May 15, 2024/Sleep

Restless? Try These Bedtime Teas for Better Sleep

Chamomile, lavender and valerian root teas may offer a faster route to dreamland

Person sitting in bed in the evening, reading a book, with cup of tea on bedside table

What keeps you up late at night? Do you have a hard time getting comfortable? Do you dwell on tomorrow’s to-do list? Or do you have racing thoughts about other issues?

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Quieting your mind and relaxing your body before bed can sometimes be difficult. Add in anxiety disorder or depression, and these bouts of insomnia and the toll they take on your physical and mental health can become even more worrisome the longer you go without sleep.

We know the key to good quality sleep is having a healthy bedtime routine and a sleep environment that promotes rest and relaxation. But a key part of that routine for some, says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, LD, may be relying on sleep-inducing bedtime teas to help them relax and get into the right mindset for a full night of recovery.

But which teas work best? And how long should you give these teas a try before you seek help from a medical professional? Czerwony covers all that and more.

Best teas for sleep

Teas have all sorts of health benefits. But when it comes to herbal teas for sleep, these three are perhaps the best to set you up for rest and relaxation.

Chamomile

Commonly used in tea and other herbal beverages, chamomile is a daisy-like plant that grows around the world.

Researchers believe the mild sedative effect that comes from its dried white petals is caused by a flavonoid known as apigenin, which binds to a specific receptor in the brain to reduce anxiety and increase drowsiness. A 2016 study found that women who drank chamomile tea during a two-week period after giving birth had decreased symptoms of physical fatigue and depression.

However, if you’re pregnant or are allergic to ragweed, daisies, marigolds or chrysanthemums, you should avoid chamomile tea.

Lavender

From reducing pain and inflammation to helping with mood, anxiety and depression, lavender has many health benefits. It’s not only an ingredient used in aromatherapy, lotions and other skin care products, but its purple flowers and stems also make for an excellent floral tea right before you hit the hay.

Advertisement

“People who drink lavender tea are able to feel more relaxed and fatigued at the end of the night,” says Czwerwony. “Lavender has also been shown to decrease depression and anxiety, so it could help manage some of your symptoms especially if your mind is usually racing right before bed.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labels lavender “generally recognized as safe” and studies have shown it’s had a positive effect on improving sleep quality postpartum.

Valerian root

Valerian is a flowering plant native to Europe and Asia, although it has since spread to other parts of North America. Rather than use the tiny petals of this flower, teas made with valerian rely on its dried roots.

Although it’s been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety, research into its effectiveness and just how it works has been extremely limited. Some research suggests valerian root may even have the additional side effects of vivid dreams, headaches, stomach upset, uneasiness or drowsiness the next morning.

Other teas

Other herbal teas may also help with rest and relaxation, especially if they get you into the routine habit of winding down before bed. Czerwony suggests trying out these teas if the one notes aren’t really your vibe:

  • Passionflower.
  • Magnolia.
  • Lemon balm.
  • Low-caffeine green tea.

“If you’re not super familiar with teas, a low-caffeine green tea is a great way to start, and then you can build up your flavor profile from there,” suggests Czerwony.

“Green tea has great antioxidant benefits and a bit of caffeine in it, so if you can, try and find a lower caffeine option. But green tea, itself, is a pretty neutral-tasting tea. So, you can add flavor enhancers like plum or cranberry to try out different combinations.”

Green tea, in particular, contains L-theanine, an amino acid that prolongs your ability to sleep and improves your quality of sleep, too.

Benefits of tea before bedtime

In traditional Chinese medicine, herbal teas have long been used as part of herbal therapy to help with disordered sleeping. Studies have shown that most of the sedative effects caused by these herbal remedies occur because of their interaction with neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, in the brain.

For example, a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) produces a calming effect and plays a major role in reducing the hyperactivity associated with anxiety, stress and fear. Teas that use valerian root, for example, have been shown to activate this specific neurotransmitter.

Advertisement

“Some of the benefits of these teas are chemical because these herbal teas have phytonutrients in them that have sedative effects,” explains Czerwony. “But I also think there’s a behavioral component to bedtime teas, too.”

Let’s look at stress as an example. We know that when we’re stressed or dealing with real-world problems that cause a lot of anxiety, we can experience mental and physical side effects that make it hard to get physically comfortable or even get in the right mindset for rest.

