It is estimated that 1 out of 4 Americans struggle to get adequate sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This means that you or someone close to you likely struggles to get those needed Z’s.
Unfortunately, people worldwide are becoming increasingly reliant on sleep aids, with more than 60 million prescriptions for sleep being given each year in the United States alone.
As a pharmacist, I find this trend very concerning, especially when there are many lifestyle adjustments that have been shown to improve sleep quality.
For thousands of years plants have been used to support quality sleep. Today, there is an increasing appetite to understand how these plants might work to support healthy sleep.
As a researcher, the study of botanicals and sleep is highly technical and challenging. Plants are created in such a way that they contain numerous natural substances that work in complex, multifaceted ways.
The scientist in me cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate this complexity.When I am presenting plants and their phytochemicals to students, scientists, or healthcare professionals, I will often show them how one plant can produce thousands of unique phytochemicals.
This week we will highlight three plants that have been used traditionally and have been studied in clinical trials.
Tart Cherry – The common form that I utilize has been dried and ground to a powder. Montmorency Tart Cherries are rich in melatonin. Melatonin is a brain chemical that is produced by your body and it helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. In the evening, when it is dark, we produce more melatonin. Recent studies using cherries have shown that both sleep time and sleep quality were improved.
Ashwagandha Root - This plant has multiple purposes. It can act on the neurological system, immune system, energy production system, and hormone system (i.e. endocrine). By supporting all of these systems a natural balance can be restored to improve sleep quality. Studies have also shown that measurements of stress can be lessened, which will benefit your sleep as well.
German Chamomile (Flower) - German chamomile has a long history of use all the way back to the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians to calm frayed nerves and relieve muscle spasms. Studies have evaluated chamomile for its ability to promote relaxation, which is often a contributing problem in preventing quality sleep.
Dr. Johnson's (PharmD, Ph.D.) research has lead to more than 45 publications and published abstracts in the health promoting properties of natural products, phytochemicals and plant extracts. Dr. Johnson researches and develops everything Utzy offers. He also runs and operates www.plantmedicinenews.com, a resource that digs into the clinical research being done on botanical medicine.