Hops may have a mild sedative effect but alone are unlikely to have a significant impact on sleep patterns.
Hops are the seed cones, or strobiles, of the hop plant, which has its roots in Europe and western Asia. Although it’s celebrity stems from the bitter-notes it adds to your favorite beer, it also has appreciable sedative properties with such potential uses in sleep as:
- Relaxing the body. Extracts of the hop plant may play a hand in subduing anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and nervousness.
- Reducing insomnia. Hops demonstrate modest potential in challenging insomnia and other sleep disorders.
The hop plant, or humulus lupulus, as botanists refer to it, is a bine (not a vine) plant that eagerly ascends up every Spring and returns to the ground as a root in the Fall. It’s name stems from its ability to aggressively climb from its shoots (hoppan means to climb in Anglo-Saxxon), which are cone-like, fruiting flowers simply known as hops.
Prized for their bitter, citric, or zesty flavor, hops have been used for ages in beer cultivation as a stabilizing agent.1 They have been used for a broad range of other health purposes as well: to prevent hair loss, to combat anorexia, as a digestive and diuretic, as an anaphrodisiac, and even to manage gynecological complications in a warm hop bath. Its essential oils are also commonly used in perfumes, cereals, beverages, and tobacco.
Native American tales tell of hop pickers tiring easily, which may have served as a source of inspiration for its principal use in folk medicine as a natural sedative and analgesic. Hops in the form of tea has also been recommended by herbalists as a kind of tonic for insomnia.
Ever since a collection of expert European panels, including ESCOP (the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy), the British Herbal Compendium, and the German Comission E, have authorized the use of hops to treat mood and sleep disturbances, various hops preparations have been popping up for relaxation, sedation, and minimizing tension and excitability.2
How Hops May Help With Sleep
Hops is considered an anxiolytic primarily for its calming effect.3 The combination of its competence in promoting relaxation and its general safety for consumption make it appealing for use in managing anxiety. Its sedative effects seem to be particularly potent when combined with the valerian herb.
Hops have been shown to carry mild sedation-inducing characteristics, although the mechanism behind the process is still unclear. Extracts of the seed cone have been used to limit restlessness coming from digestional, cerebral, and pulmonary complications. It has comparably been used to ease stress and excess tension. The potential usefulness of hops in that regard is modest at best and should be taken carefully since it has also, although rarely, been known to exacerbate related issues.4
Despite its very limited ability to directly trigger sleep, hops are frequently offered in cases of insomnia for its capacity to sedate and therefore calm its users. One study conducted in Germany determined that hops alone didn’t have much of a sleep-promoting effect, although it did prompt some mild sedation and drowsiness.5
Hops Benefits & Uses for Sleep
The sedative quality of hops sparked its potential as a sleep aid and overall relaxant many years ago. Its actual proficiency to cause the body to fall asleep, however, is debatable and seemingly not sufficient to ward away insomnia on its own. It looks like hops may best serve as a supplement to calming fidgety or tense individuals.
Many medical practices have recently turned to integrating small doses of hops extract with valerian supplements as a much more effective – and still very safe – means to challenge insomnia.6 Combining mild sedatives, like lemon balm and hops, with functioning sleep aids appears to be a growing trend to overcome all sorts of sleeping disorders.7
Beer hops. Since as far back as the 11th century, beer brewers have been utilizing hops to enhance the flavor and storage time of their product. Hops were so highly regarded in Germany that they even passed a beer purity law, Reinheitsgebot, proclaiming beer had to be made of hops, malt, and water.
Scientific studies have identified the abundance of polyphenolic compounds (antioxidants) in hops as the cause for its stabilizing properties and distinctive aroma.8 According to reviews, beer could be made healthier by enriching it with certain health-promoting polyphenols and bioflavonoids, such as the hop ingredients xanthohumol and isoxanthohumol, for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.9
According to one university-based study, the hops present in beer seems to have a beneficial role in sleep as well. Stressed and sleep-deprived students who took one (non-alcoholic) beer with dinner improved overall subjective sleep quality and latency.10 Hops appears to enhance sleep by raising gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, the activation of which is known to favor sleep.
Farther, using hops with alcohol may potentially intensify its sedative effects.11
Research indicates that hops may benefit sleep by:
- Increasing sleep time. Hops extracts facilitated sedation in animals by increasing sleep time, reducing body temperature, and decreasing locomotor activity.12
- Promoting relaxation. Hops extracts reduced muscle and intestinal stimulation by lowering acetylcholine levels in rats.13
- Enhancing sleep. CO2 hops extracts exerted a sleep-enhancing property without affecting the motor behavior of rats.14
- Decreasing noctural activity. Hops at 2 mg decreased the nocturnal activity of quails, which aided nighttime sleep.15
Studies collectively indicate that hops may have sedative effects but come to different conclusions concerning its affect on sleep. Some studies claim that hops alone may improve sleep quality and latency, but others suggest the improvement is not signficant when compared to placebos. Hops does, however, seem to positively impact sleep when given in conjunction with valerian in nearly every scenario.
In this investigation, 17 female nurses on rotating or night shifts were given hops in the form of 330 mL of non-alcoholic beer with dinner over the course of two weeks. Based on overnight sleep actinography, sleep latency decreased to about 12.01±1.19 min compared to the control group (20.50±4.21 min), total activity decreased to 5284.78±836.99 activity pulses compared to the control ( 7258.78±898.8), and anxiety decreased to 18.09±3.8 compared to the control (20.69±2.14).
