Life Extension Magazine®

Couple takes ashwagandha for a restful sleep

Improve Sleep Efficiency and Duration

Clinical studies show that two plant extracts promote restful sleep. One improved sleep efficiency by 74% while the other enhanced restorative sleep by 72%.

By Michael Downey.

Nearly a third of U.S. adults get less sleep than they should.1

Those who rely on medications confront tolerance whereby even higher doses fail to enable restorative sleep.

In an effort to improve sleep without drugs, researchers conducted randomized clinical trials on plant-derived extracts used in traditional medicine.

One of these extracts improved sleep efficiency by 74%,2 while another enhanced restorative sleep measures by 72%.3

This article describes findings from placebo-controlled studies in sleep-challenged humans.

Sleep Deprivation and Human Longevity

Experts recommend that adults get seven or more hours of sleep each night.1,4

Yet around 40% of elderly adults suffer from some form of sleep problem.5

For every one-hour reduction in sleep per night, there's about a 6% increase in risk of death from any cause.6

Effects of Plant Extracts

Two extracts have been individually tested in randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials, to promote deep, restorative sleep.

1) Black cumin is an herb long used in Indian and Arab traditional medicine. Its health properties come from the seed oil, which contains the active compound thymoquinone.7

Scientists developed a black cumin seed extract standardized to 5% thymoquinone, higher than other cumin extracts.

In a small pilot study of healthy subjects with sleep disturbances, it improved sleep quality and duration, and relieved stress and anxiety.7 This result was confirmed in a larger trial in healthy people with self-reported unsatisfactory sleep (discussed later).2

2) Ashwagandha is an herb used for thousands of years in traditional Indian medicine that has been shown to have anxiety-reducing effects.8-10 Its roots and leaves contain active compounds called withanolide glycosides.9

One clinical trial showed that an extract standardized to 35% withanolide glycosides lowered the stress hormone cortisol, which can help promote sleep.11

Clinical Trials with Black Cumin

A study published in 2023 enlisted healthy volunteers who reported non-refreshing sleep. This included waking multiple times nightly or being unable to achieve sound sleep.

Participants were given a placebo or 200 mg of black cumin extract nightly, 20-30 minutes before bedtime. All subjects refrained from caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.2

Beneficial effects were reported by 62% of the black cumin group after a single dose. This rose to an astonishing 88% on day 90.

After 90 days, compared to placebo, the black cumin users were evaluated using a validated self-reported sleep questionnaire. They reported not only better, longer sleep but also improved functioning during the day. Researchers reported improvements of sleep parameters:2

  • 74% in sleep efficiency (time asleep out of total time in bed),
  • 56% in sleep latency (time needed to fall asleep after going to bed),
  • 49% in sleep quality,
  • 45% in daytime function,
  • 22% in sleep disturbance, and
  • 20% in sleep duration.

Unlike those using prescription sleep meds, these people performed better the next day without drowsiness.

In a second trial, subjects with non-refreshing sleep took a placebo or 200 mg of black cumin extract nightly, 10-30 minutes before bedtime.12

All participants wore an actigraphy wristwatch sensor that monitors rest/activity, a validated objective evaluation of sleep quality and duration.

After just seven days, extract users had meaningfully improved their sleep duration, efficiency, and time to fall asleep, as evaluated by the objective actigraphy sensor. Compared to the placebo, researchers reported improvements of sleep parameters:12

  • 69% in restorative sleep,
  • 35% in sleep latency, (amount of time to fall asleep),
  • 23% in time spent awake after sleep onset, (wakefulness time after defined sleep onset),
  • 19% in total sleep time, (from an average 6.4 hours to >7-hour sleep, as recommended by the CDC), and
  • 8% in sleep efficiency (time asleep out of total time in bed).

Compared to the baseline there was 75% improvement in restorative sleep in the group that received the extract. This specific black cumin seed extract, standardized to 5% thymoquinone, safely promotes deeper, more healthful sleep.

