responses to sleep aids, whether natural or pharmaceutical, can vary. While there’s not much research available comparing the efficacy of Ashwagandha to pharmaceutical sleep aids, we can make some comparisons to other natural remedies in terms of how they work.

Ashwagandha emphasizes stress reduction and adaptogenic effects, which can help improve sleep for some people. The mechanisms of other commonly used natural sleep aids are listed below. 

  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin supplements are commonly used to manage sleep disorders and jet lag, or to reset the body’s internal clock. (14)
  • Valerian Root: Valerian Root has mild sedative properties and is often used to alleviate insomnia and promote relaxation. It may help improve sleep latency and overall sleep quality. (15)
  • Chamomile: Chamomile contains apigenin, a compound with mild sedative properties. Chamomile tea is commonly used to promote relaxation and improve sleep. (16)
  • Lavender: Aromatherapy with lavender essential oil or using lavender-infused products may help induce relaxation and improve sleep quality. (17)
  • Passionflower: Passionflower has mild sedative effects and is used to alleviate insomnia and anxiety. It may help improve sleep quality. (18)
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in muscle relaxation and the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium supplements may help individuals with magnesium deficiency achieve better sleep. (19)

Who Should Use Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha isn’t for everyone, and its results can vary widely. Weiss points out that with many herbal remedies, the science is inconsistent. “Most of the recommendations are based on peoples’ experiences and cultural influence,” she says. 

Ashwagandha could be a worthwhile choice for people who are looking for sleep support that’s not related to an underlying chronic sleep condition — perhaps if you’re struggling with some extra stress or anxiety and need some help relaxing your mind in preparation for sleep. 

Due to a lack of safety evidence, it’s not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have autoimmune or thyroid conditions, or have recently had surgery. Overall, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before adding Ashwagandha to your routine.


Is it good to take Ashwagandha before bed?

While Ashwagandha is intended to help you relax, it can enhance energy and focus for some people, making it harder to fall asleep. If you find this is how it affects you, it may be best to take Ashwagandha in the morning instead.

Is Ashwagandha better than melatonin for sleep?

The choice between Ashwagandha and melatonin for sleep depends on individual preferences, health considerations, and the specific sleep-related issues you’re facing. Both Ashwagandha and melatonin are commonly used as natural sleep aids but have different mechanisms of action.

Is Ashwagandha a stimulant or a sedative?

Ashwagandha is neither a stimulant nor a sedative. It’s classified as an adaptogen and may help regulate physiological processes, including the adrenal and cortisol response to stress. As a result, it can potentially contribute to both relaxation and increased energy, depending on the individual’s needs.

When should I take Ashwagandha for sleep?

The ideal time to take Ashwagandha for sleep can vary based on individual responses and lifestyle factors. Many people find it beneficial to take Ashwagandha in the evening or before bedtime to leverage its potential relaxing and stress-reducing effects. However, if it has the opposite effect on you, enhancing energy, consider taking it earlier in the day instead.

The Last Word From Sleepopolis 

A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by these days, and it makes sense why so many people are seeking natural remedies like Ashwagandha. It may be a helpful sleep aid for people who are having trouble relaxing at night, perhaps due to more anxiety or stress than usual. Still, Ashwagandha is not a quick fix, is not a long-term solution, and can’t address underlying medical conditions that may be interfering with your sleep.



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           Weiss, Carleara. Personal interview. November 21, 2024,

Lauren Panoff

Lauren Panoff

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD is a Colorado-based health and nutrition writer who has been published with a number of trusted wellness platforms. She is a dietitian who specializes in plant-based living, as well as a mother of two humans and a dog.