- The study concluded that “the moderate consumption of non-alcoholic beer will favour night-time rest, due in particular to its hop components.”16
In this randomized, placebo-controlled investigation, 101 adults with chronic insomnia were given either a placebo or supplement containing 50 mg of hops twice a day. According to a Leeds sleep evaluation questionnaire (LSEQ), there was a marked improvement in sleep quality both in the placebo (62%) and hops (65%) users. Wrist actinography also demonstrated advances in sleep efficiency after taking either placebo (75%) or hops (76%).
- The study concluded that “the dietary supplement had neither effect on the perceived quality of sleep, nor on the melatonin metabolism and sleep-wake cycle.”17
In this multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled parallel group study, 184 adults with mild insomnia were given two nightly tablets containing 41.9 mg of hops and 187 mg of valerian for a period of 28 days. The results showed modest improvements of sleep quality and slight reductions in sleep latency. Quality of life appeared to be significantly improved.
- The study identified “a modest hypnotic effect for a valerian-hops combination and…sleep improvements with a valerian-hops combination are associated with improved quality of life.”18
Dosage for Sleep
Hops may be taken as:
- Dry extract, 300 mg – 500 mg capsule, before bed
- Liquid extract, 1 mL (20 – 30 drops), 2 – 3 times per day
- Tinctures, 1 – 2 mL (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoons), 2 – 3 times per day
- Tea, 5 – 10 g in 250 mL of boiling water
- Many herbal preparations use hops in combination with other sleep herbs, including valerian and passion flower.
Hops are a relatively safe substance whose dosage varies based on individual circumstances. Precise dosages have yet to be standardized. Consult a medical professional for ideal servings.
Supplements in Review Says
- Hops, 500 mg
Hops shows promise as a sleep aid but more backing is needed. We recommend hops as a safe and mild relaxant rather than as an immediate sleep remedy. It may promote calming effects necessary for sleep but requires more studies to verify the extent of its overall effectiveness. Much also remains undiscovered in regards to its mechanism. As a sedative, it may possible be useful in reducing anxiety, restlessness, and a number of sleep disorders, such as insomnia and apnea.
Take hops as a 500 mg capsule. The most potent form of hops appears to be as a dry extract from 300 – 500 mg. Using a pill before bed time may help prepare one for deep, serene rest.
- Langezaal CR, Chandra A, et al. Antimicrobial screening of essential oils and extracts of some Humulus lupulus L. cultivars. Pharm Weekbl Sci. 1992 Dec 11;14(6):353-6. ↩
- Negri G, Santi D, et al. Bitter acids from hydroethanolic extracts of Humulus lupulus L., Cannabaceae, used as anxiolytic. Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia 2010;20(6):850-9. ↩
- Weeks BS. Formulations of dietary supplements and herbal extracts for relaxation and anxiolytic action: Relarian. Med Sci Monit. 2009 Nov;15(11):RA256-62. ↩
- Duncan KL, Hare WR, et al. Malignant hyperthermia-like reaction secondary to ingestion of hops in five dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1997 Jan 1;210(1):51-4. ↩
- Stocker HR. Sedative und hypnogene Wirkung des Hopfens. Schweizerische Brauerei-Rundschau 1967;78(4):80-9. ↩
- Ross SM. Sleep disorders: a single dose administration of valerian/hops fluid extract (dormeasan) is found to be effective in improving sleep. Holist.Nurs Pract 2009;23(4):253-6. ↩
- Salter S, Brownie S. Treating primary insomnia – the efficacy of valerian and hops. Aust Fam Physician 2010;39(6):433-7. ↩
- Olas B, Kolodziejczyk J, et al. The extract from hop cones (Humulus lupulus) as a modulator of oxidative stress in blood platelets. Platelets. 2011;22(5):345-52. ↩
- Magalhaes PJ, Carvalho DO, et al. Fundamentals and health benefits of xanthohumol, a natural product derived from hops and beer. Nat Prod Commun 2009;4(5):591-610. ↩
- Franco L, Bravo R, et al. Effect of non-alcoholic beer on Subjective Sleep Quality in a university stressed population. Acta Physiol Hung. 2014 Sep;101(3):353-61. ↩
- Newall CA, Anderson LA, et al. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996. ↩
- Schiller H, Forster A, et al. Sedating effects of Humulus lupulus L. extracts. Phytomedicine. 2006 Sep;13(8):535-41. ↩
- Hejazian SH, Bagheri SM, et al. Relaxant effect of Humulus lupulus extracts on isotonic rat’s ileum contractions. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan-Feb; 4(1): 53-8. ↩
- Zanoli P, Rivasi M, et al. New insight in the neuropharmacological activity of Humulus lupulus L. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Oct 31;102(1):102-6. ↩
- Franco L, Sánchez C, et al. The sedative effects of hops (Humulus lupulus), a component of beer, on the activity/rest rhythm. Acta Physiol Hung. 2012 Jun;99(2):133-9. ↩
- Franco L, Sánchez C, et al. The Sedative Effect of Non-Alcoholic Beer in Healthy Female Nurses. PLoS One. 2012; 7(7):e37290. ↩
- Cornu C, Remontet L, et al. A dietary supplement to improve the quality of sleep: a randomized placebo controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Jun 22;10:29. ↩
- Morin CM, Koetter U, et al. Valerian-hops combination and diphenhydramine for treating insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Sleep. 2005 Nov;28(11):1465-71. ↩