Best Medicinal Mushrooms for Sleep, According To A Nutritionist

Daniel Maman November 9, 2021

Based on exciting new research, medicinal mushrooms–like reishi and Lion’s Mane–can provide that much needed solid night’s sleep.

And that’s what we’re going to go into in this article: to see which mushroom (if any) could help you finally get a decent night’s shut eye.

As a personal trainer and health coach (and glorified fitness nerd when it comes to research), I have delved into the world of medicinal mushrooms – and specifically in regards to how they can help improve sleep quality.

In this particular article, you will learn about::

-Reishi, or Ganoderma lucidum, and the benefits of this mushroom on sleep

-Cordyceps, typically called Cordyceps sinensis or Cordyceps militaris, and their impact on insomnia

-Lion’s Mane, also known as yamabushitake, and its positive effects on delayed sleep phase syndrome

So let’s dive in…


Reishi mushrooms and Sleep

Reishi mushrooms, known as Ganoderma lucidum, have been used as a treatment for insomnia in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. 

Only recently, however, has modern science started to explore the science behind reishi and its impact on sleep.

And the research is promising…

But there is a caveat–there simply haven’t been enough scientific trials on the reishi mushroom to be 100% conclusive.

In my honest opinion though–the research is more than compelling enough to try reishi if you are having trouble sleeping.

What does the research say about reishi mushrooms and sleep?

The studies that have been completed have shown amazing results in regards to boosting the overall quality of sleep. One study has shown that Reishi (also known as Ganoderma lucidum) helps with insomnia due to its sedative quality–the researchers are just unsure as to why this is the case (4).

Anti-Insomnia (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi mushroom’s claim to fame is its positive impact on our immune systems, which unlike the research on sleep, is fairly conclusive.

And research published in the European Journal Of Physiology has shown a clear relationship between the positive responses of the immune system and high-quality sleep. (5)

So we can deduce that reishi’s positive impact on the immune system can help with sleep quality.

Another study, published in The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, noted that reishi has the ability to increase the length of sleep in rats, by way of interacting with cytokines within the body. (12)

So what exactly are cytokines?

In short, cytokines are a certain type of protein that are released by the immune system in order to decrease inflammation and help promote the onset of sleep, and can be negatively affected if we are lacking in sleep.

But again… really promising research, but we need to conduct comprehensive studies on humans because, well, you know, we’re humans (and not rats).

One more point of research I think is interesting to touch on has been conducted on the antioxidant properties of reishi–particularly how it helps reduce overall fatigue and oxidative stress within the body – which in turn, is necessary for quality sleep and recovery as well. (6)

To sum it up, based on the research, while reishi mushrooms should not be the primary intervention, the research looks promising for it to be a fantastic secondary form of sleep enhancement.

In other words, make sure to prioritize a proper sleep schedule where you wake up and go to bed at the same time every night, engage in activities to reduce your stress, increase your levels of physical activity, and make sure to avoid stimulants before bed. Then, in addition to these things, add a great reishi mushroom supplement.

If you’re looking for a quality reishi mushroom supplement, I personally take this one from Real Mushrooms.


Cordyceps for Insomnia

Cordyceps, or Cordyceps militaris, is an interesting type of fungus that is usually found growing on the larvae of spiders and even caterpillars (this type is known as Cordyceps sinensis), giving it an odd shape when it’s fully grown.

The active compound within cordyceps, known as cordycepin, has been clinically researched–and the research is fantastic!

Cordyceps are both an anti-inflammatory as well as an antioxidant, both of which are helpful in obtaining a restful night of sleep.

With properties ranging from antibacterial and anti-inflammatory to antifungal and even being an immunomodulator (meaning that it can have an influence on the immune system), true cordyceps can be hard to come by – and that’s because they are one of the world’s most expensive mushrooms.

The Cordyceps sinensis is very rare, and can reach upwards of $35,000 for a pound in other countries such as China; because of that reason, the Cordyceps militaris is more often used – and is certainly more easily to obtain!

