If you haven’t watched the Fantastic Fungi documentary on Netflix yet – prepare to have your mind blown. It delves into the mysterious and medicinal world of fungi and their power to heal, sustain and contribute to the regeneration of life on Earth that began 3.5 billion years ago. Ever wondered how the human brain tripled in size in just two million years? According to the “Stoned Ape Theory”, which is explored in the film, a community of proto-humans might have consumed the magic mushrooms they found in the wild. That act could have profoundly changed their brains. “It was like a software to program this neurologically modern hardware,” explained Dennis McKenna in this clip from Fantastic Fungi. If you don’t fancy tripping on psilocybin but want to tap into some health benefits of mushrooms, did you know that taking medicinal mushrooms like lion’s mane before bed can help us get a better night’s sleep? We spoke to Hania Opienski, naturopath and mycotherapy expert for leading organic medicinal mushroom brand Hifas da Terra about why this is…
Almost 1 in 5 people in the UK struggle to fall asleep every night, which can be caused by many different factors and make us feel awful the next day. Whether it’s a racing mind, lack of ability to be able to fall asleep with ease, or waking too frequently in the night, certain medicinal mushrooms have been shown to improve our snooze.
Can adding medicinal mushrooms to our day help us get better quality sleep?
Yes, they can, says Hania Opienski, naturopath and mycotherapy expert for leading organic medicinal mushroom brand Hifas da Terra.
Although the humble chestnut mushroom we often see served in our dinner dishes won’t send you off into the land of nod, medicinal mushrooms such as reishi and lion’s mane have been used for thousands of years by natural practitioners as a beneficial remedy for sleep.
Studies have shown medicinal mushrooms have an important immunomodulatory action and also an adaptogenic effect, which means they help your nervous system adapt to stress. Reishi shines as the star mushroom for supporting the nervous system and sleep. It can create drowsiness (a “hypnotic” effect) and a sedative effect, reducing anxiety, creating calm and extending both sleep time and sleep quality.
Reishi is also a potent antioxidant, which is important because there is a correlation between anxiety and oxidative stress. Numerous studies have found that high oxidative stress can stimulate the stress response, increase agitation and that anxiety-related conditions are associated with this imbalance.
Reishi has also demonstrated its great potential as an antidepressant and anxiety reducer as it can promote better levels of serotonin and have an adaptogenic effect on chemical messengers that both modulate immunity and the central nervous system, particularly the stress response (HPA axis and cortisol levels).
The key active compounds in reishi that can support the snooze are triterpenoids, all of which have anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing and sedative effects.
Reishi has been shown to help speed up how quickly people fall asleep. Increase the duration of the non-REM light sleep phase without influencing the REM phase by stimulating the body’s benzodiazepine receptors, which are involved in modulating neurotransmitters that inhibit stimulating impulses reaching the central nervous system.
How does taking Lion’s Mane before bed affect sleep?
Lion’s Mane helps improve sleep quality without making you drowsy. It is a safe nootropic that works to support sleep by calming the nervous system, reducing anxiety and boosting mood.
In digestive disorders, there is often a link with low mood or stress making symptoms worse, such as IBS, which usually goes hand-in-hand with a dysregulation of the gut microbiota or intestinal flora. Compounds in Lion’s Mane can help restore the balance of intestinal microbes, which as we know are linked to brain function, health and mood by the gut-brain axis.
Hericenones are an interesting bioactive substance found in Lion’s Mane. These compounds are unique in their capability to promote the formation of neurons (neurogenesis), a process directly related to their antidepressant and anxiety-reducing effects. Scientific studies on hericenones show that they are neurotrophic and encourage the production of NGF (nerve growth factor), which helps the brain make more neurons for better memory and focus, and BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which supports cognition, mood, stress resistance and sleep, as well as helping control anxiety.
If you’re looking to improve your sleep, it’s worth considering taking Lion’s Mane before bed.
Who are these mushrooms good for?
People who are stressed, those with anxiety, low mood, the overthinkers and perfectionist, the worriers, people who are training a lot, shift workers, busy parents, hyperactive or sensitive kids, … basically anyone without a mushroom allergy can benefit, whether it’s reducing your brain fog in the morning, helping maintain calm and clarity during the day, or helping you switch off at night.
Mushrooms are not just good for adults who need help with sleep, kids can safely take mushrooms too, they just need products dosed to their body weight (liquid forms are ideal). These same mushrooms can help not just with calming down and improving sleep, but also improving focus, concentration, memory, mood and even neurological development.
How do you take them and how often?
The wonderful thing about mushrooms is, as a functional food, they can be consumed on a daily basis for ongoing benefits with no risk of overdoing it or needing to keep consuming more and more to maintain the desired results. You can use them to manage stress, balance your nervous system, and keep your gut happy to avoid sleep issues.
Mushrooms have “dose-dependent” effects, i.e. if you’re healthy, a little goes a long way to maintain your level of wellness. However, if you’re stressed, run-down or have health complaints you’ll likely need a higher amount or more concentrated (extract) product to get the best benefits.
Lion’s mane and reishi often come as loose powders as well as capsules or concentrated extracts. If you want to maintain your mellow, then you can take lion’s mane or reishi on a daily basis to soothe your nerves and support a calm mind for easier sleep.
However, reishi can even have a noticeable calming or soporific effect if you take a couple of tablespoons of powder in a hot drink before bedtime, like warm cocoa or milk (vegan or otherwise). It tastes great with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash of honey or date syrup.
Lion’s mane helps balance your gut-brain connection and can support good sleep by harmonising your gut and promoting the production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters. As it doesn’t make you sleepy you can have it anytime during the day to calm the nervous system. This can be mixed into a “mushroom latte”, added to soups or broth, or even a smoothie. Take daily for consistent effects.
If you already experience sleep issues, taking lion’s mane before bed can help. For best effects mushrooms need to be taken daily. You can add them to your daily routine at a higher dose as a powder capsule or concentrated extract to help bring your body back into harmony. When you are taking mushrooms to help with an issue, taking a regular dose each day for a couple of months at least is recommended.
How can you get these shrooms?
They can be purchased in capsules or powder form. Be sure to look for high-quality brands that use the best ingredients. It’s important to only consume organic mushrooms. Also, mushrooms are chelators so they will absorb toxins and heavy metals from their environment. Choose 100% fruiting body or 100% mycelium extracts as opposed to full-spectrum biomass as the latter has a much lower concentration of actual mushroom and is likely to be made up of a large percentage of the grain that the mushrooms were grown on (look out for gluten-free guarantee). Other certifications that indicate a quality supplement include organic, GMP (made to pharmaceutical standards), vegan, and halal are good to look for. For all these quality standards and more, try Hifas da Terra mushrooms available from Harrods, Selfridges, Organic Wholefoods and online at www.hifasdaterra.co.uk.
Liked this article on Can Taking Lion’s Mane Before Bed Give You A Better Night’s Sleep? Read more about medicinal mushrooms here.
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Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.