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 relaxing bedtime ritual.
Cultural programming aside, 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 calm your mind 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 explain how there’s growing evidence that ingredients such as valerian, chamomile and lavender have real sedative effects.
- My recommended bedtime teas
- Can herbal tea really help you sleep?
- The plants and herbs that help you sleep
- Reader’s suggestions
My recommended bedtime teas
Nowadays, there’s a great choice of ready-made herbal teas, with some brands lasting the test of time. Here are five 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 for some time now. I find it has a delicious taste – soft and rounded even though it’s quite earthy. 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 tummy. So when you’ve overindulged, this is the tea to calm both your body and mind. Sleepytime tea contains the following ingredients:
- Chamomile (42%)
- Tilia flowers
- Blackberry leaves
- Orange blossoms
Yogi Bedtime 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 are:
- Fennel (31%)
- Chamomile flowers (17%)
- Valerian root (6%)
- Lemon balm
- 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.
The 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 wonderful tea to drink before bed, with a unique taste, and 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 I can happily drink more than one cup in an evening.
The ingredients are 100% organic and ethically sourced. Interestingly, it’s the only commercial tea I’ve seen with green rama tulse leaf. This is thought to have anti-stress properties and is widely used in India.
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 special aroma, with a rich taste that’s great to drink on an evening when you feel like a stronger tasting bedtime tea.
Made in the US from non-GMO ingredients, 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
Can herbal tea really help you sleep?
Up until the last couple of decades, there was a lack of scientific evidence to support this traditional use of medicinal plants. However, in recent years, there have been numerous research studies showing promising results.
Chamomile is a common ingredient in sleep tea, and there’s mounting evidence that it helps with anxiety. There’s no conclusive proof that it works as a sleep aid though. But perhaps by helping with anxiety, it indirectly helps some people sleep better.
The effectiveness of valerian, also found in many teas, for now remains inconclusive. Some studies show it does help with sleep and anxiety, but others find it doesn’t or that a placebo does just as well.
Despite that, there’s enough evidence that many researchers feel it needs to be studied more.
Lavender has growing evidence that it can help with sleep when inhaled. Studies have shown that inhaling it before going to bed improves sleep quality and reduces the number of nightly wakings.
Again though, researchers feel more work needs to be done before concluding that it definitely works as a sleep aid.
The evidence for most other plants used in tea for relaxation and sleep is less established. But it’s encouraging to know that some have been shown to have a real sedative effect.
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.
So perhaps the combination of a mild sedative effect and a personal decision to mentally relax is all it takes some times.
The plants and herbs that help you sleep
In terms of popularity, chamomile is arguably the superstar of teas for sleep and relaxation in general. The evidence for its sedative effect is strongest for anxiety, but it crops up time and time again in sleep teas and herbal remedies.
It’s found in many brands of herbal tea, either alone or mixed with other plants. And if you enjoy making remedies yourself, it’s easy to make by drying out the flowers and steeping them.
Valerian is one of the few plants which have been shown by researchers to have sedative properties, even if the same result isn’t always found in tests.
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 is widely believed to help with anxiety, stress and insomnia, and is often included in brands of teas created to help with sleep. Some research studies have found it helps with insomnia when combined with other plants, such as valerian and chamomile.
Peppermint is often associated with providing energy and helping stomach problems, but is also sometimes included in teas for sleep and relaxation.
It’s thought to help calm your internal systems, and with that your mind. So it might a good choice if you’ve eaten a little too much, and indigestion is keeping you awake.
You might associate lemongrass more with Asian food – it’s a favorite of mine when making Thai curry!
But it’s also used for medicinal purposes, including to help reduce anxiety, restlessness, menstrual cramps and insomnia.
Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is one of the most important herbs in India, where it’s considered a sacred plant.
It’s also widely used in Ayurveda medicine, including digestion, headaches, stress relief, depression and insomnia. It’s advised that pregnant or nursing women avoid using it though.
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, often connected to a body part.
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 shared their favorite nighttime teas in the comments. With so many great suggestions, I’ve started 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
- Dr Stuart’s relaxation tea
- David’s tea – Mother’s Little Helper
Which tea helps you sleep? Do you buy it or make it yourself? Please share your ideas in the comments below, and if there’s anything new I’ll add it to the list above.