Do you find that a relaxing herbal tea in the evening helps you shift down a few mental gears and wash away the stress of a hectic day?
As an Englishman and an insomniac, it makes sense that I’d include tea in my gentle bedtime ritual.
Cultural programming aside though, I firmly believe that taking time out to enjoy your favorite tea, and breathe deeply as the natural aromas drift around you is a great way to relax at night.
In this article I’ll be taking a look at some of the most popular nighttime teas, and examining which herbs, flowers and plants are used for relaxation.
I’ll also explore why it is that even though some research says tea doesn’t help you sleep, millions of people feel it does – and that includes me!
Part 1: The best bedtime teas
Part 2: Can tea really help you sleep or is it all in the mind?
Part 3: The herbs, flowers, plants and roots that may help you relax and sleep
Part 4: Reader’s suggestions
The best bedtime teas
Nowadays, there’s a great choice of ready-made herbal teas, with some brands lasting the test of time. Here are three which prove ever popular with people all around the world, and are also my personal favorites.
Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea
Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea continues to be one of the most popular brands of tea for sleep in the United Sates. It’s also now very well known in Great Britain and many other countries.
It’s been my personal favorite nighttime tea for a long time now. I find it has a delicious taste and definitely helps me unwind at the end of a busy day.
It also has the added benefit of being soothing on the tummy. So when I’ve eaten a little too much rich food, this is the tea to calm both the body and mind. Sleepytime tea contains the following ingredients:
- Lemon Grass
- Tilia Flowers
- Blackberry Leaves
- Orange Blossoms
- Hawthorn Berries
Yogi Bedtime Tea
Yogi Bedtime Tea is just one of many excellent teas that Yogi make. They have several other teas which can help with stress relief and relaxation.
I find it a relaxing drink, and it’s also the only tea which includes just about every plant on the list in part 2 of this article,
Do note that it includes St. John’s Wort though, so you need to be sure it’s safe for you to use. The ingredients of Yogi Bedtime tea are:
- Chamomile Flower
- St. John’s Wort
- Skullcap Leaf
- Rose Hip
- Raspberry Leaf
- Stevia Leaf
- Passion Flower
- Licorice Root
Bigelow Sweet Dreams
Bigelow Sweet Dreams has some extra minty pizzazz to accompany the usual chamomile that you’ll find in most nighttime teas. It’s another of my favorites, especially as I absolutely adore the taste and smell of mint.
The inclusion of two types of mint fuse together to create a lovely aroma, and like the Sleepytime tea can help calm a poorly stomach.
If you’re as much of a mint fanatic as I am, then this is one to try at least once. The ingredients of Sweet Dreams are:
- Rose Blossoms
- Orange blossoms
Can tea really help you sleep?
Why do you drink tea before bedtime? Maybe you find it relaxing, or you simply like the taste. Perhaps you feel from personal experience that it can help you fall asleep.
If you like the taste and enjoy relaxing on the sofa with your favorite bedtime tea, in some ways that’s the only thing that really matters.
The problem lies in the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of tea as a sedative; a large piece of research in 2012, for example, found little evidence that herbal teas actually help you sleep.
However, when I was writing about natural sleep remedies, I came to 2 conclusions:
- Just because there isn’t much research, doesn’t mean a bedtime tea won’t help.
- It could be that simply taking the time to enjoy a cup of tea is relaxing in itself.
For me, drinking herbal tea is a valuable part of my bedtime routine; taking time out to sit and relax while drinking tea helps me fade from the active daytime to the calmer nighttime.
Whether there’s evidence or not, many people firmly believe in the power of a soothing cup of tea to help them sleep.
The plants and herbs that help you sleep
Chamomile is the superstar of nighttime teas. There’s not a great deal of evidence that it has any real sedative effects, yet people continue to drink it before going to bed. You can easily make it yourself by drying out the flowers and brewing them. It’s also found in most brands of bedtime tea.
Valerian is one of the few herbs which have actually been found by researchers to have sedative properties. It’s made from the root of the flower, and people have used it for centuries to help with sleep and anxiety. It may take a couple of weeks of regular drinking before the full sedative effect is felt.
Whilst Chamomile and Valerian reign supreme in the bedtime tea category, they aren’t alone. Another plant sometimes put into the mix is Lavender, which is thought to have relaxing and anti-stress properties.
4. Lemon balm
Lemon balm also cropped up in the study reporting a lack of evidence for natural remedies and teas that help you sleep. However, it’s still believed to aid relaxation by many people, and for this reason is often included in brands of teas for sleep.
5. St John’s Wort
St John’s Wort is most commonly used as a natural anti-depressant, but has also been found to help with anxiety. Since worry and stress are common reasons why people suffer from insomnia, it could be that it can help promote sleep by reducing the nightly worries.
It does come with some warnings though, so before you go out harvesting the plant, make sure it’s safe for you to use.
Peppermint is often associated with providing energy and helping stomach problems, but is also sometimes included in bedtime tea. It’s thought to help calm your internal systems, and with that your mind. It may be particularly useful if you’ve over-indulged and your stomach is keeping you awake.
7. Kava Kava
I was hesitant to include Kava Kava on the list because of the various dangers it can pose. However, it’s still a valid plant used for insomnia. You just need to be slightly cautious if you’re thinking of using it. Do further research and check it won’t pose a problem considering your current health.
8. Chinese herbs
Chinese medicine is a complex world. The philosophy tends to be more that you need to have a combination of herbs created specifically for you. Not so much that they create a magic potion that works for everyone.
That said, there are some herbs typically used to help promote sleep:
- Sour Date Seed
- Poria Paradicis
- Arborvitae Seed
- Schizandra Fruit
There are some formulas created to reflect the kind of sleep problems you might have. And these are often connected to a body part as well. Problems falling asleep may be connected to the heart, for example. So Chinese medicine would look at ways to restore balance to that organ.
Since writing this article, many readers have left comments describing their favorite bedtime teas – thank you all! With so many fantastic suggestions, I’ve decided to start a list so future readers can see what others are drinking.
- Lemon balm and skullcap combination.
- Chamomile Nights by Stash, with chamomile, spearmint and lotus.
- Pukka sleepy time.
- Chamomile mixed with Chinese tea.
- Lavender sun tea.
- Celestial Seasonings sleepytime extra herbal tea.
- Yogi soothing bedtime caramel.
- Sleepytime tea mixed with chai white tea and Rooibos red tea.
- Chamomile steeped in hot water along with lemon verbena, with some lemon and sugar added.
- Snore and Peace tea by Clipper.
- Tearing up 10 or so sweet mint leaves in boiling or very hot water.
- Sleepytime tea with vanilla.
- Triple Leaf Relaxing Tea (Chinese herbal tea).
- Linden leaves tea.
- Peppermint and chamomile tea combined.
- Tension Tamer.
- Tazo tea.
- Happy Nights tea by Carmencita.
- Nettle tea and Chamomile with a teaspoon of raw honey.
Which teas do you drink?
So there you have my thoughts about the various teas that might help you unwind at the end of a stressful day and perhaps sleep a little easier.
Now it’s over to you to talk about the teas you like. Do you make your own tea or do you buy it? Do you have a favorite tea? Please share your ideas in the comments below, and if there’s anything new I’ll add it to the list above.