How Valerian can help you Sleep Better this Christmas

Sleeping santa
Valerian can help you sleep better

By Caroline Tran, KOL Editor for NutriSmart

Adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep every night for optimal health. The Parliament of Australia reports that every one in five Australians are affected by a sleep disorder, which can severely impact their wellbeing, energy levels and decision making abilities the following day. As Christmas approaches, it is not unusual to see it take a toll on our sleeping patterns. Valerian root is a herbal remedy that can be taken orally to promote better sleep quality and ensure you wake up on Christmas day feeling refreshed.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a plant found across Europe and parts of Asia and North America. Its lightly scented flowers were used centuries ago to make perfume. Valerian root, however, has been used traditionally in Western herbal medicines for its sedative effects to ease anxiety and stress, and improve sleep quality.


Valeriana officinalis flower


When we sleep, deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) occurs during the first three hours, during which the body repairs its muscles and tissues, generates new brain cells and releases hormones. The Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase occurs about 90 minutes after we fall asleep and is when most of our vivid dreaming occurs. During REM sleep, our eyes quickly dart back and forth as our muscles relax, while our brain activity increases and consolidates emotional memory. REM sleep plays a significant role in learning development, memory retention and overall health as, during this phase, the brain exercises important neural activity. Having interrupted sleep or not getting enough sleep can cut into our REM sleep phase as its longest cycle (up to an hour) usually occurs towards the end of our sleep.

Many people with sleeping difficulties avoid prescription sleeping pills for fear of addiction and dependency. Valerian root is a herbal alternative with its health usages dating back to ancient Greece and Rome.

Researchers aren’t completely sure how valerian works to relieve stress and promote sleep but they theorise that it boosts the level of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which produces a sedative effect.


Valerian root


The effects of valerian on sleep have been studied over many decades. A 1985 study conducted on a group of young, healthy patients found that valerian extract could exert “a mild hypnotic action”.  A 2007 study into the effect of valerian on the sleep-wake cycle concluded that valerian extract produces a sleep-inducing effect in rats without disturbing their body’s circadian rhythm, making it an effective herbal alternative. Another team of researchers conducted two studies into the effects of valerian on sleep quality in women going through menopause and post-menopausal women. The first study found that women taking valerian showed a significant reduction of sleep disorder symptoms compared to the placebo group, while the second study found that valerian improved the quality of sleep in postmenopausal women experiencing insomnia.

With the combination of planning, stress, and most likely poor sleeping habits, many people may find it an annual occurrence waking up on Christmas day feeling sleep deprived. Valerian root is an herbal alternative that has been used for thousands of years to promote relaxation of the mind and body and better sleep.

It is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women and young children. It should also not be taken with alcohol or prescription pills due to its depressant effects.


NutriSmart’s Private Label range includes a Sleep product to support deep sleep and body relaxation.