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Best Tea For Sleep: The Real-Life Sleeping Potions

If you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep you’ve probably tried out at least a couple of hacks to help you doze off quicker - warm milk, listening to white noise, perhaps even counting those pesky sheep that keep escaping from their enclosure, and, of course, a cup of hot tea. But what actually is the best tea for sleep?

Finding the best tea to help you sleep might not be as simple as it may seem. First of all, there are more tea options out there than most people are familiar with. The tea world is not limited to black, green, and herbal options only, after all.

And with so many varieties to choose from, you might find yourself relying on the trial-and-error method and end up with several cabinets full of tea. 

Well, that’s exactly what I am here to help you avoid. In this article, you can find the top options of the best tea for sleep, the science behind how they work, as well as various alternatives to choose from.

By the end of this article, I am sure you will be sleeping like a baby. So, without any further ado, let’s jump in!

Best Teas For Sleep According to Science

When it comes to the best tea for sleep, it all boils down to (pun not intended) the chemical composition of the plants used to fill those teabags. 

A lot of the time, however, most teas tend to balance on the line of being a sleeping-aid and a coffee substitute, as they can contain chemicals that can cause both effects. In the end, it is important to keep in mind how much of each component can be found in the tea and how each person tends to react to the stimuli. 

After all, there is no one-tea-fits-all.

One of the main ingredients to be aware of is, obviously, caffeine. Though often considered to only be found in coffee and energy drinks, some teas can contain a certain dose of caffeine[1] in them that can be enough to keep you up for a few hours at night. Oftentimes such teas are marketed as breakfast teas and are considered an effective alternative to a cup of Joe.

Best Tea For Sleep: Woman drinking black tea fir breakfast.

So if you’ve ever wondered why you can’t fall asleep when you’ve only had two cups of black tea a few hours before bed, now you know why!

However, there are two sides to the coin. Caffeine is a very complicated drug. Higher doses, such as those found in coffee, are known to stimulate the brain and keep you awake. But smaller, more moderate doses can actually make you calmer and even sleepy!

Crazy how things can work, right?

In addition, people can build up a tolerance for caffeine. Meaning that the usual cup of tea or coffee might not be able to wake you up after some time, and actually make you sleepier than you were before!

Another fun ingredient that can be found in your regular cup of tea is an amino acid called L-theanine

According to several studies[2], L-theanine can help decrease the time one might need to fall asleep, improve sleep quality, and lessen the number of disturbances throughout the night. This is because L-theanine encourages the production of dopamine and serotonin, as well as GABA - a neurotransmitter that acts like a "brake" during times of stress. This results in us feeling calmer, more relaxed, and able to have a better quality of sleep.

Best Tea For Sleep: young woman in bed with a cup of tea.

Most teas, including black, green, white, and oolong, contain this amino acid. Well, to one extent or the other. The highest concentration[3], up to 12mg of L-theanine in one gram of tea, are in oolong and green teas, making them your best pick if you’re looking for an easily accessible and very inexpensive sleeping aid.

Another ingredient to keep in mind is tannins. Along with giving tea its distinct flavor, tannins are known to have several health benefits[4]

What’s interesting is that tannins can be found in all types of tea - black, green, white, and oolong. This is because these teas are made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, and are differentiated by the way the leaves are prepared.

The highest amounts of tannin can be found in black tea, followed by white and oolong teas, while green tea has the lowest numbers of tannin.

What makes this compound unique is the way it interacts with caffeine. Tannins bond with caffeine and in a way slow down its absorption, making it a lot less effective. Tea has more tannins than coffee[5], making their effect much more noticeable, especially while paired with the lower caffeine content in tea than in coffee.

Best Tea For Sleep: woman drinking tea in bed at night.

Though these amounts of the active ingredients might not be enough to knock you out in 5 minutes, continuous use of these teas can help improve your sleep quality in the long run.

That being said, however, the main types of teas are only seldom found on the “best tea for sleep” lists. As there is an undefeated, yet rarely mentioned champion when it comes to the best tea for sleep - herbal tea.

Choose Your Best Tea For Sleep

While black and green teas are the best for waking up in the morning, some of the most recommended teas for better sleep are herbal teas. This is not only because they contain the least amount of caffeine, but have additional soothing properties that secure their titles of the best teas for sleep.

Valerian root

At the top of the list and reigning as the absolute best tea for sleep is valerian root. Known for ages as one of the best natural remedies for improving sleep quality and getting rid of insomnia

In addition to directly increasing one’s quality of sleep, valerian root can also aid with ailments that can cause a restless night, such as stress, anxiety, headaches, and even heart palpitations, making it one of the best teas that help you sleep if you have tachycardia or other heart arrhythmia troubles.

