Read Time: 9 minutes
Have you ever sacrificed a few hours of sleep to get ahead, then watched your productivity crash the next day?
Maybe you were “in the zone” that night or chasing a deadline.
But, the next day, you felt a little fuzzy around the edges. Edgy. Frustrated. Slow to get a joke. Despite the extra cup of coffee, you couldn’t stop the brain fog from creeping in.
That's because you need sleep! Sleep helps the brain maintain the neurological pathways necessary for memory, learning, and quick thinking.
Fortunately, we can eat smart to sleep smart. Lion’s mane mushrooms and other neuroprotective foods can support brain health while we sleep.
Read on to learn about the top five ways lion's mane supports healthy sleep. You’ll even find tips for taking lion’s mane before bed to support daytime cognition!
Sleep Starts in the Brain
The brain regulates sleep and sleepiness. Several brain regions work together to track your time spent awake, to initiate sleepiness, and to guide the detoxification that happens during sleep.
Really quickly, we’ll go over three of those regions: the hypothalamus, the pineal gland, and the amygdala, which is active during REM sleep.
The hypothalamus is the “control center.” When it begins getting dark, the hypothalamus sends signals to the pineal gland to increase production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps you feel sleepy and fall asleep. After your natural melatonin guides you to sleep, you go through stages of light, deep, and REM sleep.
The amygdala is a region of the brain involved in processing emotions. It becomes very active during REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep). It’s likely that memories and emotional memories are consolidated during REM sleep (1).
If you aren’t spending enough time in each stage of sleep (light, deep, and REM), the brain isn’t able to process what you’ve experienced during the daytime. This is why each stage of the sleep cycle is important for memory and cognition.
Why Take Lion’s Mane Before Bed?
Can taking lion's mane before bed really help with sleep and memory? According to traditional folk medicines and emerging scientific research, yes!
Here are the five brain benefits of taking lion's mane extract before bed:
- Lion’s Mane Supports Brain Health
- Lion’s Mane Supports Cortisol Cycles
- Lion’s Mane Supports the Circadian Rhythm
- Lion’s Mane Supports REM Sleep
- Lion’s Mane Supports Chronic Pain Relief
Is your brain feeing tickled? We'll go into each of these potential health benefits in more detail. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Lion’s Mane Supports Brain Health
Lion’s mane’s scientific name is Hericium erinaceus. In the 1990’s, scientists discovered two compounds in the mushroom, which they named “hericenones” and “erinacines.” While it may not have been very creative to name the compounds after the mushroom’s scientific name, it’s clear that hericenones and erinacines are unique to lion’s mane mushrooms!
Scientists studying the health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms usually focus on hericenones and erinacines. Studies have shown they are “bioactive,” which means they interact with the human body.
Studies have shown that lion’s mane mushroom extracts improve mild cognitive impairments in humans and other mammals, and it is being studied as a nutritional intervention for Alzheimer's disease and dementia (2, 3, 4, 5).
Nerve growth factors (NGF) are proteins that the body uses to grow neurons and create neuronal connections. NGF helps maintain healthy nerve cells in the central, sensory, and automatic nervous systems (6, 7).
The erinacines in lion’s mane extract can even cross the blood brain barrier. Neurons can absorb lion’s mane’s erinacines directly from the bloodstream, so it’s likely that they improve cognition by acting directly on the central nervous system (8).
2. Lion’s Mane Supports Cortisol Cycles
The circadian rhythm regulates daily cycles of sleeping and waking. Lion’s mane research suggests extracts support healthy circadian cycles in two ways:
- Supporting healthy adrenal function.
- Supporting healthy brain function.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are “adaptogens,” which means they improve the body’s ability to adapt to stress (9). Lion’s mane’s adaptogenic properties are likely due to the way it promotes brain and nerve health.
Adaptogens support sleep by helping the adrenal gland close. You might be familiar with the adrenal gland’s function in responding to stressful events by releasing cortisol and other stress hormones. Did you know there is also a “circadian cortisol” cycle?
The circadian cortisol cycle helps regulate daily sleeping and waking.
A healthy circadian cortisol cycle generates cortisol in the morning. This helps the body transition from sleeping to waking, and contributes to feelings of alertness early in the day. By afternoon, the amount of cortisol circulating should be much lower, and reach its lowest point at night.
However, stress can cause the adrenal gland to release cortisol all afternoon and even into the evening. When this happens, the body is alert in the evening, making sleep difficult (9).