Finding ways to calm your anxiety is key, but so is making sure you’re taking the extra steps needed to wind down before you make that final step into bed. That’s where sleep hygiene comes into play.

By creating a set sleep schedule and bedtime routine, you can rely on a pattern of behaviors that allow you to be mindful and focus on letting go of your stressors. You want to turn off your screens so you can focus on being mindful in the moment. Maybe you want to take a hot bath before bed to give your muscles some much-needed relief. And if having a warm cup of tea allows you to slow down even further, it’s just one more step toward making sure you’re setting yourself up for a successful sleep.

“Behavioral changes really do help get your head in the right place so you can anticipate going to sleep,” reinforces Czerwony. “As you would go through your day getting organized and setting yourself up for success, you’re really setting the night up so you can get some good sleep and start the next day off on the right foot.”

Are there any cons to drinking tea before bedtime?

There aren’t really any cons to drinking tea before bed. If you’re the kind of person who gets up to urinate more than once in the middle of the night, maybe cut off your teatime a couple of hours before bed so your full bladder doesn’t disrupt your sleep.

Some teas, like green tea, might also have caffeine in them, so you’ll want to read packaging labels to make sure you’re avoiding caffeine before bed. Other teas might also cause some stomach upset depending on how it interacts with your digestive system.

Advertisement

If you’re worried about these concerns, you can always test-drive these teas in smaller doses earlier in the evening to see how they make you feel or talk to a healthcare provider about their personal recommendations for your health goals.

When to seek help for insomnia and other sleep-related issues

Insomnia and other sleep disorders have long-lasting effects on your health and wellness. Sometimes, these aren’t always even noticeable right away because we tend to tie our lack of sleep to outside stressors. But when you let this go on for long periods of time, sleep deprivation can really impact your health.

“You can certainly try tea in the beginning if you’re having a hard time with a couple of sleepless nights, but if these problems persist for a week or two and you’re really having a hard time falling asleep, tea is not going to cut it and you’re going to need some additional help,” states Czerwony.

Evaluate what’s going on in your life. If something is interfering with your every day and you’re finding it hard to concentrate, you’re falling asleep during the day or you’re easily irritable, these are all good indicators that it’s time to make an appointment with a primary care provider.

“Sleep is a glorious, beautiful thing,” says Czerwony. “If you’re suddenly not sleeping for one reason or another, there could be something else brewing like an underlying medical condition. So, it’s always important to check in with your healthcare provider if you’re not feeling like you’re sleeping enough.”

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person in bed experiencing nightmares
May 22, 2024/Sleep
7 Reasons You’re Having Nightmares

Stress, alcohol, sleep apnea and (you guessed it!) scary movies are a few common causes of bad dreams

Person sitting in chair writing in tablet
May 21, 2024/Sleep
Should You Be Keeping a Dream Journal?

Recording your dreams may help you become more mindful, understand your thought patterns, process your emotions and even reduce your stress

Person asleep in bed, talking in their sleep
May 3, 2024/Sleep
Why Do People Talk in Their Sleep?

Many factors can contribute to sleep talking, like stress or anxiety, lack of or low-quality sleep, or even more serious sleep-related conditions

Young child in bed reading at night
May 2, 2024/Children's Health
Nighty-Night: Tips To Get Your Kid To Stay In Bed

A consistent, structured routine, which may include incentives, can help children learn to stay in bed and get the ZZZs they need

Person in bed at night without covers, with fan blowing on them
April 17, 2024/Sleep
9 Reasons Why You’re Sweating in Your Sleep — And How To Get Relief

Getting to the root cause of night sweats — like menopause, medication side effects, stress or anxiety — can help you manage them

Saw palmetto bush
April 15, 2024/Wellness
Why Saw Palmetto Benefits Are Overstated

Research suggests the effect of the supplement, particularly for prostate health, may not deliver believed benefits

Glass of ayahuasca tea on stump
April 4, 2024/Mental Health
Ayahuasca: What You Need To Know

The hallucinogenic brew has cultural and religious significance for some communities in the Amazon basin

Birth control pack, with an overlay of a hand holding other pills and tablets
March 13, 2024/Women's Health
What Medications Interfere With Birth Control Pills?

Certain seizure medications, HIV treatments, antibiotics or herbal supplements can make your oral contraception less effective

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad