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Does stress prevent you from being able to fall asleep at night? In the 2019 Phillips Global Sleep Survey, answered by over 11,000 adults from 12 countries, 54% of participants reported trouble sleeping due to stress[1]Philips global sleep survey shows we want better sleep, but only if it comes easily.

Fortunately, there are many effective natural treatments for anxiety-related insomnia, including supplementation with natural sleep supplements. Valerian, also known as “nature’s valium”, is one of the most effective natural sleep supplements for anxiety-related insomnia.

In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know about valerian sleep supplements before buying. You’ll learn about what valerian is, how it can help you, and the specific sleeping problems it’s used for. We’ll also cover some frequently asked questions regarding valerian.

The information on Recharge.Energy.com is not meant to replace professional advice or meant to be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or illness. Always consult your doctor before trying any products you see on this site.

What is valerian?

Valeriana officinalis, is an herb native to Europe and Asia that has been used to improve sleep and promote well-being for thousands of years. Its name is derived from the Latin “Valere” which means to be strong or healthy.

Valerian, also known as “nature’s valium,” is known worldwide as a natural remedy for insomnia, stress, and anxiety. Because of its calming properties, it’s a common ingredient in infusions for sleep and essential oils for sleep. Valerian has been described to have a “woody,” “grassy,” or “earthy” taste and scent.

How does valerian improve sleep?

Valerian has distinctive properties that produce sedative effects on the brain and central nervous system[2]Sedative and sleep-enhancing properties of linarin, a flavonoid-isolated from Valeriana officinalisand, thus, promotes good sleep.

Scientists have found that the acids contained in valerian (valerenic acid, isovaleric acid, and valerenol) improve the response of GABA in our body[3]The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity.

GABA works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Its role is to block certain brain signals and decrease activity in the central nervous system to, ultimately, slow down the brain. Simply put, GABA helps us fall asleep by calming the mind, and valerian helps us fall asleep by improving the response of GABA.

Research supporting the use of valerian supplements for sleep

A large number of studies have found that valerian root can improve sleep. Many conclude that valerian produces effects similar to effects produced by Benzodiazepines – a class of psychoactive drugs used to treat anxiety. [4]Valeriana officinalis root extracts have potent anxiolytic effects in laboratory rats

In one study, 18 healthy young adults were given a dose of 450 mg or 900 mg of valerian. Scientists concluded that valerian has some “hypnotic action” that allowed participants to fall asleep in less time and wake up less during the night[5]Effect of valerian on human sleep.

In another study, scientists tested the effect of valerian root on 100 menopausal women suffering from sleep disorders. The study concluded that women who took valerian or lemon balm noticed a significant improvement in their sleep disorders compared to women who took a placebo[6]The Effects of Valerian Root on Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women.

Studies conducted on children also yielded positive results. In one study involving 918 children under 12 years of age suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome and dyssomnia, it was observed that a combination of valerian and lemon balm markedly improved the symptoms of between 70% and 80% of participants in the study without any negative side effects[7]A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children.

Valerian supplements for Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition caused by an alteration of the nervous system that’s characterized by an urgent need to move or touch the legs. People with this syndrome have trouble falling asleep and often wake up at night with the urge to walk around in order to relieve their symptoms.

Síndrome Piernas Inquietas

According to experts from the Sleep Institute, 2-3% of the population suffers from this condition. In fact, 1 in 4 people who visit their clinic complaining about chronic insomnia are diagnosed with restless legs syndrome[8]Piernas inquietas: causas, síntomas y tratamiento.

So far, there is no definitive cure for RLS. However, recent research indicates that valerian supplementation may reduce symptoms.

In one 8-week study involving 37 participants with RLS, half were given 800 mg of valerian while the other half was given a placebo. The researchers concluded that valerian supplementation improved the participants’ symptoms of RLS and, as a result, improved their sleep. They also found that valerian supplementation reduced the participants’ daytime sleepiness, another positive effect[9]Does valerian improve sleepiness and symptom severity in people with restless legs syndrome?.

Benefits of valerian supplements for sleep

  • Valerian is a natural remedy to improve sleep
  • It’s not addictive.
  • It can be the natural substitute for some sleep medications.
  • It isn’t dangerous and hardly has any side effects.
  • It can help people who are trying to stop taking sleeping pills[10]Can valerian improve the sleep of insomniacs after benzodiazepine withdrawal?.
  • Valerian can help us fall asleep faster and improve the quality of our sleep.
  • Valerian has powerful sedative effects that can calm anxiety or stress.

Additional benefits of valerian supplements

  • Reduces stress and anxiety. Valerian improves the response of GABA in our brains, which calms our mind and reduces our anxiety.
  • Reduces pain during menstruation. Valerian has antispasmodic effects, which means valerian can help reduce the contractions produced in the uterus during menstruation resulting in less pain[11]Relaxing effects of Valeriana officinalis extracts on isolated human non-pregnant uterine muscle[12]Effects of valerian on the severity and systemic manifestations of dysmenorrhea.
  • May help reduce acute and chronic pain. Studies conducted in rats show that valerian, mixed with turnip extract, is effective in treating acute and chronic pain[13]Analgesic Effect of Valerian Root and Turnip Extracts.
  • May help reduce the side effects of and HIV medication called Efavirenz. Efavirenz can cause neuropsychiatric effects such as sleepiness, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or psychosis. In one study, patients supplementing with valerian while taking Efavirenz noticed a significant improvement in sleep and anxiety[14]Effect of Valerian in Preventing Neuropsychiatric Adverse Effects of Efavirenz in HIV-Positive Patients: A Pilot Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.

