Can lion’s mane mushrooms really help you fall asleep faster and improve your sleep quality?
Research seems to suggest that the answer is yes!
We took a deep dive into what science has to say about the benefits of lion’s mane for sleep. Impressive stuff.
What are Lion’s Mane Mushrooms?
Hericium erinaceus, otherwise known as lion’s mane, is a functional mushroom known for its mood-enhancing properties. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and is still a diet staple for health-conscious individuals.
This saprotroph feeds off dead tree debris and is commonly found in Asia, Europe, and North America.
The many health benefits of lion’s mane have piqued the interest of researchers in recent years, but there’s still a lot to learn about the effects of this medicinal mushroom on the mind and body.
Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane
Research on the health benefits of the lion’s mane mushroom indicates this fungus has the potential to promote nerve regeneration through the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) proteins and repair brain cells. It appears to ease the symptoms of dementia, alleviate brain fog, as well as improve overall brain function and neuronal health.
Some of the potential beneficial effects of lion’s mane include:
- reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Provides anti-inflammatory effects
- improves central nervous system functions by stimulating nerve growth factors
- has a protective effect on the brain and improves brain health
- reduces the risk of heart disease and blood clots
- promotes neurite outgrowth
- prevents memory loss and protects against mild cognitive impairment
- lowers blood sugars, which is quite beneficial to those with diabetes
- encourages apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, and has the potential to fight cancer
- improves gut health
- boosts the immune system and improves immune function
- has neuroprotective properties and reduces nerve damage in neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease
Bioactive Compounds Found in Lion’s Mane
Hericium erinaceus contains a plethora of bioactive compounds, such as:
- digestive enzymes
- prebiotic fibers
- hericenones and erinacines
While many of these compounds are only beginning to be understood by science, some are known to have profound effects. For example, hericenones, found in lion’s mane fruiting bodies, and erinacines, present in the mycelium of the fungus, have incredible neurotrophic potential.
What are the Common Causes of Sleep Disorders?
Some of the common causes of disordered sleep are:
- physical ailments, such as ulcers and chronic illnesses
- medications, including alpha and beta blockers, corticosteroids, and SSRI antidepressants
- psychiatric illnesses, such as depression and anxiety
- environmental factors, including stress, alcohol, and caffeine
- genetics (for example, narcolepsy is a genetic sleep disorder)
Most Common Sleep Disorders
The five most common sleep disorders include:
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD)
- Sleep Apnea
Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Out of the five major sleep disorders, four lead to varying levels of sleep deprivation, whether it’s caused by the inability to fall asleep or to get enough deep sleep during the night. Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to major issues in physical and mental health, such as:
- reduced attention span
- slowed thinking and memory issues
- lack of energy
- frequent mood changes
- weight loss
- heart palpitations
- increased risk of heart disease
- increased risk of chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes
Adaptogenic Mushrooms and the Circadian Rhythm
One of the many adaptogenic properties of medicinal mushrooms, including Hericium erinaceus, is their ability to stimulate circadian cortisol production and stabilize the circadian rhythm.
How does Cortisol Affect the Sleep Cycle?
According to a study published in PubMed Central, adaptogens help stabilize levels of cortisol, a hormone responsible for feeling awake and alert. This hormone peaks in the morning and decreases during the day, reaching a minimum value at night.
Low cortisol levels allow you to fall asleep easily at night. However, stress-related problems, poor diet, and a lack of exercise can cause your cortisol levels to increase later in the day, leading to poor sleep.
Adaptogenic Mushrooms and Cortisol
Adaptogenic mushrooms have brain-boosting properties, meaning they can cause an increase in early morning cortisol levels if taken regularly, which will have a beneficial effect on your productivity. Lion’s mane, for example, was proven to have an effect on memory and focus when taken early in the day.
Due to the early morning spike, cortisol levels will stabilize during the day and lower in time for sleep. Therefore, if taken in the morning, adaptogenic mushrooms such as lion’s mane can be a great way to restore your circadian rhythm and help you maintain a healthy sleeping schedule.
Can Lion’s Mane Make You Sleepy?
Although more studies on the effects of lion’s mane on sleep are needed, the currently available animal and human studies seem to suggest that this mushroom can do wonders for a good night’s sleep.
While lion’s mane does not make one sleepy, its stabilizing influence on cortisol levels can promote easier and more restful sleep at bedtime.