But not to fret–Cordyceps militaris is also an excellent mushroom.

Interestingly enough, the cordycepin compound within the Cordyceps militaris mushroom itself has been studied in rats, to observe whether or not it helps with natural sleep cycles.

In one particular study, rats consumed Cordyceps militaris; after recording the rats’ sleep quality for four hours, it was noted that the amount of sleep and wake cycles decreased, while non-rapid eye movement also decreased. In other words, their quality of sleep was greatly improved (10)

So what’s the hypothesis for why cordyceps helps with sleep quality?

Cordycepin, the compound in cordyceps mushrooms, affects adenosine regulators that are important for sleep quality.

This whole process works through the cordycepin compound targeting the adenosine regulators within the central nervous system, which play a role in controlling the sleep and wake cycles within the body and brain. (10) The process of how adenosine works within the central nervous system is deep, but it is essentially a neurotransmitter that aids in sleep regulation. (11)

Despite the positive studies, there is some contradictory research as well.

An important factor to note with cordyceps, especially with sleep, is that they have been recorded to boost stamina – perfect for athletes, but not for those trying to get some shut eye! More research is needed within this realm, but the increase in energy within some people after consuming this medicinal mushroom could affect sleep in a negative way. (12)

So… is cordyceps effective for aiding in sleep? Some studies say yes, others not so much. If it was me, I would test it for myself to see what works for me, as some people do see their sleep quality improve after taking cordyceps.


Lion’s Mane and Sleep

Lion’s Mane looks exactly like what you might think it does – a lion’s mane!

This mushroom, also known as yamabushitake, has both medicinal benefits as well as being a culinary delight.

A large portion of mushroom lovers enjoy the mental boost and focus that Lion’s Mane offers, as well as its ability to decrease the negative symptoms associated with depression and anxiety – unfortunately, something that 1/3 of people around the world deal with on a daily basis. (7)

While several different factors could cause anxiety and depression, inflammation is certainly one to take into consideration…and one that could be mitigated by Lion’s Mane, while subsequently improving sleep quality. Depression can lead to an increase in proinflammatory cytokines within the body, and the anti-inflammatory properties of this mushroom may be able to help mitigate that inflammatory process. (8)

Another interesting study in regards to consumption of Lion’s Mane mushroom in regards to sleep is the ability of it to potentially positively affect the circadian rhythm (essentially, the 24-hour cycle of light and dark, helping you prepare for sleep at night and then awakening in the morning).

Research has shown the ability of this mushroom to proactively treat issues related to delayed sleep phase syndrome, which causes issues with the internal clock – letting us know when it’s time to rest at night, and when it’s time to wake up in the morning. (9)

More research needs to be done, but this is wonderful news for those who are affected by delayed sleep phase syndrome, especially if the cause is due to one’s occupation.

Bottom Line

When it comes to medicinal mushrooms, not a large amount of research has been done – especially in regards to sleep. However, the research that has been done is proving to be promising, and even more so for those suffering from sleep disturbances.

But I can’t stress this next part enough: when it comes to a good night’s sleep the most important factors that go into decent sleep habits and quality are diet, exercise, your room’s temperature, lighting, anxiety, workload and timing–and even any recent travel or change in schedule.

Mushrooms are just one piece of the sleep puzzle; once you can nail down a healthy nightly routine, some of the best medicinal mushrooms can be the icing on the cake to help you get your Zzz’s!

Then and only then, do I suggest giving the mushrooms on this list a try. Not only is the research promising for medicinal mushrooms’ positive impact on sleep, they have a ton of other health benefits, like boosting your immune system.

I take a mushroom blend every morning and recommend it for everyone (including you) to do the same. If you are interested in learning more about mushrooms, I highly recommend reading our article on the best 7 types of mushrooms.

Daniel Maman

Daniel Maman's two biggest passions in life are health and fitness. He is a certified personal trainer, has a degree in exercise science, and spends his free time keeping up to date with the latest research. In his free time, you can find him playing basketball, bouldering, and spoiling his dog, Luna.

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