Best Tea For Sleep: A woman sleeping in bed with a cup of tea on the nightstand.

This is largely due to the two natural sedatives, valepotriates and sesquiterpenes, that the valerian root is rich in. The plant’s effectiveness was proven in several studies[6]. The results showed that 90% of participants fell asleep faster and later reported improvement in sleep after drinking valerian tea. 

Before you run out and buy every packet of valerian root tea you can find, keep in mind that the root has a distinct earthy taste to it, which isn’t everyone’s favorite flavor. But no need to worry! While you’re at the store you can grab some honey or maple syrup, which can help turn this tea that makes you sleepy into your favorite nighttime drink!

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Chamomile

Coming in at a close second, chamomile tea is often considered to be the best tea for sleep right after valerian root. The herb gets its title thanks to the several active compounds it possesses, including one called apigenin[7], which is a mild tranquilizer. The chemical bonds with the brain receptors that are responsible for promoting sleep, allowing us to drift off much easier.

Though research is limited, there are several scientific studies that show the effectiveness of chamomile as a highly effective tea that helps you sleep. According to one study, chamomile tea is exceptionally beneficial[8] to postpartum women, as the herbal tea has shown to reduce sleep issues and even help fight off depressive episodes

And if you still need additional proof that chamomile tea is one of the best teas that help you sleep, you can ask your grandmother, as the brew has been used by many generations as a natural remedy for various ailments.

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Lemon Balm

Perhaps one of the tastiest options, in my personal opinion, when it comes to the best tea for sleep is lemon balm, also known as Melissa officinalis. This sweet and citrusy-smelling plant is most commonly used as an essential oil and, you’ve guessed it, tea. In addition to being a great tea to help you sleep, lemon balm is also known for being an all-natural antiviral and antibacterial medicine.

There have been several studies conducted regarding lemon balm’s potential as a natural medication, and the findings were notably positive[9]. The herbal tea showed to help with signs of depression, anxiety, and even insomnia

An additional study stated that lemon balm can be used as a traditional antidepressant[10], as participants that took the herbal tea reported an improvement in quality of life, while the control group did not. 

It’s safe to say that lemon balm is not only one of the best teas for sleep, but can be used as a natural remedy to fight off depressive episodes and anxiety as well, making it one of the most beneficial herbs out there.

Best Tea For Sleep: Young woman suffering from sleep anxiety.

Additionally, if you experience stress and restlessness before sleep, you can learn how to deal with sleep anxiety in this in-depth article.

Lavender

Widely known as the go-to herb for a great anti-stress aromatherapy session, lavender can be used to make a relaxing tea before bed, as well. With that being said, not many people know that the purple blossoms can be brewed into a soothing warm beverage. 

That being said, just like many other herbal remedies, lavender has not had many studies done on its properties as a tea that helps you sleep. However, the research that was conducted points out that lavender may only be useful for the short-term improvement[11] of one’s sleep quality. 

This is important to keep in mind if you are looking for the best tea for sleep that can help you in the long run and not just knock you out for one night. So, if you want a tea to help you sleep better for more than one night, you might want to consider the three previous options. 

Passionflower

Passionflower is one of the less popular herbs, but can still be easily found in tea form in most grocery stores. 

Best Tea For Sleep: Woman drinking tea and reading in bed.

Passionflower works in a similar way to chamomile, as it contains flavonoids that bond to the brain receptors responsible for signaling our bodies to go to sleep, making it one of the best teas for sleep. One study showed that drinking as little as one cup of passionflower tea[12] can result in significant improvement in one’s sleep quality.

In addition, passionflower can be taken in tandem with other teas that help you sleep, such as valerian root, which can amplify both of the herbs’ effects, making them comparable to traditional sleep medication.

As you can see, there isn’t just one best tea for sleep. There is a wide array of herbal infusions you can choose from, depending on your needs, tolerance, and even flavor preference. 

Of course, there are many more options out there. Different cultures have various traditional recipes for you to discover and enjoy. Some are becoming more popular than others, such as Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic Tea and Sleep Aid Recommendations

Chances are you’ve heard the term “Ayurveda” mentioned here and there recently, as it has been gaining quite some popularity over the past few years. 

Best Tea For Sleep: Person doing yoga and drinking Ayurvedic tea.

