Do you find that a relaxing herbal tea in the evening helps you shift down a few mental gears, washing away the stress of a hectic day?
As an Englishman and an insomniac, it makes sense that I’d drink tea as part of my relaxing bedtime routine.
Drinking tea might be a cultural norm for me, but I do feel that taking time out to enjoy your favorite tea, breathing deeply as the natural aromas fill the air, 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 suggests 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
There’s a wide range of ready-made herbal teas waiting to be discovered, with some classics that have lasted the test of time. Here are some which prove ever popular with people all around the world, and are also my personal favorites.
Celestial Seasonings sleepytime tea
Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea is one of the most popular brands of tea for sleep in the United States. It’s also growing in popularity in the United Kingdom, and many other countries.
It’s been my personal favorite nighttime tea for some time now. I find it has a delicious taste – soft and rounded even though it’s quite earthy, with no overpowering flavors that jump out. And with a little honey, it’s a lovely tea that helps me unwind at the end of a busy day.
It also has the added benefit of being soothing on the stomach. 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:
- Chamomile (42%)
- Tilia flowers
- Blackberry leaves
- Orange blossoms
Yogi bedtime tea
Yogi Bedtime tea is just one of many excellent teas that Yogi make. They produce several teas which can help with stress relief and relaxation, but this one is my favorite.
I find it a relaxing drink, and enjoy the deep, earthy flavor it has. You can really taste the valerian, chamomile and fennel combination, especially if you let it brew a little longer.
It has a wide range of certified organic ingredients, including lemon grass, which is widely used in South Asia for relaxation.
The ingredients of Yogi Bedtime tea are:
- Fennel (31%)
- Chamomile flowers (17%)
- Valerian root (6%)
- Lemon balm
- Lemon grass
- Lavender flowers
Clipper sleep easy infusion
Clipper Sleep Easy is a tea that’s close to my heart, being blended in the UK, not far from where I grew up. I like how they point out that it’s made ‘with organic ingredients and a clear conscience’. Clipper say they strive to improve the welfare of the workers in the countries the ingredients come from.
Th tea has quite a mellow flavor, with just a hint of cinnamon and the rooibos coming through the standard flavor of chamomile. It’s a lovely bedtime tea, with a unique taste, that’s one of my favorites in the colder winter months.
The ingredients are:
- Chamomile (25%)
- Lemon balm (5%)
- Valerian root (5%)
- Natural orange flavoring & other natural flavorings (5%)
Pukka night time
Pukka Night Time has a flavor that appears similar to the Celestial Seasonings at first. But there are some subtle difference – it’s a little stronger tasting, and sweeter even. It’s a lovely flavor in fact, and one I can happily drink a couple of cups of in an evening.
The ingredients are 100% organic and ethically sourced, which I like to see. Interestingly, it’s the only commercial tea I’ve seen with green rama tulse leaf. This is thought to have anti-stress properties and used in ayurvedic medicine.
Here’s the full list of ingredients:
- Oat flowering tops (30%)
- Lavender flower (14%)
- Limeflower (10%)
- Chamomile flower
- Licorice root
- valerian root
- Green rama tulsi leaf
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 as I adore the taste and smell of mint.
Two different mint plants fuse together to create a lovely aroma, with a rich taste that’s great to drink on an evening when you feel like a stronger tasting bedtime tea. I like my tea in a glass cup, and enjoy watching the tea change color from yellow to red as it’s steeped for longer.
Made in the US from non-GMO ingredients, I like that the box, teabag and string are all biodegradable. But if you live in a place with high humidity or damp, each teabag has its own foil pouch to protect it from moisture and air.
The ingredients of Sweet Dreams are:
- Peppermint leaves
- Rose blossom
- Spearmint leaves
- Orange blossoms
Bluebird Tea Dozy Girl
The teas I’ve mentioned so far are all made by established companies and come in ready-made tea bags. But my final favorite is made by an independent British company. Calling themselves mixologists, they take pride in offering beautiful dried tea to be brewed at home.
I first walked into their flagship shop in Brighton, asked what they had for sleep, and was suggested the Dozy Girl. It has a rich flavor, and like the Bigelow, a mesmerizing color change as the red flowers slowly overpower the yellow and green.
It has a flowery perfume to it, with a fruity taste that makes a nice change from the more earthy teas. If you live in the UK, or don’t mind ordering your tea from abroad, this is one to try.
- Rose petals
- Lemon verbena
Available at: Bluebirdteaco.com
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 doing some research into natural sleep remedies, I came to 2 conclusions:
- The lack of clear evidence doesn’t necessarily mean a bedtime tea can’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 transition from the busy 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
In terms of popularity, Chamomile is the superstar of nighttime teas. The evidence for its sedative effect is still somewhat mixed, but it crops up time and time again in bedtime teas and herbal remedies.
It’s found in many brands of bedtime tea, either alone or mixed with other herbs. And if you enjoy making remedies yourself, it’s easy to make by drying out the flowers and brewing them.
Valerian is one of the few herbs which has been repeatedly proven 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 though.
Although 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 anxiety and stress are known to be causes of insomnia for many people, it could be that it helps promote sleep by reducing your nightly worries.
It does come with some warnings though, so do check that it’s safe for you to use based on your current state of health and other medications you might be taking.
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 one-size-fits-all solution that will work for anyone.
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. These are often connected to a body part, so for example problems falling asleep might be seen as being connected to the heart. So Chinese medicine would look at ways to restore balance to your heart specifically.
Since writing this article, many readers have left comments describing their favorite bedtime teas – thank you all! With so many great suggestions, I’ve decided to start a list so future readers can see what others are drinking.
- Pukka sleepy time.
- Yogi soothing bedtime caramel.
- Lemon balm and skullcap combination.
- Chamomile Nights by Stash, with chamomile, spearmint and lotus.
- Chamomile mixed with Chinese tea.
- Lavender sun tea.
- 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.
- Brewing 10 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.
- Teavana’s Winterberry.
- Decaffeinated Earl Grey.
- Nighty Night.
- A concoction of the leaves of guava, taro and mulberry.
- Triple Leaf Relaxing.
- Ahmad Verbena (Verveiene)
- Hibiscus tea
Which teas do you drink?
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.