Plant Extracts for Sleep Disturbances: A Systematic Review

S. Guadagna, D. F. Barattini, S. Rosu, L. Ferini-Strambi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background. Sleep complaints are common health issues in the general population. These conditions are associated with poorer physical and psychological activity, and they may have important social, economic, and personal consequences. In the last years, several food supplements with different plant extracts have been developed and are currently taken for improving sleep. Study Objectives. The aim of this study is to systematically review recent literature on oral plant extracts acting on sleep disorders distinguishing their action on the different symptoms of sleep complaints: difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep, waking up too early, and quality of sleep. Methods. We searched the PubMed database up to 05/03/2020 based on data from randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, noncontrolled trials, and cohort studies conducted in children and adult subjects. The search words used contained the following terms: oral food supplement and sleep disorders and the like. The most studied compounds were further analyzed with a second search using the following terms: name of the compound and sleep disorders. We selected 7 emerging compounds and 38 relevant reports. Results. Although nutraceutical natural products have been used for sleep empirically, there is a scarcity of evidence on the efficacy of each product in clinical studies. Valerian and lavender were the most frequently studied plant extracts, and their use has been associated (with conflicting results) with anxiolytic effects and improvements in quality and duration of sleep. Conclusions. Sleep aids based on plant extracts are generally safe and well tolerated by the population. More high-quality research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of food supplements containing plant extracts in sleep complaints; in particular, it would be interesting to evaluate the association between plant extracts and sleep hygiene guidelines and to identify the optimal products to be used in a specific symptom of sleep complaint, giving more appropriate tools to the medical doctor.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3792390
JournalEvidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine

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