Valerian Root for Sleep

What is Valerian Root?

Valerian root, scientifically known as Valeriana officinalis, is a perennial plant native to Asia and Europe. It has a long history of use as a natural remedy for various ailments, including insomnia, anxiety, and nervous restlessness. The root of the valerian plant is carefully processed and used to make dietary supplements such as capsules, tablets, teas, and tinctures.

The exact mechanisms of how valerian root works in the body are not fully understood. However, research suggests that it may increase the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. [1] GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate nerve activity and has a calming effect on the central nervous system. By increasing GABA levels, valerian root may help promote relaxation and improve sleep.

Benefits of Valerian Root for Sleep

Promotes Faster Sleep Onset

One of the key benefits of valerian root is its ability to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Several studies have shown that valerian root can shorten sleep latency, allowing individuals to fall asleep more quickly after getting into bed. This can be especially helpful for those who struggle with sleep onset insomnia, where it takes longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, participants who took valerian root experienced a significant reduction in sleep latency compared to those who took a placebo. The effects were observed after just one week of supplementation, indicating that valerian root may have a relatively fast-acting impact on sleep onset. [2]

Improves Sleep Quality

Not only does valerian root help with sleep onset, but it can also improve the overall quality of sleep. Research suggests that valerian root may increase the amount of time spent in deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep. Deep sleep is crucial for the body's restoration and rejuvenation processes, and its deficiency is often associated with daytime fatigue and cognitive impairment.

In a study conducted on postmenopausal women with insomnia, supplementation with valerian root extract led to significant improvements in sleep quality. Participants reported fewer nighttime awakenings and increased sleep efficiency, indicating that valerian root may enhance the restorative aspects of sleep. [3]

Reduces Anxiety and Promotes Relaxation

Anxiety can be a major contributor to sleep difficulties, making it challenging to unwind and fall asleep peacefully. Valerian root has been traditionally used as an herbal remedy for anxiety due to its calming properties. It is believed to exert its anxiolytic effects by interacting with GABA receptors in the brain, similar to medications like Xanax and Valium.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on valerian root for anxiety found that it had a significant and beneficial effect in reducing anxiety symptoms. The analysis included both clinical trials and preclinical studies, providing robust evidence for the anxiolytic properties of valerian root. [4]

Minimizes Daytime Sleepiness

Unlike some prescription sleep medications, valerian root is not associated with excessive daytime sleepiness or residual effects upon waking up. This makes it a favorable choice for those who want to improve their sleep without feeling groggy or lethargic during the day.

Several studies have shown that valerian root does not impair daytime functioning or cause drowsiness. In fact, some individuals may experience increased alertness and improved cognitive performance after taking valerian root supplements. [5]

Potential Benefits for Menopause-related Sleep Issues

Menopause often brings about hormonal changes that can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to insomnia. Valerian root may offer relief for menopausal women experiencing sleep disturbances, including hot flashes and night sweats.

A study published in the journal Menopause investigated the effects of valerian root supplementation on menopausal symptoms. The researchers found that taking valerian root extract reduced the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in postmenopausal women. Additionally, sleep quality and overall well-being significantly improved in the valerian group compared to the placebo group. [6]

Is Valerian Root Safe?

Valerian root is generally considered safe for short-term use, with minimal side effects reported in clinical studies. However, it is important to note that the long-term safety of valerian root has not been extensively studied. [7]

Common side effects of valerian root may include headache, dizziness, stomach discomfort, and vivid dreams. These side effects are generally mild and transient, resolving on their own without any intervention.

It is recommended to start with a low dose of valerian root and gradually increase if needed. This allows you to assess your individual response and tolerance to the supplement. If you experience any adverse effects, it is advisable to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional.

Valerian root should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, as its safety for these populations has not been established. Additionally, individuals with liver disease or those taking medications that may interact with valerian root should exercise caution and consult their healthcare provider before using this supplement.

How to Take Valerian Root For Sleep

Valerian root is available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, teas, and tinctures. The appropriate dosage of valerian root may vary depending on factors such as age, overall health, and the severity of sleep difficulties.

Valerian Root Dosage For Sleep

When starting with valerian root, it is recommended to begin with a low dose, such as 300-500 mg, and gradually increase as needed. It is important to follow the instructions provided on the product label or consult with a healthcare professional for personalized dosage recommendations.

Valerian root is typically taken 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime. This allows sufficient time for the supplement to take effect and promote relaxation before sleep. It is important to establish a consistent sleep routine and create a relaxing environment to maximize the benefits of valerian root.

Conclusion: Does Valerian Root Improve Sleep?

Valerian root is a natural remedy that offers potential benefits for improving sleep quality and reducing insomnia and anxiety symptoms. Its ability to promote relaxation, reduce sleep latency, and enhance sleep quality makes it a favorable option for those seeking a natural alternative to traditional sleep medications.

While valerian root is generally considered safe for short-term use, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure that valerian root is suitable for your individual needs.

Incorporating valerian root into your sleep routine, along with implementing healthy sleep habits, can help you achieve restful and rejuvenating sleep. 


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