Adaptogens like lion’s mane help the adrenal gland close. With the adrenal closed, circulating cortisol can wane, and the body has a chance to prepare for sleep.
3. Lion’s Mane Supports Circadian Rhythm
The NGFs stimulated by lion’s mane support the circadian rhythm’s cycles of sleepiness and wakefulness.
A 2015 study showed lion’s mane extract helping to reduce stress and insomnia among university students who were accustomed to staying up late studying and socializing.
After the students took lion’s mane before bed for one month, researchers measured fewer symptoms of insomnia and significant declines in fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and depression (10).
4. Lion’s Mane Supports REM Sleep
Lion’s mane also promotes deep REM sleep, the sleep cycle necessary for integrating memories. As far as we know, there haven’t yet been any studies directly measuring the relationship between whole lion’s mane mushrooms and REM sleep. But there has been research showing that NGF plays a role in initiating REM sleep! (11).
Since we know taking lion‘s mane before bed promotes NGFs, and NGFs promote REM sleep, it’s reasonable to think lion’s mane extracts may support REM sleep.
A number of biohackers and medicinal mushroom lovers have done their own informal “experiments.” By tracking her REM sleep with Oura Ring data, sleep consultant Katie Moore discovered that taking lion’s mane mushroom extract before bed elevated her REM above her pre-lion’s-mane average. She even had her highest-ever REM measurement after taking lion’s mane before bed.
5. Lion’s Mane Supports Pain Relief
Taking lion’s mane before bed may support sleep for chronic pain sufferers by relieving pain symptoms both in the short term, and over time.
Lion’s mane extracts support pain relief in two ways:
- Lion’s mane extract blocks certain pain signals (12).
- Lion’s mane promotes NGFs, which help stimulate nerve regeneration.
Obviously, pain can disrupt sleep.
And, unfortunately, people dealing with ongoing pain often experience worsening sleep over time.
Chronic pain can create a pain-sensation cycle that outlasts the original source of pain. This is due to neurology. When a part of the body sends the same pain signal to the brain over and over again, the nervous system may stop relaying real-time signals. Instead, it assumes that the pain is always present. This can cause the brain to experience pain sensations even when the original source isn’t flaring up.
In some cases, the nervous system doesn’t “catch on” when a chronic injury heals. It may continue causing pain sensations after the original source of pain is treated.
NGFs support the growth of new nerve branches and connections, potentially supporting pain relief at a cellular level.
Note that lion’s mane is not a pain killer or a medication. It won’t dull pain immediately after each dose, the way narcotic pain medications can. Instead, lion’s mane is a non-addictive, nutritional source of support. Taking a dose of lion’s mane extract before bed each night has the potential to support long-term relief and recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I take lion’s mane before bed or in the morning?
We advise our clients with sleep concerns to take lion’s mane extract before bed each evening.
For clients focused on daytime focus and cognitive performance, we sometimes recommend taking lion’s mane first thing in the morning.
For those seeking overall support for sleep and cognitive performance, lion’s mane extract can be taken twice each day, both in the morning and before bed.
What is the best way to take 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.
How does lion’s mane make you feel?
Lion’s mane is a nootropic. That means it supports cognitive performance and focus. Some people report sensations of alertness or mental clarity.
Lion’s mane’s adaptogen activity also supports relaxation. It has been shown to alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression over time. (In this study, participants reported reduced symptoms within four weeks of use).
Does lion’s mane help with brain fog?
Lion's mane supports cognition and brain health. Some users experience reduction in brain fog, as well as increased feelings of clarity, with daily use.
Wild Kingdom founder and in-house health coach Neil frequently recommends lion’s mane for brain fog. He uses lion’s mane to prevent the brain fog that used to be a daily symptom of his neurological lyme disease.
Is lion’s mane stimulating?
Lion’s mane mushroom is a nootropic, and supports cognitive performance and focus. Some people may experience their enhanced focus as contributing to feelings of clarity or alertness.
However, lion’s mane does not have the stimulant effects caused by some other nootropics, like caffeine.
Lion’s mane is not a stimulant, not a narcotic, and not a hallucinogenic.
How long does lion’s mane take to work?
Some people notice the benefits of lion’s mane extract the first day they use it. Others notice benefits emerging gradually, over several weeks of use.
We advise our clients to use mushroom extracts daily for one month before expecting optimal results.
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 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.