The research was conducted by scientists at Australia's Murdoch University, and was funded by Pharmactive Biotech Products – that company's Affron saffron extract was used in the study.
For 28 days, a total of 63 volunteers received either two 14-mg doses of the extract daily, or they got a placebo. Neither the test subjects nor the people administering the substances knew who was getting what.
All of the volunteers were between 18 and 70 years of age, were not being treated for depression, and had not taken any medication (apart from contraceptive pills) for at least four weeks. Additionally, although they had all self-reported sleep problems, they were otherwise healthy.
When 55 of the test subjects subsequently rated their sleep according to the standardized Insomnia Severity Index, it was found that those who had been taking the extract experienced significantly greater sleep-quality improvements than those who had been given the placebo. In fact, most of the first group noticed those improvements within seven days of beginning the treatment.
Additionally, no adverse side effects were noted.
While it still isn't entirely clear how saffron may help fight insomnia, a planned larger study involving a more demographically-varied group of volunteers may provide some answers.