Read Time: 10 Minutes
Contents: Causes of Poor Sleep | Mushrooms for Sleep | Adaptogens Support Sleep | Adaptogenic Mushrooms | Reishi Mushroom Supports Sleep | Lion’s Mane and Circadian Cycles | Lion’s Mane and REM | FAQs
You roll over in bed to check the time, and groan. It’s late. Again. You calculate the number of hours of sleep still possible tonight.
Pressing your head deeper into the pillow, you wonder, Why am I not sleeping? You tick down a list of possible remedies. Should you get a snack? Should you watch some TV to get your mind off things? How can you salvage this sleepless night?
Your loudest thought: Why is this happening?
What Causes Poor Sleep?
We all have an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. By it, our bodies know when to initiate sleepiness and sleep, when to rouse and become alert, and when to metabolize food and energy.
When that clock gets disrupted, our sleep suffers. Positive cycles of healthy sleep get replaced by negative cycles of insomnia, poor sleep, and fatigue.
Unfortunately, voluntary behaviors are often responsible for disrupting our circadian rhythm. Modern living provides us with electricity, artificial light, refrigerators, microwaves, and entertainment around the clock. Our ancestors didn't have these, and their sleep cycles were based on sunrise and sunset.
Over-using our modern conveniences can cause poor sleep. The circadian rhythm can be disrupted by:
- Gazing at bright screens.
- Snacking late at night.
- Staying up way after sunset.
- Lack of exercise.
- Staying sedentary for too many daylight hours
Poor Sleep and Stress
Most adults in our fast-paced, demanding world know all too well that stress disrupts sleep.
There’s a good reason that stress disrupts sleep. Essentially, the body responds to environmental stress by energizing you so that you can respond safely to threats.
However, the body doesn’t really know how to sort through the stress of modern life. It responds to all environmental stressors as though they were tigers. But our stressors can be social, physical, biochemical, hormonal, mental, or emotional (1).
In response to stress, the body releases activating hormones that include adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones impact cardiovascular performance, respiratory system, muscle tension, digestion, and metabolism.
After prolonged stress—or even a single intense event—the relationship between these body systems can become dysfunctional. The body’s stress responses can even cause damage to the body, disrupting the body's ability to rest, recover, and restore healthy functioning (1).
Fortunately, you can give your body the support it needs to recover from stress and restore health.
A wild foraged reishi mushroom.
Mushrooms for Sleep
Mushrooms before bed? Yep, that’s right! Reishi and lion’s mane are two of the most widely-used sleep ‘shrooms.
These are not psychedelic or hallucinogenic mushrooms. They are functional foods, also called medicinal mushrooms. They have long histories of use in traditional medicines around the world. In this article, we’ll dive into the modern science supporting the use of these mushroom extracts for sleep support.
Mushroom Sleep Benefits:
- They are adaptogens.
- Reishi promotes relaxation and the onset of sleep.
- Lion’s Mane promotes REM sleep.
- Reishi promotes longer sleep & delta waves.
- Lion’s Mane supports healthy sleep-wake cycles.
We'll go into each of these points in detail. Keep reading to learn about the individual sleep benefits of taking both reishi mushroom extract and lion’s mane mushroom extract before bed.
Close-up of a lion's mane mushroom.
Adaptogens Support Sleep
Mushrooms and herbs that help the human body adapt to stress are called “adaptogens.”
Adaptogens are natural bioregulators. They improve the human body’s ability to adapt to stress. They also help the body avoid damage that could be caused by these stressors (1).
Adaptogens support sleep in two ways.
First, they promote relaxation. It’s easier to drift asleep when muscles aren’t tense. Adaptogens help your body unwind so it can rest comfortably.
Secondly, adaptogens balance circadian cortisol. A healthy cortisol cycle peaks in the morning and wanes through the afternoon, reaching its lowest at night. A stressed adrenal gland can pump cortisol throughout the day, disrupting the cycle and preventing sleep (1).
Adaptogens help the adrenal gland close. This limits the amount of cortisol circulating, allowing the body to recover its natural circadian cortisol cycles.
1. Adaptogenic Mushrooms
Reishi mushroom is one of the “most powerful adaptogens present in nature” (2). Reishi contains many bioactive compounds, including:
- Fatty Acids
The abundance of triterpenoids in reishi’s fruiting body are likely the reason it is such a powerful adaptogen (2).
Reishi has been shown to improve the efficiency of adrenal secretion, so the body doesn't make too much. It can also help the adrenal glands stop producing cortisol at the end of a stressful event (3).
Lion’s mane mushroom’s adaptogenic properties are likely due to its abundance of two compounds that promote brain and nerve health:
The bioactive compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms show antioxidant, anticancer, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-hyperglycemic properties (4).
If each mushroom has so many benefits on its own, why pair them for sleep? I’m glad you asked! Read on to learn how lion’s mane extract and reishi extract each target specific sleep benefits.
2. Reishi Supports Sound Sleep
Several studies have shown reishi mushroom extracts promoting healthy sleep. Reishi mushroom extracts helped subjects 1) fall asleep sooner and 2) sleep more soundly.