Other sources claim that valerian may also works to treat diseases such as [15]What is the most important information I should know about valerian?:

  • Parkinson’s
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Tremors
  • Migraines

Valerian Supplements - FAQ

Who can take valerian?

Valerian supplements are generally considered safe when taking in the recommended dosage. That being said, there are some restrictions.

Valerian is NOT recommended for:

  • Children under 3 years old.
  • Women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant in the near future.
  • People taking anesthetics and/or other medications usually given to patients after surgery.
  • Valerian should NOT be taken together with alcoholic beverages, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or antihistamines as it can cause excessive drowsiness.
  • Valerian is metabolized in the liver and should not be taken with other drugs that are also metabolized in the liver[16]Valerian: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.

This list may not be complete, check with your doctor before taking valerian, especially if you are under any pharmacological treatment.

What are recommended doses to treat insomnia?

Below you can find the recommended doses of valerian supplements for sleep for adults [17]Valerian: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning:

Valerian by itself:

Between 400 – 900 mg of valerian extract

Valerian in combination with other natural sleep supplements:

  • 120 mg of valerian combined with 80 mg of lemon balm
  • 375 – 500 mg of valerian combined with 85 – 120 mg of hops
  • 300 mg of valerian combined with 80 mg of passionflower

When should I take valerian to improve my sleep?

You should take a valerian supplement between 30 minutes and 2 hours before going to bed.

It shouldn’t be taken together with alcoholic beverages, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, antihistamines, or right after surgery[18]Valerian – dose, children, effects, adults, drug, people, used, effect.

Valerian is not recommended for continued long-term use as the potential risks of continued long-term use have not yet been studied.

Are there any side effects?

Valerian supplements are safe for the vast majority of people. Many studies confirm that taking valerian supplements for sleep does not impair reaction, concentration, or coordination abilities when taken in the right dose[19]The influence of valerian treatment on “reaction time, alertness and concentration” in volunteers.

It even appears to be safe in patients undergoing cancer treatments [20]Valerian: no evidence for clinically relevant interactions.

That being said, some side effects due occur when taken in high doses. Below is a list of the most common side effects of valerian in high doses:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • itch
  • digestive disorders
  • insomnia
  • confusion

Other natural sleep supplements

There are many natural sleep supplements that can improve your quality of sleep, including melatonin, tryptophan, and valerian.

Melatonin

Melatonin (also known as the sleep hormone) is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of our brain that causes sleepiness and helps us synchronize our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle known as our circadian rhythm. Melatonin production is essential to be able to fall asleep quickly and to stay asleep throughout the night. If you have a hard time falling asleep and/or you find yourself waking up several times during the night, your body may be producing too little melatonin.

Interested in learning more? Check out the complete guide:
Melatonin for Sleep | Natural melatonin for improving sleep/a>

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that our body needs to live and that we can only get from diet or supplementation. It serves to produce serotonin (the happiness hormone) which is necessary for the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). That is, without tryptophan, your body cannot produce the serotonin or melatonin it needs to induce sleep.

Unfortunately, not everybody has adequate levels of tryptophan in their body. Poor nutrition, unhealthy habits, or medical conditions may lead to inadequate levels of tryptophan in the body.

Interested in learning more? Check out the complete guide:
Tryptophan for Sleep

Magnesium

Magnesium is a very important mineral that participates in almost all vital bodily processes. Magnesium is important for sleep because it helps calm the central nervous system, reduce stress, relax our muscles, and lower our blood pressure. It also helps regulate our circadian rhythm. Despite its relevance to our health and sleep, many people don’t include enough magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts or green leafy vegetables, in their diet. Because magnesium plays an important role in helping us sleep, it’s common for people with magnesium deficiency to suffer from insomnia.

Interested in learning more? Check out the complete guide:
Magnesium for sleep

CBD Oil

CBD oil is one of the chemical compounds called cannabinoids that the cannabis or marijuana plant contains. This compound is not addictive nor does it produce any psychoactive effects. It intervenes by improving the functions of our endocannabioid system (ECS). It works by regulating sleep cycles, reducing stress or anxiety, and relaxing muscles. It makes us feel more rested and improves the quality of sleep.

Interested in learning more? Check out the complete guide:
CBD for sleep

If you want more information about these and other supplements that can improve sleep, visit our post about the most effective natural sleeping pills according to science.

Other sleep solutions

Many sleeping problems are due to physiological or psychological disorders, but there are also external factors that can cause insomnia or make it worse.

The pillars of a good night’s sleep are comfort, relaxation, darkness, and silence or ambient sounds. If you’re missing any one of these pillars, your sleep may be compromised.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can improve your sleep. Check out other sleep solutions by reading the full article: 27 Tips to sleep better

Relaxation

  • Essential oils for sleep. Some oils have the property of transforming and balancing our emotions, reducing anxiety, depression or mental fatigue.
  • Infusions for sleep. A natural remedy used for hundreds of years to induce sleep

Darkness

  • Sleep masks. Provide the darkness your brain needs to produce melatonin and induce sleep naturally.
  • Blue light blocking glasses. Block blue light from electronic devices and artificial lights that inhibit the production of melatonin in the brain.

Silence or ambient sounds

  • Ear plugs. Silence can help you relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
  • Sleep headphones. Ergonomic headphones for people who need a sound stimulus to sleep.
  • White noise machines. Prevent noise from waking you up at night without having to wear headphones.

Comfort

Interested in learning more about how you sleep?

Sleep tracking devices have all of the technological features needed to track and monitor your sleep. By measuring your heart rate, listening to your breathing patterns, and detecting your movements, sleep trackers can teach you a lot about how you sleep.

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