Having a routine for winding down at night is an essential aspect of sleep hygiene. For some, this includes taking a warm shower, and for others, reading a chapter of a book. In addition, building an environment that promotes conducive sleep can help our brain ease into a relaxed state.
Preparing a warm cup of tea can become a calming nighttime ritual. The process of boiling water, steeping tea, and smelling the aroma of herbs can become a mindful experience to relax after a long day. This chance to decompress and unwind can also get you in the habit of meditation and reflection.
Does Tea Help You Sleep?
Enjoyable routines like this can prompt your brain to release dopamine, a hormone involved in the regulation of emotion, motivation, and movement. This can strengthen the habit of creating a sleep ritual and encourage your brain to forget any distressing thoughts you had during the day. However, dopamine works as an antagonist of another neurotransmitter that is important for the production of melatonin. In other words, dopamine forces to stop melatonin production, altering the body to a more wakefulness feeling.
Many herbal teas like chamomile, lemongrass, and valerian can also increase or modify specific neurotransmitters that are involved in initiating sleep. These can help you fall asleep faster, improve your sleep quality, and decrease nighttime awakenings.
Furthermore, aromatherapy has also been proven to aid in sleep and improve your mood due to its relaxation effects. Herbal tea for sleep, such as lavender, lemon balm, and peppermint, are known for their aromatic scents.
What To Consider Before Drinking Tea for Sleep
One thing to note is that many teas are naturally caffeinated. While these have less caffeine than a typical cup of coffee, caffeine acts as a psychoactive stimulant that has various effects on sleep.
By blocking receptors of adenosine, a chemical that induces sleep pressure, caffeine promotes alertness and wakefulness. In this way, caffeine suppresses the sleepiness signals of the body which can prolong sleep onset, shorten total sleep time and sleep efficiency, reduce slow-wave sleep, and decrease sleep quality.
Keep in mind that when you drink tea, your body may react to the low amount of caffeine and keep you awake.
Best Tea for Sleep
Hence, the best tea that helps you sleep must contain little to no caffeine. Choose natural and herbal teas over concentrated ones, such as black or green tea, to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Here are our top picks:
This earthy, floral tea has been part of traditional medicine to treat anxiety, insomnia, and relieve stress for centuries. In addition, Chamomile tea can help sleep because it is caffeine-free and contains a sleep-inducing flavonoid called apigenin. This antioxidant gives a sedative effect by binding to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. In turn, this helps your brain slow down and improves sleep.
One study found that chamomile extract has been shown to reduce anxiety by acting as a mild tranquillizer that reduces stress on muscles and nerves. By relieving tension and encouraging relaxation, chamomile can help you ease into sleep.
Lavender tea is another tea that can help you unwind and relax at night while providing a calming aroma.
Made from the small purple buds and flower petals of a plant called Lavandula angustifolia, the use of lavender can be traced back to the ancient times of the Greeks and Romans. They would frequently place lavender in their baths for its calming scent.
The lavender plant contains an oil called Silexan, which can decrease anxiety and improve sleep quality among those with anxiety-related disorders. Likewise, drinking lavender tea can reduce fatigue in postnatal women and improve sleep among insomnia patients.
As aromatherapy, lavender has also been shown to increase deep sleep and boost energy levels upon waking up.
Another aromatic, scented herb for reducing stress and improving sleep is lemon balm tea. This is derived from the lemon balm plant known as Melissa officinalis, which is part of the mint family.
It contains compounds that soothe stress and relax muscles. It can also act as a sedative and aid in getting a good night’s rest because it increases the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). In addition, it inhibits specific brain signals and decreases activity in our nervous system, allowing the mind to relax and reduces sleep latency.
Known as Cymbopogon citratus, lemongrass is native to Asia, India, and Australia. Similar to lemon balm, lemongrass tea stimulates rest by inducing chemicals and hormones that regulate sleep.
Specifically, lemongrass tea triggers the release of serotonin, a hormone that improves mood and happiness. Moreover, it induces a sedative effect and lessens restlessness before bed. Likewise, a 2009 study found that this tea can help regulate sleep cycles and improve sleep over more extended periods.
Made from the bark, buds, and stems of the Magnolia plant, magnolia tea has been used in Chinese medicine to alleviate problems such as abdominal discomfort, nasal congestion, and stress. This flowering plant has been around for over 100 million years and is highly regarded for its anti-anxiety and sedative effects.
The magnolia plant contains a compound called honokiol, which has a sedative effect by modifying the GABA receptors in your brain. In several studies of mice, this has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, and increase the length of sleep.
Furthermore, in a randomized trial among 89 menopausal females, insomnia was significantly reduced among those who took magnolia bark extract.
Passion flower tea is derived from the fresh and dried leaves of the Passiflora incarnata plant. Like other herbal teas, passion flower tea contains nerve-relaxing flavonoids that can alleviate anxiety.
Various studies have also examined its ability to improve insomnia symptoms and sleep quality. For example, among 40 healthy adults who drank passion flower tea daily, they reported significantly better sleep quality after just one week.
Peppermint tea is made from Mentha balsamea, a hybrid between spearmint and watermint plants. It is known as an anti-stress tea and contains various anti-inflammatory properties to relax muscles and induce a calming mood.
Aside from improving sleep, peppermint has been shown to relieve gas, bloating, indigestion, and other digestive tract issues. Peppermint tea can also help to alleviate nausea and morning sickness among pregnant women.
Used for centuries as a sedative, Valerian root tea is made from the roots of Valeria officinialis, a plant native to Asia and Europe. Valerian can treat problems like insomnia, nervousness, and headaches. It can also reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
Like lemon balm and magnolia bark tea, valerian increases levels of GABA to induce sleepiness. As a tea, valerian is also suggested as an alternative to melatonin, a hormone that improves relaxation and sleep. Studies have shown that it can decrease sleep latency, improve sleep quality, treat insomnia, and decrease nighttime awakenings. Another study among people with sleep difficulties found that 89% reported improved sleep after taking valerian root extract.
Herbal teas for sleep often contain components and compounds that reduce anxiety, relax your muscles, and act as sedatives by enhancing GABA receptors. By adding tea to your sleep routine, you can ease your body and mind into a relaxed and stress-free state – be careful not to consume teas with high caffeine before bedtime.
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