The traditional Hindu system of medicine focuses on creating balance in the body, both physically and spiritually, with the help of diet, yogic breathing, and exercises, and, of course, tea!

In Ayurveda, sleep is considered to be one of the three pillars of a healthy life, along with food and conscious relationships. In fact, sleep is believed to be essential for the perception of joy, immunity, and even fertility. So it’s no wonder there are various ayurvedic teas that help you sleep available to choose from.

The main herbal teas to help sleep are:

  • Licorice
  • Chamomile
  • Cardamom
  • Hibiscus

In addition, the drinks can have milk added to them, or be brewed with milk instead of water altogether, as milk in Ayurveda is seen as crucial for a healthy body, mind, and soul.

If you would like to try out the best tea for sleep in Ayurveda, here’s what you will need:

  • 1/4 teaspoon dry ginger/ ½ inch fresh ginger
  • 1 clove crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon licorice powder
  • ¼ teaspoon hibiscus petals
  • 1 green Cardamom
  • 1 cup boiling water

Mix all of the herbs and spices together in a mug, add boiling water, cover it up, and steep for 5 minutes. Discard of the mixture and voila - a delicious tea to help you sleep like a baby!

Though these herbs and spices are better known for their other traits rather than as sleep aids, they do possess anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, resulting in an overall soothing and relaxing effect on the body, making it a potent tea to help sleep right through the night.

Best Tea For Sleep: A young woman having healthy breakfast in bed.

That being said, there are more than special tea blends in Ayurveda that are used to aid in sleep. 

If you feel like you need to pair the tea with additional natural remedies, there are several other Ayurvedic methods you can try out. 

Essential and herbal oils can be a great remedy if you suffer from tensed nerves or body aches. Depending on the type and source of discomfort, aromatherapy and herbal pastes can be used for instant relief.

Of course, if the issue persists or a more long-term solution is needed the best thing to do is see your GP. in the meantime, however, you can always try tweaking your diet to avoid heavy food at night and developing a calming ritual before bed, such as a relaxing massage before bed, yoga, or a hot bath to reduce muscle tension.

In fact, sesame or coconut oil applied to the hands and soles of feet can not only reduce muscle pain but soothe the nervous system and help prepare you for sleep.

Best Tea For Sleep: A woman's hands with coconut oil.

Ayurveda is all about being in tune with your body and nourishing it with natural, healthy remedies. For this exact reason, ayurvedic herbs are perfect for making the best tea for sleep, relaxing both your body and mind.

After all, who wouldn’t like one cup of tea to tackle both fronts at the same time?

Best Times To Drink Tea

Now we’ve already discussed what is the best tea for sleep according to several studies and even Ayurveda. But can you just drink any tea you like whenever you like?

Turns out - no!

As I’ve already mentioned previously, many of the usual teas, such as black, green, and white tea, contain more or less caffeine. This makes them perfect to drink in the morning and right after lunch, as they not only perk you up but aid in digestion as well. 

Herbal teas, especially the ones mentioned previously, contain close to no caffeine, making them ideal to enjoy in the evening.

Best Tea For Sleep: Woman Reading and drinking tea.

That being said, if you find yourself craving green tea up until bedtime, you might want to consider houjicha. This green tea is usually given to children in Japan as it contains considerably less caffeine than regular green tea. This is due to the tea leaves being roasted during production, essentially “burning off” the caffeine before it even gets to you.

Admittedly, it’s still important to keep in mind that this preparation does not get rid of caffeine completely. So if you are sensitive to caffeine, this might not be the best tea for sleep in your case.

Best Tea For Sleep Alternatives

If you are experiencing trouble with sleep, I’m sure you are ready to try anything. After all, continuous low-quality sleep can have significant negative effects[13] on your entire body, and especially on your mental and emotional state

Understandably, not many find sleeping pills and over-the-counter medication appealing if they are being offered as a long-term solution. That's why finding the best tea for sleep that suits your needs and tastes can be quite life-changing, especially for those that have had sleep disturbances for longer periods of time. 

Best Tea For Sleep: Woman contemplating taking sleep medication.

That being said, as wonderful as the mentioned herbs are, one cup of warm tea that makes you sleepy isn’t going to work wonders on its own if the rest of your sleep environment is working completely against you.

If you are looking to noticeably improve your quality of sleep there are some alternative methods to keep in mind that can work wonders, especially if paired with a cup of tea that helps you sleep.

