Teas That Will Help You Sleep

In the United States alone, 80 percent of people drink tea, and 50 percent drink it on a daily basis. Worldwide, tea is the most popular beverage after water!

Tea offers the same boosts in alertness as coffee, but with less caffeine, so sleep is less affected. Tea can be enjoyed later during the day unlike coffee which typically has a 2pm cut off point.

Can tea actually help you sleep? Do those “ bedtime” and “sleepy time” teas actually work? Let’s find out!

Do Bedtime and Sleepy Time Teas actually Work?

Bedtime and sleepy time teas are herbal, caffeine-free teas that contain many of the same ingredients that are in sleep supplements, like valerian root for example. It’s not the tea itself that helps you sleep rather the ingredients as mentioned.

Ingesting these ingredients by sipping a warm tea is much more pleasant than ingesting them in pill form, as valerian root and similar supplements are quite stinky. Plus sipping a cup of warm tea at bedtime is quite relaxing in itself.

Drinking tea is a very relaxing and soothing ritual for many people before bedtime. There is a calming quality to sipping a warm beverage in your favorite mug before closing your eyes. It’s the same effect as taking a warm bath before bedtime.

The tea is hot but it actually cools you down. What happens is as your body dries off and the extra water evaporates from your skin, there is a drop in body temperature which signals your brain that it’s time for sleep.

Be aware that caffeinated teas like black tea, white tea, and caffeinated green tea need to be avoided at night. However, there is some evidence that before bed drinking certain herbal teas can facilitate sleep.

Bedtime teas combine multiple pro-sleep, anti-anxiety herbal ingredients that create an overall calming bedtime experience, promoting sleep at the same time. Different ingredients in these sleepy time teas have different effects. Chamomile and valerian have a sedative like effect, while lemon balm and lavender reduce stress and anxiety which plagues insomniacs. Catnip, in the mint family, helps to alleviate indigestion which helps the body relax for sleep.

Remember that as with a lot of things, your reaction to these bedtime teas will depend on your personal preferences and sleep issues. Your diet and what you ate throughout the day can even affect your body’s reactions. In addition, many of these teas only have a mild effect, if any, and the placebo effect of just knowing you’re drinking a “bedtime” tea could be enough to help you fall asleep.

Best Teas for Sleep

Now we will review the best tea ingredients to help you sleep. Many of the bedtime teas will contain several of these ingredients.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is often listed as the best tea for sleep. This herbal tea has been used for centuries to reduce anxiety, stress, upset stomachs and insomnia. Chamomile works as a mild sedative, relaxing the body’s nerves and muscles. It has positive effects on those individuals with mild to moderate anxiety and has antidepressant qualities as well.  

Chamomile provides various benefits according to multiple studies, although still inconclusive regarding sleep. A 2011 study split individuals into two groups. One group took chamomile extract twice a day for four weeks, while the other group took a placebo.

The chamomile extract had no effect on sleep onset, length of sleep or quality of sleep, but did show an improvement in daytime functioning. A 2005 study, however, in rats taking the chamomile extract, showed them falling asleep much quicker.

Why, despite having any concrete evidence, do we believe that chamomile induces sleep? Chamomile, like many teas on this list, has a calming effect that aids in relaxation. We also “believe” it helps us sleep, which might be the most important part of it all!

Chamomile should be avoided by pregnant women because it can induce an allergic reaction. Anyone about to have surgery should also avoid it because of its blood thinning properties.

This sweet and flowery tea needs to be steeped for 10 minutes before drinking for the best results.

Valerian Tea

Chamomile might be the most popular tea for sleep, but valerian tea is the stronger option preferred by those who really need help falling asleep.

Studies have proven that those who drink valerian tea have moderate improvement in insomnia symptoms, unlike chamomile tea.

Valerian root is a strong natural sedative that has been used since the 2nd century to help people fall asleep quicker, reduce anxiety and insomnia, and increase overall sleep quality. Because it works so well, people have started using it in place of melatonin supplements. Valerian tea also helps sleep without the many side effects associated with other common sleep medications.

However, check with you doctor before using it, because valerian root can be highly addictive and interfere with other medications. Valerian also takes several days to a few weeks for the effects to kick in. Steep for at least 5 minutes before drinking for the best results.

Lavender Tea

Lavender is known to reduce stress and anxiety, which is the main culprit that causes never ending thoughts that keep insomniacs up at night. What’s interesting is that it may be the smell of lavender that promotes sleep, rather than the ingesting of it. It was found in a 2005 study that smelling lavender oil before bed increased deep sleep times, resulting in higher levels of energy the following day and an overall feeling of restoration and well-being.

The effects of lavender tea may have stronger effects on women, however. One study, conducted on post natal moms, shows that drinking one cup of lavender tea for two weeks, reduced depression and fatigue, an effect that went away as soon as they stopped drinking the tea.

Decaf Green Tea

Green tea is a great healthy option for bedtime, especially for those who do not like the taste of herbal teas. However, you should only take the decaf version which contains theanine, which reduces stress and improves sleep.

A study of young men in their 20s found that taking a pure L-theanine supplement before bed aided in better sleep and more energy and mental clarity the following day.  A cup of tea, however, does not have sufficient amounts of theanine to help fall asleep. Those who have a very hard time falling asleep might want to take a pure L-theanine supplement instead.

Weight loss, increased cognitive performance, better digestion, deeper sleep, and a reduced cancer and diabetes effects are other benefits of green tea as well.

Lemon Balm Tea

Lemon balm has been relied upon by insomniacs to reduce stress, anxiety and indigestion as far back as the Middle Ages.  A member of the mint family, lemon balm has a minty yet lemony taste. You can use lemon balm teas or just steep lemon balm leaves in a cup of hot water for the same effect.

Lemon balm should be combined with other herbs for the best results in reducing insomnia. One study showed that 81 percent of participants with mild sleep issues slept better with a combination of lemon balm and valerian than those who took a placebo. Lemon balm interacts with the GABA receptors in your brain which causes a reduction in stress and helps induce sleep.

Passionflower Tea

Passionflower tea is beloved by people with anxious and obsessive thoughts. The floral tea calms the mind and stomach, since it also alleviates indigestion.

Passionflower relaxes the nervous system, and a 2011 study found that it improves sleep quality in the short-term.

Honorable Mentions

The herbs above are the most popular bedtime tea flavors. Many sleepy time teas also include one or more of the following ingredients to promote sleep:

  • St. John’s Wort tea – Commonly used to treat depression, St. John’s Wort can help insomniacs who also struggle with comorbid depression. Like lemon balm, researchers believe it stimulates the GABA receptors, which kickstarts the sleep process.
  • Catnip tea – While it makes cats go crazy, catnip tea reduces insomnia for humans by inducing drowsiness. Tea-drinking cat lovers can bond over the shared interest with their feline companions.
  • Magnolia bark tea – Magnolia bark has been used in Asia for centuries to calm anxiety and nerves. The active compound magnolol acts as a mild sedative.
  • Linden leaf tea – While typically used as a remedy for the common cold, this calming herb is another mild sedative. Linden leaf tea should be brewed for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Hops tea – Besides making beer, the same female flowers have been used for reducing stress and creating relaxation, offering a bedtime alternative for beer drinkers.

For the best results, you can also combine some of these teas with a new mattress, pillow or even adjustable bed. Read our mattress, pillow and adjustable beds reviews and pick something that will best work for you.