A 2007 study showed that reishi mushroom extracts “increased sleeping time, non-REM sleep time, and light sleep time,” on mammal test subjects. The sleepers also showed fewer restless movements during sleep (5).
A 2019 study demonstrated triterpenoids from reishi mushroom extract showing “obvious” anti-inflammatory effects and “significant” analgesic and sedative effects on mice (6).
3. Reishi promotes longer sleep & delta waves.
Studies also showed that sleepers who took reishi mushroom for sleep showed more delta brainwave activity during non-REM sleep (7).
A 2021 study showed that after just three days of receiving reishi mushroom before sleeping, animal tests subjects’ total sleep time and non-REM sleep “significantly increased.” (8).
A brand new 2021 study examined how reishi provides these sleep-promoting effects. Researchers measured increased levels of sleep-promoting neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus, which regulates sleep and wake cycles. They also discovered reishi enriched gut bacteria correlating with longer sleep times! The scientists concluded that reishi promotes sleep by influencing gut-brain pathways (9).
Reishi extract is especially supportive during the non-REM part of the sleep cycle. Lion’s mane extract is the perfect compliment, because it supports deep and REM sleep.
4. Lion’s Mane Supports Circadian Cycles
Lion’s mane mushroom promotes NGFs, which support natural rhythms of sleep and wakefulness.
A Japanese study of college students—who have notoriously poor sleep habits—showed that lion’s mane mushroom extract helped reduce stress and insomnia. After four weeks of taking lion’s mane before bed, the students reported fewer symptoms of insomnia. Specifically, the reports showed significant declines in fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and depression (10).
While the researchers didn’t prove how lion’s mane mushroom extract provided these sleep benefits, there is good reason to think that it’s a result of three special brain-supporting compounds: hericenones, erinacines, and NGF.
In the 1990s, scientists studying lion’s mane mushrooms discovered two brain-supporting compounds called hericenones and erinacines. Further research showed that hericenones and erinacines stimulate production of Nerve Growth Factor proteins (NGF) in the brain.
What is Nerve Growth Factor? It’s just what it sounds like. NGF is a protein that neurons use to grow new branches and make new connections. More recent studies have shown that NGF also helps regulate naturally-occurring cycles of sleep and wakefulness (11).
So, taking lion’s mane before bed not only supports a healthy night’s sleep. It may also support healthy daytime wakefulness regulated by the circadian rhythm.
This may by why some people report great results using lion’s mane extract in the morning, rather than before bed. While we recommend trying lion’s mane before bed, some people say that they feel very alert after using it. If that’s the case for you, try using reishi just before you sleep, and lion’s mane first thing in the morning.
5. Lion’s Mane Promotes REM Sleep
Some of you may have caught our interview with sleep consultant Katie Moore. (Check it out below!) Recently, Katie personally tested the popular claim that taking lion’s mane before bed helps with REM sleep.
Katie created her own personal experiment based on a year of sleep data she collected with her Oura Ring. She discovered that, while taking lion’s mane mushroom extract for just one week, her REM sleep stayed above average every night.
She even had her highest-ever REM measurement after taking lion’s mane before bed:
In technical terms, Katie’s success taking lion’s mane before bed is “anecdotal.” That means it’s a personal experience, which doesn’t prove that taking lion’s mane before bed will improve REM sleep for everyone.
As far as we know, the sleep scientists studying lion’s mane mushroom haven’t yet conducted a study to measure the relationship between lion’s mane extract and REM sleep. So we can only share anecdotal experiences as we discover them.
(That said, traditional medicinal wisdom was accumulated one patient and one healer at a time. A lack of data about traditional practices doesn’t discredit them, either.)
Here are a few more anecdotal reports from our own customers:
Creating a Healthy Sleep Ritual
Fortunately, healthy behaviors can help restore the circadian rhythm to its natural cycles. Replacing late-night activity with a sleep ritual is one way to do that.
Three simple steps to creating a healthy sleep ritual:
- Avoid caffeine after 4pm.
- Instead of snacking at night, drink water or caffeine-free herbal teas.
- Take reishi mushroom extract and lion’s mane mushroom extract before bed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to take reishi and lion's mane extract?
Our convenient extracts can be taken by placing one dropper-full under the tongue. They can also be added to tea or your favorite beverage.
What is the recommended dosage?
The suggested dose for our extract is 1ml, or one dropper-full. For optimal results, we recommend taking two servings per day, in both morning and evening.
We recommend one dropper-full of reishi extract in the morning, and one dropper-full of reishi extract before bed.
Likewise, we recommend one dropper-full of lion's mane mushroom extract in the morning, and one dropper-full of lion's mane extract before bed.
Renew Your Spirits and Plant Trees
The stressors of the modern world take a toll on our bodies. If we feel fatigued, unmotivated, or detached, it’s easy to see why we might lose connection with the people and projects that matter to us. Luckily, our wild bodies know how to get the most out of superfoods like reishi mushroom extract and lion's mane mushroom extract.
Plus, with every purchase of Wild Kingdom extracts, you heal your connection with the earth by helping to reforest our planet. Every sale from our store donates to One Tree Planted, an organization that shares our mission for sustainability by planting trees worldwide.
The numbers in parenthesis are clickable links to the sources cited in this article.