Mattress

The mattress you sleep on is perhaps the biggest contributor to your quality of sleep. In fact, no amount of tea that makes you sleepy or sleeping pills will help you have good, restful sleep if your mattress looks and feels as bumpy as a cobblestone road

If we’re talking normal conditions, with no unusual wear and tear, mattresses should be changed every 6 to 8 years. And if you don’t remember how old your mattress really is, that’s a good enough reason to look into investing in a new, high-quality mattress

At the moment there are heaps of mattress brands and types to choose from. Memory foam, latex, innerspring… it’s more than easy to start feeling dizzy! The most important thing to keep in mind while choosing a mattress is your own needs and well-being. 

Best Tea For Sleep: Young woman sleeping soundly in her bed.

If you are interested in memory foam, which is exceptionally beneficial for proper spine support in all sleeping positions and those with allergies, the Puffy memory foam mattress is your best option.

Pillow

Of course, high-quality sleep might not even be in the cards to some without a good pillow. Oftentimes mattresses and pillows need one another to give you as many benefits as they can, while in other cases just a new pillow can revolutionize your whole life. 

A pillow's main task is to provide proper support to your head, neck, and shoulders, as these areas tend to hold the most tension in your body that can keep you up right through the night. Saatva offers one of the best pillows on the market at the moment, which is great for those looking for something for every occasion.

In addition, some pillows are created to accommodate specific sleeping positions and even cooling you down while you sleep, such as the GhostPillow, designed to maintain the best temperature for a restful, refreshing night.

Surroundings

Speaking of the perfect temperature for sleeping, did you know there is a whole list of external factors that can influence the quality of your sleep? We’ve already covered the best tea for sleep to calm you from the inside, now it’s time to discuss what you can do to have a calming sleep environment as well. 

Best Tea For Sleep: Man sleeping in a dark room.

One of the most important things when it comes to creating the perfect environment for a good night’s rest is peace. This means you might need to consider some noise-canceling earplugs and black-out curtains or a sleeping mask to fight off any distractions that might stand in your way of getting some restful sleep.

That being said, some people need some sound to be able to drift off into sleep, as complete silence can lead to a restless mind, making it much more difficult to wind down. In such cases, a white noise machine can be the perfect solution, as the steady hum drowns out any spontaneous noises that might make you wake up as soon as you start sinking into a deep sleep.

Sleep Hygiene

Something that is often forgotten as a key factor when it comes to falling and staying asleep is sleep hygiene. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to obsessively shower every evening and morning and sleep in fresh sheets every night. 

Sleep hygiene refers to healthy sleep habits that essentially create a “clean” sleep routine. Along with a dark, quiet, and cool room to sleep in, it is also recommended to unplug from any electronics around one to two hours before sleep, allowing our minds to rest before shutting off for the night.

Even though many of us are sick of hearing it, but a solid, stable, and, most importantly, realistic sleep schedule is crucial for getting the amount of good sleep we need. Of course, saying that a good sleep schedule is important is much easier than fixing your current one which most likely is all over the place thanks to how hectic the average lifestyle is.

Best Tea For Sleep: Man waking up to an early alarm.

Perhaps the easiest way to get into a stable regime is slowly adjusting the times you wake up and go to bed, allowing your body to adapt to each change. This will help you avoid oversleeping and not being able to fall asleep for hours, which would essentially cancel out all of your efforts to fix your circadian rhythm

Of course, there are other things you can do that will not only help your body settle into a healthy sleep schedule but improve your overall health and quality of life.

And who doesn’t want that!

Conclusions

Drinking a warm cup of tea can help many of us relax after a long day and enjoy some quality time with ourselves, helping us get ready for bed. In fact, some teas can be used to improve your sleep quality altogether. 

When it comes to crowning the best tea for sleep, herbal teas are the undefeated champions. Valerian root, lemon balm, and chamomile are the top choices recommended by many for their calming and sleep-aiding properties. 

It’s important to note that the usual black, green, white, and oolong teas have a significantly higher caffeine content than the herbal teas mentioned previously, packing enough of a punch to keep you awake for hours.

If you want to improve your quality of sleep, consider pairing up your favorite herbal brew with a comfortable, high-quality mattress, to get the best sleep of your life!

I hope you found this article interesting and helpful. Good luck and may your teas never be too strong!


Scientific References

1. Chin JM, Merves ML, Goldberger BA, Sampson-Cone A, Cone EJ. Caffeine content of brewed teas. J Anal Toxicol. 2008 Oct;32(8):702-4. doi: 10.1093/jat/32.8.702. PMID: 19007524

2. Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, et al. Effects of L-theanine administration on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients 2019;11(10):2362

3. Boros K, Jedlinszki N, Csupor D. Theanine and caffeine content of infusions prepared from commercial tea samples. Pharmacogn Mag 2016;12(45):75-79

4. Cheynier V. Polyphenols in foods are more complex than often thought. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1 Suppl):223S-229S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.1.223S. PMID: 15640485.

