Does Valerian Root Work For Sleep?

Valerian root has been used as a sleeping aid for pretty much all of european history, the question of course is whether it's an old wives tale or whether varerlian root does actually work for sleep. 

Fortunately in this case, the science does seem to suggest that there is something to valerian, with quite a few studies showing that it does in fact improve sleep if used correctly.

How Does Valerian Affect the Body?

The exact mechanisms of how valerian works in the body are not fully understood. However the limited amount of research we do have suggests that valerian's works due to compounds known as valepotriates, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, carboxylic compounds, lignans, and flavonoids. All of which could have some impact on sleep in various degrees, meaning there's probably going to be a lot more research needed before we know for sure.

But, several of these compounds have been shown to interact with with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the central nervous system, increasing the availability of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep regulation and is a precursor to the body being able to produce melatonin the sleep hormone.

The Science Behind Valerian Root

Sleep Improvement

Several studies have shown that valerian root can help people asleep faster, improve sleep quality, and increase overall sleep duration. A review of multiple studies concluded that valerian could be a safe and effective treatment for sleep disorders, and generally it's one of the more well backed natural sleep aids. Regular use of valerian root for at least two weeks is typically required to experience its full benefits on sleep.

Anxiety and Stress Reduction

Valerian root has also been studied for its potential to reduce anxiety symptoms and stress. Currently Research suggests that valerian may help ease anxious feelings in response to stressful situations. It may also be beneficial for chronic conditions characterized by anxious behaviors, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and hyperactivity in children although the latter research is still in it's infancy.

Valerian's Potential for Treating OCD and Hyperactivity

Early research shows that valerian root could potentially have positive effects on obsessive-compulsive behaviors in individuals with OCD. A recent study showed a reduction in obsessive and compulsive behaviors in adults with OCD who took valerian extract for eight weeks. Although agian there isn't enough research for this to be considered conclusive as of yet.

Additionally, a combination of valerian and lemon balm extract was found to improve focus and impulsiveness in elementary school children with concentration difficulties, although again the research here is still early, although based on other studies it's likely that most of the effect was from the valerian.

Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep

Before considering valerian root or any sleep aid, it's usually a good idea to improve your sleep hygeine. Simple lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine late in the day or getting regular exercise can have a significant impact on sleep quality.

Evaluating Product Claims

When considering valerian root supplements, it is important to gather objective, research-based information to evaluate product claims. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) provide reliable resources for assessing the effectiveness and safety of natural remedies.

Recommended Dosage and Duration

The optimal dosage and duration for valerian root supplementation are not yet clearly defined. Studies have used varying dosages, and it is recommended to start with the lowest effective dose and gradually increase if necessary. Regular use for at least two weeks is typically required to experience the full benefits of valerian root.

Valerian Root Side Effects

While valerian root is generally considered safe, some individuals may experience side effects such as headaches, dizziness, stomach problems, or sleeplessness. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid valerian root, and it has not been evaluated for use in children under three years old. Individuals with liver disease should also avoid taking valerian root.

Valerian Interactions

Valerian root may interact with certain medications, including sleep aids, depressants, and prescription drugs. It can enhance the sedative effects of these substances and interfere with their metabolism. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking valerian root if you are on any medications or supplements.

Safety Considerations for Specific Groups

Valerian root is generally considered safe for most individuals when used as directed. However, certain groups should exercise caution. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, individuals with liver disease, and those taking certain medications should avoid valerian root. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.

Using Valerian Root for Better Sleep

Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits

Before considering valerian root or any sleep aid, it is important to establish healthy sleep habits. This includes maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a sleep-friendly environment, practicing relaxation techniques, and managing stress and anxiety. Lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on sleep quality and may reduce the need for sleep aids.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a highly effective treatment for sleep disorders. It focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to insomnia. CBT-I has been shown to be more effective and safer than medications or herbal supplements for treating insomnia.

How To Take Valerian Root as a Sleep Aid

It's generally best to take valerian root 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime for the best results. It's also worth noting that it can take several weeks of regular use to experience the full benefits on sleep.

Recommended Usage and Timing

The timing and dosage of valerian root can vary depending on the individual and the specific product. It is recommended to follow the instructions provided on the product label or consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations. Generally anything above 200mg is within the effective range.

Incorporating Valerian Root into Your Routine

Valerian Root Tea 

Valerian root is available in the form of teas although generally it's better to take as a standardized supplement. 

Valerian Root Supplements

Valerian root supplements are available in capsule or tablet form. This is generally the easiest way to take valerian. But, it's always improtant to remember that when you're selecting a supplement, it is important to choose a reputable brand and check for third-party testing to ensure quality and purity.

Combining Valerian Root with Other Natural Sleep Aids

Valerian root can be combined with other natural sleep aids, such as chamomile, lavender, and passionflower, to enhance its calming and sedative effects. These herbs work synergistically to promote relaxation and better sleep. It is important to follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking other medications or supplements.

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