For example, according to a 2019 study, lion’s mane supplements improved sleep disorders in patients affected by overweight or obesity. After taking lion’s mane for 8 weeks, participants reported improved mood (lower levels of depression and anxiety), and improved sleep quality.
This study also examined circulating pro-BDNF and BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) as potential biomarkers responsible for this lion’s mane benefit. Lion’s mane has known neurogenetic potential, as it stimulates the production of nerve growth and brain-derived neurotrophic factors.
While levels of BDNF did not increase, levels of its precursor, pro-BDNF, did, meaning that this neurotrophic factor could be related to lion’s mane’s ability to improve sleep quality.
Lion’s Mane and Stress-Related Sleep Disorders
Lion’s mane mushroom supports sound sleep during periods of acute stress, according to a 2015 pilot study. This study looked at the effects of Hericium erinaceus on female undergraduate students during a stressful exam period.
Results show that lion’s mane was able to reduce anxiety levels in the female participants after 4 weeks of use, which led to an overall improvement in their subjective well-being. The participants also reported getting more restful sleep due to their stress levels being lower.
What We Can Conclusively Say About Lion’s Mane and Sleep Disorders
Here’s what we know to date about Hericium erinaceus and sleep disorders:
- Adaptogens, including Hericium erinaceus, were proven to improve the circadian rhythm by stabilizing levels of cortisol throughout the day.
- According to a human study, lion’s mane was able to improve REM sleep quality in overweight people after 8 weeks of use.
- The underlying mechanism of the effects of Hericium erinaceus on sleep could be related to its neurogenetic properties and ability to stimulate nerve growth factors.
- Lion’s mane may also alleviate sleep issues related to stress, according to a study done on female undergraduate students during exam season.
- More studies are needed to fully uncover the mechanisms of lion’s mane and its beneficial effects on sleep.
- Given that there are no downsides to taking lion’s mane, its low cost, and high availability, it may make sense to include this fungus into one’s diet as a way to improve sleep.
Interested in Taking Lion’s Mane for Sleep?
If you’re interested in trying lion’s mane for sleep, why not have it in your breakfast? Our Forij Superfood Granola contains an organic lion’s mane mushroom extract, as well as hyperconcentrated extracts of chaga and cordyceps mushrooms.
In addition to providing you with nutrients found in these adaptogenic mushrooms, our granola is vegan, gluten-free, and made of organic ingredients. It comes in three flavors, each equally delicious. If you can’t decide on a flavor, we also offer a bundle with all three options, so you can have some variety to start your mornings with.
Lion’s Mane and Sleep FAQ
What are the side effects of lion’s mane?
There is no research on the side effects of lion's mane extracts, but anecdotal evidence and centuries of use suggest that these medicinal mushrooms are completely safe to consume. Still, be cautious of possible lion’s mane drug interactions, as the mushroom may interact with antidiabetics and blood thinners.
Can you take lion’s mane before bed?
Adaptogenic mushroom extracts are brain boosters and may provide stimulant effects similar to caffeine. Therefore, you should avoid taking a lion’s mane mushroom supplement before bed, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine, as it may make you restless and unable to fall asleep. Instead, consider taking lion’s mane in the morning to reap its benefits during the workday.
Is lion’s mane a sedative?
No, lion’s mane is not a sedative. However, due to the anxiolytic benefit of lion’s mane, you may feel more calm and relaxed after taking this adaptogenic mushroom, but without the drowsiness that often comes with sedatives. Therefore, regular lion’s mane use may help improve your sleep quality, especially if you struggle to fall asleep due to anxiety.
Can you take lion’s mane and reishi mushrooms together?
Yes, you can take lion’s mane with any medicinal mushroom, including turkey tail, maitake, and reishi mushroom. When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, the whole is better than the sum of its parts, so you’ll likely reap more benefits of lion’s mane if you take it with other adaptogenic fungi.
How long does it take lion’s mane to work?
The effects of lion’s mane are cumulative, which means the more you use it, the more you’ll notice its benefits. You should experience some benefits of lion’s mane within the first two weeks of use. However, to get the full potential of this mushroom, you should be taking it consistently for about a month or even more.
Is lion’s mane addictive?
No, lion’s mane is not addictive, even at high doses. You can stop taking a lion’s mane extract whenever you choose to, and you won’t experience any side effects or withdrawal symptoms. The only negative effect you can expect is that the benefits of lion’s mane will diminish over time once you stop taking the medicinal mushroom.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).