Deadlines are constantly bearing down on you, your friends are having meltdowns, the neighbors seem to be having a party every night, and, oh, you’re out of toilet paper. Meanwhile, your heart’s racing and you can’t focus even if your life depended on it. It seems like stress and sleeplessness are now constant companions. Before you reach for a comfort cronut or guzzle that fourth cup of coffee, there’s another way to deal with the pressure — adaptogens.
Adaptogens can help your body adapt to life’s most stressful times. These supplements contain herbs that aid the body in reacting to or recovering from both short- and long-term physical or mental stress. Some also boost immunity and overall well-being. Research shows adaptogens can combat fatigue, enhance mental performance, reduce depression and anxiety, and help you thrive rather than just struggle along.
How do adaptogens suppress stress?
Adaptogens are like mini stress vaccines. They increase the body’s resistance to stress, they decrease your proclivity to gain weight and they can hold off exhaustion. Here’s how they work:
When we face a stressor, whether physical or mental, our bodies go through what’s called general adaptation syndrome (GAS). GAS is a three-stage response: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens help us stay in the resistance phase longer, via a stimulating effect that holds off the exhaustion. Instead of crashing in the midst of a stressful moment, task, or event, you can soldier on for much longer rather than folding into the exhaustion phase.
Adaptogenic stress supplements that use astralagus have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a myriad of illnesses, one of which is chronic fatigue syndrome. Eliminating stress can also lead to a healthier complexion. Say goodbye to feeling like you’re always running on empty and start facing each day on a full battery!
Adaptogens for sleep
Cortisol is the stress hormone. Adaptogens can help regulate the release of cortisol. They can help prevent this normal and necessary hormone from doing long-term damage. However, circadian rhythms the amount of cortisol coursing through your veins are closely interwoven. To clarify, your circadian rhythm is basically your internal body clock. If your clock is running smoothly, your body knows when it’s time to sleep. If not, then you probably know what that feels like.
WIthania somnifera, or ashwagandha, is an herb whose main effect is, well, actually in its name. Somnifera means “sleep-inducing” in Latin. This adaptogenic herb may be effective at doing lots of things, but sleep is right up near the top. Ashwagandha may help with sleep in many different, multilayered ways. For instance, a proposed study would look at those suffering from non-restorative sleep, or NRS. Adaptogenic supplements that contain ashwagandha have been known to suppress cortisol production during sleep, allowing for longer, more restorative sleep cycles which mean more productivity and less fatigue.
While it may be for the most part safe to take adaptogens, consulting your healthcare expert should always be your number one option. It’s also important not to overlook other natural health-promoting measures such as eating a healthy diet and performing regular exercise. Although it’s easy just to take a supplement every day, adaptogens (and other natural supplements) without meaningful lifestyle changes may not be enough to make a long-term impactful difference.