Valerian Root for Sleep: Benefits and Side Effects

Valerian plant

Valerian root has been used for centuries to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Valerian, scientifically known as Valeriana officinalis, is a plant with a knockout punch. Its roots are harvested and worked into capsules, teas, and tinctures to help people sleep.

What sets valerian apart from other sleep aids on the market is its natural composition. People turn to this herb as an alternative to prescription sleep aids. With valerian supplements, you can improve your sleep without worrying about harmful chemicals and physical addiction and dependency.

The secret behind its effectiveness lies in its active compounds, like valerenic acid. These compounds help you relax.

If you’re tired of counting endless sheep or relying on synthetic sleeping pills, give valerian a try. Discover the wonders of this herbal sleep aid that has stood the test of time.

The valerian flower comes in different colors.


Valerian root is generally considered safe when used as directed. Many turn to valerian as a natural remedy for improved sleep quality. As with any herb or medication, it may not work for everyone. Consult with a healthcare professional before using valerian root as a sleep aid, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

Research suggests valerian can help improve sleep quality by promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. However, the effectiveness of valerian root may depend on various factors such as age and overall health.

In some studies, combining valerian with other herbs has shown increased efficacy in improving sleep. This combination approach might be worth trying if considering using valerian.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your routine.

Potential benefits of valerian for sleep

Valerian root supplements have gained popularity as a natural remedy for improving sleep quality. Research suggests valerian root can offer several potential benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how this herbal supplement can help promote improved sleep.

Fall asleep faster

Valerian can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. If you struggle with this, consider valerian.

Enhanced subjective sleep quality

Valerian root has also been found to improve subjective sleep quality. By promoting deeper, more restful sleep, you very well could feel refreshed when you wake.

Sleep-wake neurotransmitters

The active ingredient, valerenic acid, interacts with certain neurotransmitters that regulate the circadian rhythm. It helps maintain a healthy balance between being wakeful and sleepy.

Boosts GABA levels

Valerenic acid also increases gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Part of the way is by inhibiting its breakdown.

GABA is a neurotransmitter known for its calming effects on the central nervous system (CNS). It soothes an overactive mind. Calming contributes to better sleep quality.

Dried valerian

Serotonin modulation

Valerenic acid may also modulate serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and promotes feelings of well-being. By impacting serotonin signaling pathways, valerian root may contribute to improved sleep quality.

When serotonin is balanced, it becomes easier to get deep sleep. Adequate serotonin levels help to regulate the internal body clock (circadian rhythm). That can help us feel awake during daylight hours and sleepy at night.


Valerenic acid in valerian root seems to decrease anxiety. Anxiety and stress are common causes of poor sleep quality.

Decreased muscle tension

It also has a mild muscle relaxant effect. This can relieve tension and promote relaxation within the body.

Benefits for muscle cramps and menstrual pain

Valerian may also help people dealing with muscle cramps or menstrual pain.

Side effects: what to know

Generally well-tolerated, if you’re going to take it, it’s important to be aware of possible side effects. Here are some key points:

Mild side effects

Some individuals may experience mild side effects when taking valerian root. These can include dizziness or stomach upset. Although these symptoms are usually temporary, subsiding on their own, pay attention to how your body reacts.

If you notice any adverse effects, such as an upset stomach or feeling lightheaded after taking valerian root, reduce the dosage or discontinue use. Consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about any side effects.

Daytime drowsiness

High doses of valerian root have been known to cause daytime drowsiness or grogginess. This can make it difficult to do anything that requires alertness and concentration.

Don’t take high doses of valerian root before engaging in tasks that demand mental clarity or physical coordination, like driving or operating heavy machinery. Adjusting the dosage or timing of consumption may help.

No risk of dependency or addiction

Valerian doesn’t cause physical dependency or addiction when used as directed, unlike some sleeping pills.

This makes it appealing to individuals who prefer avoiding potential long-term complications associated with other sleep aids. However, individual reactions can vary. Be sure to monitor your body’s response when introducing any new supplement to it.

The sedative mechanism

Valerenic acid takes the spotlight, but valerian root contains several other compounds contributing to its sedative properties. Valepotriates and flavonoids are two such compounds found in valerian.

Valepotriates have shown potential as muscle relaxants. Flavonoids possess antioxidant properties that may support brain health and reduce inflammation, both of which help sleep regulation.

Enhancing valerian’s effectiveness

To maximize the benefits of valerian in relieving insomnia, you can combine it with other relaxation techniques or therapies. For example:

  • Establish a bedtime routine: Creating a consistent routine before bed can signal your body that it’s time to wind down. This may involve activities such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation exercises like deep breathing.

  • Limit stimulants: Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and electronic devices close to bedtime can help promote better sleep quality.

  • Create a sleep-friendly environment: Ensuring your sleep environment is comfortable, cool, and dark can contribute to more restful sleep. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or white noise machines if necessary.

By combining these strategies with the use of valerian root extract, you may enhance its effectiveness in managing insomnia symptoms.


Can I take valerian root every night?

Valerian root is generally safe for short-term use but should not be taken every night without the guidance of a healthcare professional. It is important to assess your individual needs and consult with an expert to determine the most suitable approach for improving your sleep.

How long does it take for valerian root to work?

The effects can vary from person to person. Some may experience improvements in sleep quality within a few days. Others may require several weeks of consistent use. Patience and consistency are key when incorporating valerian root into your sleep routine.

Can valerian root help with anxiety-related sleep problems?

Valerian root has been traditionally used to alleviate anxiety symptoms and promote relaxation, which can indirectly improve sleep quality. If you have severe anxiety or a diagnosed anxiety disorder, see a provider who can provide approiate treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

Are there any potential side effects of using valerian root?

While generally safe for short-term use, valerian root may cause side effects such as dizziness, daytime drowsiness, and digestive disturbances in some. Consulting with a healthcare provider is recommended before starting any new supplement regimen.

Can I combine valerian root with other sleep aids?

Combining valerian root with other sleep aids should be done only under the guidance of a healthcare professional.


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James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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