Sometimes it seems sleeping is a lot of work. Getting your best sleep requires exercising regularly, eating right, avoiding caffeine late in the day, and limiting alcohol. It’s enough to keep you up at night. However, there’s one simple step you can add to your bedtime routine to improve your sleep that requires minimal effort and provides maximum benefit: a cup of tea.
1. What is the actual benefit of tea for sleep?
“Numerous studies have shown that a variety of teas may boost your immune system, fight off inflammation, and even ward off cancer and heart disease.” Herbal teas have been used as natural sleep remedies for centuries. They are not sleeping pills; however, a cup of herbal tea can be part of a bedtime ritual that signals to the brain it is time to wind down before sleep. The tea can lead to the feeling of relaxation that, combined with the rest of a soothing bedtime routine, “can promote a relaxation response in the body, which in turn can set the stage for a good night of sleep.”
2. How do I select the right tea?
Don’t be overwhelmed by the shelves—or entire shops—filled with teas. Ultimately, like choosing wine, it’s about what you like. If you have a local tea shop, take a few minutes to talk to the proprietor. Like sommeliers, they want to share their knowledge and success is finding you something you’ll love and recommend to your friends.
Since we’re focusing on your nighttime routine, you’ll want to skip the caffeinated varieties (black tea and caffeinated green tea) and focus on the varieties with the least amount of caffeine (white and herbal teas). White tea is the least processed variety with a high level of antioxidants making it the most effective in fighting various forms of cancer. It also offers the least amount of caffeine. Herbal teas contain blends of herbs, spices, fruits, or other plants, in addition to tea leaves, without caffeine.
Herbal teas considered to have calming effects beneficial to falling sleep include chamomile and lavender, the same herbs used in our aromatherapy pillow sachets. Several studies have found chamomile “to safely improve sleep quality.” Lavender tea “effectively decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety” in one study of older adults. It is not for pregnant people. Other teas historically recommended as part of a bedtime routine include magnolia tea, decaffeinated green tea, valerian tea, and passionflower tea.
Be sure you like the taste and smell of the tea. It’s not medicine so it shouldn’t taste like it.
3. How should I incorporate tea into my bedtime routine?
Since we’re about finding the things that calm and soothe you in preparation for a great night’s sleep, we focus on the final cup before bed.
- Consider tea to be a soothing addition to your bedtime routine and not a sleeping pill. It’s as true for adults as it is for babies and children: having a consistent bedtime routine or ritual helps your brain and body settle into the right state for a good night’s sleep. We all know someone who seems capable of lying down and falling asleep immediately with no preparation whatsoever, but they are not typical. That is not how our “brains are wired for sleep.” To the contrary, our brains need the bedtime routine to signal “the world is safe and secure, and it is okay to start shutting down.”
- Don’t drink your tea too close to bedtime as your sleep won’t be improved by additional trips to the bathroom. The typical recommendation is to drink your tea an hour or two before bedtime.
- Let the tea soothe all your senses. Cup the freshly prepared tea in your hands to provide loosening warmth to your fingers. Look into the cup to exclude everything else from view. Smell the aroma as it brings back a fond memory of a time or place. Taste the herbs, florals, or spices used in the tea blend you’ve chosen. Listen as you blow on the tea, sip, and swallow.
Consider relaxing with a cup of tea as you prepare for bed, and have a great night’s sleep.
-The Team at Down Etc
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Cover Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-white-and-red-floral-ceramic-teacup-4974553/