After a long day, it can be hard to wind down and turn off your brain at bedtime. Between your big work presentation, your kid’s science project and the laundry piling up, you may have trouble de-stressing to fall to sleep. While there are many different ways to help you relax and unwind after a long day (or week, or month), have you ever thought about adding tea to your nighttime routine?
The ingredients in tea can help you sleep and the methodical process of making tea can help you destress and create a nighttime routine to promote deeper, better rest. Just be careful, because different types of tea contain varying amounts of caffeine, making some better than others to drink before bed. We’re breaking down what types of tea to drink at night and tea’s effect on the way you fall (and stay) asleep.
Caffeine before bed
Obviously, you don’t want to knock back tons of caffeine before bed. After all, caffeine is a chemical that’s main function is improving mental alertness. Once you consume caffeine, it takes about an hour for the effects to kick in and can last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours, depending on your dosage. Caffeine is found in many products—but are most found in popular items like coffee, tea and soda.
Tea is naturally caffeinated but has less caffeine than a typical cup of coffee or espresso (which is also naturally caffeinated). Matcha, a concentrated powder form of green tea, is the strongest type of tea and has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Black and white teas have a little less caffeine than coffee or matcha and herbal teas have the least caffeine (very little or none).
Can tea help you sleep?
The answer is both yes and no—it largely depends on what kind of tea you’re drinking and how your body responds to caffeine. In general, tea is great for bedtime. From preparing it to sipping it, tea has a calming effect and the ritual of bedtime tea can help you wind down at night. In fact, drinking tea has become a nighttime ritual for many people. The process of boiling the water, steeping your tea and waiting for it to be ready to drink can be a very tranquil, mindful experience. It helps your brain and body wind down from your crazy day—which can make preparing the tea as relaxing as drinking it.
Another great thing about incorporating tea into your bedtime routine is that is can get you away from your screens and in the mindset of sleep. By taking 20 minutes to sip a cup of tea at night, you get a chance to decompress and unwind instead of scrolling through social media and exposing your brain to harmful blue light before bed. This can help get you in the habit of meditating and reflecting on your day rather than being in front of a screen before you go to sleep.
Green tea specifically—although it is caffeinated—has an ingredient (L-theanine) that can help you focus and relax, so it can have a few different uses. Many people like to have green tea or matcha during the day, making use of theanine’s focus effects mixed with the benefits of caffeine to help them concentrate. But green tea isn’t just good for waking up in the morning—you can also benefit from green tea at night. If you’re not super sensitive to caffeine, a little green tea at night might give you the push you need to knock out the rest of your work and get through your kids’ bedtime routines, so you can finally get some rest, too. Plus, the theanine can help you feel relaxed and calm pre-bedtime. If you’re one of those people who can’t gave caffeine after 2 p.m. (or you’ll be up all night), green tea is also available in a caffeine-free form.
The best tea to drink before bed
Obviously, you don’t want to intake a lot of caffeine before you go to sleep (that’s kind of counterproductive), so if you’re going to have tea before bed, you’ll want something with very little to no caffeine. Choose a natural tea to help you relax and de-stress before you sleep. Herbal teas that contain no caffeine like chamomile or peppermint are great choices. Many companies make teas specific for helping you fall to sleep and sleep better. They’re often called sleepy tea or nighttime tea and have no caffeine and ingredients that help you relax and fall to sleep.
- The 4 best bedtime teas are:
- Chamomile tea is one of the best teas for bedtime because it is a caffeine-free and contains sleep-inducing ingredients. It’s also known to help decrease anxiety.
- Green tea (especially decaf) contains theanine, which can help you feel calm at bedtime. However, regular green tea does contain caffeine, so be careful if you’re sensitive to it.
- Peppermint tea is another great herbal tea option for nighttime drinking. It has little to no caffeine and can help settle your stomach, too.
- Lavender tea helps with relaxation and falling to sleep. Lavender in general can be beneficial at night, both when you ingest it and when you smell it—lavender tea is great before bed to help you unwind and relax and can also improve sleep when diffused as an essential oil or sprayed in your room at night.
Tea Tip: if you have a tea that you love that contains caffeine, you can make it less strong (and therefore, less caffeinated) by pouring out the first cup you make. With the same tea leaves or tea bad, make a second cup. This gives you a less caffeinated, slightly weaker version of your favorite tea to sip on before you go to sleep.
A few honorable mention “sleepy teas” include lemon balm tea, which reduces stress and anxiety, passionflower tea, which calms the mind and stomach and valerian tea, which has been known to help people with insomnia. All of the teas mentioned have ingredients that help promote sleep, decrease stress and anxiety and ultimately, help you get a better night’s rest. Many of them can be ingested in tea, taken as supplements and vitamins or other methods like diffusing essential oils.
The downside to drinking tea before bed
The biggest downside to tea before bed is the caffeine. If you’re really sensitive to caffeine, you probably want to avoid tea that contains even a little caffeine before you go to sleep. If you have too much caffeine, it can affect how quickly you fall asleep and how well you sleep throughout the night.
Some people don’t like tea before bed because it causes them to need to get up and use the bathroom during the night. If you already visit the restroom often throughout the night, adding more liquid to your nighttime routine may not be what’s best for you. (This is also true of eating before bed—food right before you go to sleep can affect your digestive track and interrupt your sleep.)
Ultimately, adding tea to your bedtime routine is up to your personal preference. Try a few different kinds of tea, test low caffeine and no caffeine teas and experiment with drinking tea at different times in your evening (after dinner, right before bed, etc.). Everyone is different, and everyone responds to caffeine and the various chemicals in tea differently, so keep trying until you find the nighttime schedule that’s right for you so that you get your best night’s sleep.