What You Need to Know

Get Deep, Stress-Free Sleep

  • Over a third of Americans get insufficient or poor-quality sleep. This increases the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, dementia, and some cancers, and of all-cause mortality.
  • Clinical studies show that two plant extracts safely promote high-quality sleep and reduce stress and anxiety, without compromising daytime functioning.
  • A black cumin seed extract improved sleep efficiency by 74% and reduced the time needed to fall asleep by 56%.
  • An ashwagandha extract improved restorative sleep by 72%, reduced stress by 62%, and lowered levels of cortisol (the "stress hormone") by 67%.
  • Together, these extracts offer a melatonin-free choice for those seeking stress relief and a deeper, more restorative sleep.

Clinical Trials with standardized Ashwagandha

To test an ashwagandha extract standardized to 35% withanolide glycosides, scientists enlisted 150 volunteers suffering from non-restorative sleep. Half the subjects took a placebo and half took 120 mg of ashwagandha each night for six weeks.3

All participants wore an actigraphy wristwatch that monitors rest/activity and evaluates sleep duration, efficiency, and latency.

Those taking ashwagandha had improvements of:3

  • 72% in restorative sleep,
  • 27% in sleep latency,
  • 15% in time spent awake after sleep onset,
  • 5% in total sleep time, and
  • 5% in sleep efficiency.

A second clinical study enlisted volunteers with moderate anxiety and elevated cortisol, which can lead to sleep issues. Participants were randomized to receive either ashwagandha 60 mg or 120 mg, or a placebo. They were evaluated at baseline and after 15, 30, 45 and 60 days.13

After 60 days, those taking 120 mg of ashwagandha had:13

  • 67% reduced cortisol levels,
  • 59% reduced anxiety, and
  • 62% reduced stress.

Standardized to 35% withanolide glycosides, this novel ashwagandha extract safely lowered anxiety and promoted more restful sleep.

Black cumin and ashwagandha extracts have been shown to improve parameters of restorative sleep.


Many Americans turn to medications to cope with poor sleep, but they come with side effects.

Two plant extracts have been shown to improve sleep onset, efficiency, and total sleep time, and reduce anxiety without compromising daytime function.

In clinical studies, a black cumin seed extract improved sleep efficiency by 74% and perceived stress by 44% – leading to improved daytime functioning.

An ashwagandha extract improved restorative sleep by 72% and lowered stress by 62%.

These plant extracts provide an opportunity for more Americans to achieve healthy restorative sleep.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


  1. Available at: . Accessed July 28, 2023.
  2. Mohan ME, Thomas JV, Mohan MC, et al. A proprietary black cumin oil extract (Nigella sativa) (BlaQmax((R))) modulates stress-sleep-immunity axis safely: Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Front Nutr. 2023;10:1152680.
  3. Deshpande A, Irani N, Balkrishnan R, et al. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep quality in healthy adults. Sleep Med. 2020Aug;72:28-36.
  4. Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, et al. Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep.2015Jun 1;38(6):843-4.
  5. 5. Zhang F, Zhong R, Li S, et al. The missing link between sleep disorders and age-related dementia: recent evidence and plausible mechanisms. J Neural Transm (Vienna).2017May;124(5):559-68.
  6. Yin J, Jin X, Shan Z, et al. Relationship of Sleep Duration With All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017Sep 9;6(9).
  7. Das S S, R K, George S, et al. Thymoquinone-rich black cumin oil improves sleep quality, alleviates anxiety/stress on healthy subjects with sleep disturbances– A pilot polysomnography study. Journal of Herbal Medicine. 202208/01;32:100507.
  8. Dar NJ, MuzamilAhmad. Neurodegenerative diseases and Withania somnifera (L.): An update. J Ethnopharmacol.2020Jun 28;256:112769.
  9. Zahiruddin S, Basist P, Parveen A, et al. Ashwagandha in brain disorders: A review of recent developments. J Ethnopharmacol.2020Jul 15;257:112876.
  10. Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, et al. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-13.
  11. Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, et al. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore).2019Sep;98(37):e17186.
  12. Mohan ME MM, Prabhakaran P, Das SS, Krishnakumar IM, Pulikkaparambil Sasidharan BC. Responsiveness of a proprietary formulation of thymoquinone-1 rich black cumin extract (BlaQmax®) in healthy subjects with 2 nonrestorative sleep pattern: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study. Data on File. 2022.
  13. Report I. Shoden promotes relief from stress and anxiety: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on healthy subjects. Data on file. 2023.