Everyday stress can affect your ability to get sufficient sleep.
Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement that helps reduce stress, which may indirectly support sleep quality.†
Studies show that Ashwagandha's effect on improving your ability to manage stress may be responsible for its positive effect on sleep quality.†
Are you the one in three Americans who have difficulty with sleep? Are you wondering if Ashwagandha will help you fall asleep at night? Or are you someone who already experiences the adaptogenic stress resilience benefits of Ashwagandha, but you’re wondering if Ashwagandha makes you sleepy?
Here we cover what you need to know about Ashwagandha. When to take, how much, and whether or not Ashwagandha will support sleep for you.
Understanding the Effects of Ashwagandha on Stress and Sleep
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera; AKA Indian Ginseng) is an herbal supplement used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a way to support the body and mind when under stress.†
Ashwagandha is going through a modern revival as an adaptogen — a class of botanicals that may help support a healthy tolerance to stress. Over a decade of clinical research supports the common use of Ashwagandha for reducing feelings of occasional anxiousness and everyday stress†
The beneficial effects of Ashwagandha on stress have been shown over and over again in high-quality research studies. Clinical studies have found that Ashwagandha helps reduce stress in part by lowering cortisol levels in the blood, a hormone produced during times of stress. In one study that found reports of lower stress levels, Ashwagandha influenced the stress-control center in the brain, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.†
Other research using supplemental Ashwagandha suggests that the positive effect on stress may indirectly help with sleep due to healthier cortisol levels.†
How Does Ashwagandha Help Your Sleep Quality?
The root of the Latin name, “somnifera” means “sleep inducer” — but does Ashwagandha actually help with sleep?
The short answer is, “Yes, but not directly.” Many studies show that the herb works with your body over time to improve sleep quality. But it doesn’t make you sleepy like some sleep aids. Instead, Ashwagandha may affect sleep by helping support a lower level of everyday stress.†
Benefits of better sleep:
Better recovery from exercise and your day-to-day activities
Better cognitive function and focus
Better ability to manage everyday stressors
Improved metabolism and better weight regulation
Reduce stress and help improve your mood
Healthy immune function
It’s plain to see that minimizing stress to optimize sleep is a virtuous cycle. Managing stress can help support a restful sleep, which sets you up to manage stress even better.
To understand Ashwagandha’s effect on sleep, you first have to understand what it does to your biology. When you go from the stress-free state of sleep to waking up in the real world, your body has to ramp up stress hormones like cortisol to get you ready to face the day. Because of this natural daily cycle, healthy cortisol levels are highest at the beginning of the day, and they gradually decrease as the day goes on.
If you are stressed, however, cortisol can be high throughout the day. When your fight-or-flight response is activated through the evening, then getting to sleep can be more difficult and the quality becomes poorer.
Even worse, if you’re feeling the effects of stress every day, it can lead to “cortisol blunting”, where your cortisol levels stay relatively flat throughout the day. Low morning cortisol is associated with a number of poor health outcomes.
So, where does Ashwagandha fit in here?
As an herb most well-known for its effect on lowering cortisol levels , Ashwagandha is a good option to consider for supporting better sleep quality through supporting stress resilience. By taking Ashwagandha when you are more stressed, you support a daily biological rhythm that fosters alertness in the morning and eases an active mind in the evening.†
Nature Made ® Ashwagandha capsules use the Ashwagandha extract, SENSORIL®, and are standardized and quality-controlled so you know exactly what is in each serving. Sensoril® Ashwagandha is clinically studied to help reduce stress, so it’s an obvious choice if your stress is affecting sleep quality.†
Does Ashwagandha Make You Sleepy?
Ashwagandha does not make you sleepy. It is not considered a sleep aid because it does not put you to sleep, but it can play a key role in an overall strategy to support better sleep quality.†
The herb’s ability to reduce fatigue, ease everyday stress, and calm occasional anxiousness puts your body and brain in a rested state that allows sleep to come naturally. When taken appropriately, Ashwagandha lays a foundation for sound rest by supporting healthier stress levels.†
Ashwagandha vs. Melatonin: Which Should I Choose?
Cortisol and Melatonin are like two sides of a coin: as Cortisol goes up, Melatonin goes down, and vice versa. Given the relationship, it makes sense that both are key to good sleep.
Melatonin will help you fall asleep if taken as a supplement at night before bed. Because Melatonin is directly related to sleep and your circadian rhythm, taking supplemental Melatonin can affect how fast you fall asleep and how restful your night is.†
Ashwagandha, on the other hand, can be used to help address the underlying issue if stress is getting in the way of your sleep.†
Practically speaking, the two can be used in conjunction since each comes at the problem from a different angle.
What makes Ashwagandha a good fit for someone? If you feel like there’s too much going on or you are experiencing stress, Ashwagandha can be a helpful option to consider. Ashwagandha is best used when regular day-to-day stress keeps you up at night.
If stress is impacting how well you sleep at night, Ashwagandha works over time to reduce your feelings of stress before bed to help you rest.†
Tips to Adding Ashwagandha to Your Health Routine
Because one of the effects of Ashwagandha is to support healthy cortisol, it is probably best taken when your day-to-day stress is pushing cortisol levels up. If you are routinely stressed, and this is impairing your sleep, then using Ashwagandha in the afternoon or evening — when your cortisol should be lower — may be the most appropriate time to take it. The best time to take Ashwagandha is unique to every person though.
If extreme physical stress (like an intense exercise session or a particularly long day), is the bottleneck for your sleep, then you should consider taking Ashwagandha prior to that activity.
Always talk with your healthcare provider about any changes in your lifestyle or supplement routine.
The Bottom Line
Managing stress with effective coping strategies and lifestyle management is always the best approach. Take a look at some of the skills that allow you to better cope with everyday stressors in the Nature Made® How to Cope with Stress guide.
The fact of the matter, however, is that a stress-free lifestyle is not within reach for everybody. If your stress is spilling over into your health and showing up as the telltale sign of poor sleep, then Ashwagandha may be a game-changing supplement for you. As always, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before taking a new dietary supplement. †
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Paul S, Chakraborty S, Anand U, et al. Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Ashwagandha): A comprehensive review on ethnopharmacology, pharmacotherapeutics, biomedicinal and toxicological aspects. Biomed Pharmacother. 2021;143:112175. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2021.112175
Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37):e17186. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000017186
Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466
Cheah KL, Norhayati MN, Husniati Yaacob L, Abdul Rahman R. Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2021;16(9):e0257843. Published 2021 Sep 24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0257843
Brown M. Get Enough Sleep. MyHealthfinder | health.gov. Published August 2021. Accessed May 9, 2023. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep
Adam EK, Quinn ME, Tavernier R, McQuillan MT, Dahlke KA, Gilbert KE. Diurnal cortisol slopes and mental and physical health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017;83:25-41. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.05.018
Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. “A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress ... in adults.” July 2012. Accessed on: March 30, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23439798/
Detrick Snyder, MPH, RD is a Denver-based dietitian who brings expertise in clinical research, public health, and evidence-based food-as-medicine practices to provide the most relevant, accurate, and actionable content possible. He especially loves working alongside organizations with a mission for better health. Find him at detricksnyder.com.
As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.