What is valerian root and how can it improve sleep?

October 20, 2020 4 mins read
What is valerian root and how can it improve sleep?

Have you ever heard of valerian root? If you have difficulty falling asleep, you might want to pay attention.

Valerian root is a tall, flowering plant and a natural sleep aid that you will come across many times in your search for solutions to improve your sleep. It grows in Europe, some parts of Asia and North America.

This root has often been referred to as ‘nature’s valium,’ but what is it and how can it improve your sleep?

What is valerian?

Valerian is a root that is used as medicine for various purposes, such as reducing insomnia, aiding relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving sleep quality. It is one of the most popular herbal remedies in the world used to aid sleep and relaxation.

It can be consumed as a tea or in liquid form, and if you don’t like the earthy taste, you can get it in capsules.

Is valerian good for insomnia?

Valerian root can and has helped a lot of people to fall asleep faster and manage their insomnia. You can take valerian root when you stop taking other sleeping aids like benzodiazepines and use it as a temporary alternative or switch to it permanently if you struggle to fall asleep without assistance from a sleep aid.

Many people have reported that taking valerian root has helped them with sleep and relaxation. But like many available treatments, it does not work for everyone. And even though a lot of studies suggest it may be promising as a sleep aid, more research is needed on the effectiveness of valerian root. However, the anecdotal evidence available should be enough for you to consider giving it a try.

How does it work?

Valerian root seems to have a sedative effect on the nervous system and brain, which promotes sleep. It contains different compounds that seem to aid sleep in different ways.

  • Valerian root interacts with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical messenger that acts on your nervous system and protects and calms your body and brain. If your GABA levels are low, it can trigger anxiety and insomnia and disrupt your sleep.
  • It contains a compound called valerenic acid, which inhibits the breakdown of GABA in your brain. You can also find GABA in supplement form, which is another natural sleep aid you can consider.
  • Valerian root also contains antioxidants, known as linarin and hesperidin. They are believed to enhance sleep and have sedative effects.

Is valerian root better than melatonin?

This depends on your definition of better. Valerian root is a herbal sleeping aid while melatonin is hormonal. Melatonin works more directly and can be more intense, but many people report feeling tired and groggy in the mornings after taking it the previous night.

If taking melatonin makes you feel groggy, valerian root might be a better option. On the other hand, valerian root might not work well as a sleep aid for you, but taking melatonin does. Keep in mind that you do need a prescription for melatonin in many countries like the UK.

If you do prefer the natural route, but still want to increase your melatonin levels naturally, there are melatonin-rich foods you can add to your diet. They include bananas, tart cherries, asparagus, walnuts, pistachios, beef, eggs, lamb and liver.

You can also increase your melatonin production by reducing blue light exposure before bed, increasing your natural sunlight exposure during the day and keeping your room as dark as possible.

How much valerian root should I take for sleep?

It is usually recommended to take between 400mg to 900mg of valerian root up to two hours before going to bed for sleep. You might need to stick to 400mg if your body is sensitive or increase your dose to 800mg or 900mg to get the desired effects. If you are unsure of which dosage to start with, speak to your doctor.

Is it safe to take valerian?

Valerian root is usually safe to take, but is best to avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as more research is still needed. It can have side effects, such as stomach problems, headaches, dizziness, and even more anxiety if the dosage is too high.

If you experience any of these symptoms, lower your dosage, and if the problems persist, consider trying an alternative natural sleep remedy like St John’s Wort, lavender and chamomile.

Is it okay to take valerian root every day?

Valerian root can be taken safely on a daily basis, so you can experiment with using it as a sleep aid without any concern. If it works for you, you are one step closer to the best sleep of your life.

If it doesn’t work for you, you can try another natural sleep aid to get closer to learning the secret to your own sleep success.