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Science Says: Saffron May Be a Natural Sleep Remedy

Plus five recipes that might help you get a better night's sleep.

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Getting good sleep is a complex and necessary process, and for some of us, totally elusive. 

We probably don’t need to tell you how important sleep is for your training, immune function, sanity, and just your daily life. And yet, a lot of people struggle to do it well. The Sleep Foundation estimates that anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of adults struggle with insomnia. 

According to this article from the Cleveland Clinic, insomnia can be caused by a number of things, like stress, physical or mental illness, living or sleeping arrangements, family history, shift work, or your diet and exercise habits.

That leads some people to sleeping pills to get them through the night or copious amounts of caffeine to get them through the day. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Sleep for Runners

But a new study published in the journal Nutrients may have found a more natural remedy to help people zonk out. The randomized double-blind controlled study looked at how the spice saffron, when used in a supplement, could help people sleep better. The study subjects all had a mild to moderate sleep disorder related to anxiety. After six weeks of nightly supplements, the saffron group showed improvements in several parameters of sleep quality including time spent in bed, ease of getting to sleep, overall sleep quality, sleep latency, and sleep duration. 

The recent study builds upon past research into saffron and sleep. This study, published last summer, also found that saffron extract improved sleep quality after 28 days in people with self-reported sleep problems. Another paper, published in 2017, found that a week of saffron supplements improved sleep quality in people with diabetes, a cohort that often report having impaired sleep. 

Though each study was relatively small (with 50–70 people per research group), the results are still encouraging. For saffron to become a recognized sleep supplement, the exact dosage will need to be dialed-in in future, larger studies. But for now, the spice is safe to use in food and a staple in several types of cuisine.

Five Ways to Cook with Saffron

Want to see if saffron can do the trick for you? Give one of these recipes a try for dinner.

Shrimp and Vegetable Paella with Saffron

Slow-cooker shrimp paella recipe

Yellow Bell Pepper and Potato Soup with Saffron (Vegan)

Photo: Courtesy Clean Eating

Lemony Minted Asparagus with Saffron Rice (Vegan)

Photo: Courtesy Vegetarian Times

Sole Dumplings in Tomato Saffron Broth (Gluten-Free)

Photo: Courtesy Clean Eating

Israeli Couscous with Saffron, Olives, and Spring Vegetables and Saffron (Vegan)

Photo: Courtesy Vegetarian Times

RELATED: Try These Simple All-Day Habits For A Better Night’s Sleep Tonight