5. Cheynier V. Polyphenols in foods are more complex than often thought. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1 Suppl):223S-229S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.1.223S. PMID: 15640485.

6. Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2006 Dec;119(12):1005-12. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.02.026. PMID: 17145239; PMCID: PMC4394901

7. Salehi B, Venditti A, Sharifi-Rad M, et al. The Therapeutic Potential of Apigenin. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(6):1305. Published 2019 Mar 15. doi:10.3390/ijms20061305

8. Chang SM, Chen CH. Effects of an intervention with drinking chamomile tea on sleep quality and depression in sleep disturbed postnatal women: a randomized controlled trial. J Adv Nurs. 2016 Feb;72(2):306-15. doi: 10.1111/jan.12836. Epub 2015 Oct 20. PMID: 26483209.

9. Miraj S, Rafieian-Kopaei, Kiani S. Melissa officinalis L: A Review Study With an Antioxidant Prospective. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jul;22(3):385-394. doi: 10.1177/2156587216663433. Epub 2016 Sep 11. PMID: 27620926; PMCID: PMC5871149.

10. Shirazi M, Jalalian MN, Abed M, Ghaemi M. The Effectiveness of Melissa Officinalis L. versus Citalopram on Quality of Life of Menopausal Women with Sleep Disorder: A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial. Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet. 2021 Feb;43(2):126-130. doi: 10.1055/s-0040-1721857. Epub 2021 Jan 19. PMID: 33465795.

11. Chien LW, Cheng SL, Liu CF. The effect of lavender aromatherapy on autonomic nervous system in midlife women with insomnia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:740813. doi: 10.1155/2012/740813. Epub 2011 Aug 18. PMID: 21869900; PMCID: PMC3159017.

12. Ngan A, Conduit R. A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality. Phytother Res. 2011 Aug;25(8):1153-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3400. Epub 2011 Feb 3. PMID: 21294203.

13. Alhola P, Polo-Kantola P. Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2007;3(5):553-567.


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FAQ

What is the best tea for sleep?

If you're looking for the best tea for sleep, herbal teas are your best option. Valerian root, chamomile, and lemon balm are widely known as effective and all-natural sleeping aids that can not only improve your sleep quality but help manage sleep anxiety and depression as well!

How can I improve my sleep quality?

Sometimes even the best tea for sleep isn't enough to help you if your sleep environment is working against you. A quiet, dark room and a comfortable bed are key ingredients needed for good sleep. So, if you're looking to invest in your sleep and health, Saatva and Puffy offer some of the best mattresses on the market that are sure to improve your sleep quality!

What is a memory foam mattress?

Memory foam mattresses are created mostly from polyurethane and have additional chemicals added that increase its viscosity and density. It’s also often called “viscoelastic polyurethane foam”. In order to create the air movement and let your body “breath” while you sleep, it has open foam bubbles. Memory foam mattresses are created in a way to adapt to your body curves and to also recover their original shape after you get up. Therefore, this kind of top mattresses offer you the feeling as if is created specifically for you.

Do top rated mattresses offer a money-back guarantee? Is there a catch?

All of the top mattress brands offer a money-back guarantee. The free trial usually starts from 90 to 100 nights, and if you don’t like the mattress, you can simply give it back. The majority of best mattress providers will not only give your money back but will also come to get it for free. If the mattress provider is reputable, there won’t be any catch - everyone understands that you have to try the mattress before knowing if it fits you.

What is off-gassing? Is it poisonous?

Off-gassing refers to the odor which comes from a new mattress. It’s the process that happens when volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) leak out of the mattress foam into the air. Those chemicals include both human-made and natural components, including formaldehyde, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, trichloroethane, and perfluorocarbons. Top rated mattresses will have zero or very minimal off-gassing. Many of them are sent to the customer already after the off-gassing. Is it dangerous, though? Even though the smell can be unpleasant, there’s usually only a very small amount of chemicals that can do no harm to your health.

How long do top rated mattresses serve?

The durability of a mattress depends on the provider and the quality of the materials used. Usually, you get a 10-year warranty, which will be valid in case of any defects. Normally, mattresses will serve you from 7 to 10 years, or even longer. Thus, when you buy the best mattress, you should take it as a long-term investment.