You’ve probably seen the boxes of herbal teas in the grocery store with sleepy bears and houses with one window lit. These are all herbal bedtime teas promising the same thing — restful sleep. But do these teas even work? That’s the question we’ll attempt to answer in this article, followed by reviews of some bedtime teas, then zeroing in on the best tea for sleep available on the market today.
What Is Tea for Sleep?
A tea for sleep is any tea that produces the side effects of drowsiness or sedation. Typically drunk before going to bed, these teas come in many varieties but share several traits, including:
- Claiming to help you fall asleep
- Sedating or relaxing your body
- Non-habit forming
What Herbs Are Most Effective in Bedtime Teas?
Three types of plants are commonly used in sleep-inducing tea: passion flower, chamomile, and valerian root. While passion flower continues to grow in popularity and chamomile is very well-known, the plant that shows the most evidence to help with sleep is valerian root. Let’s take a closer look at each plant…
A Central and South American herb, passion flower is best known for its relaxing and calming effects and the evidence is more than anecdotal. Several studies have been conducted and one from 2011 found those who drank passion flower tea had better sleep quality than those who drank a placebo (source). In Europe, this plant is used for insomnia and anxiety extensively and is quickly gathering popularity in the United States as well.
While this herbal flower, also called German chamomile, has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep, the evidence isn’t strong as the two other herbs. According to Karen Sandards, a staff writer for Natural Health 365, “animal research has supported chamomile’s ability to relax blood vessels and smooth muscle fibers.” This may contribute, Sanders says, to its sedative, antispasmodic, and sleep-inducing properties (source). There have also been a few human studies conducted on the effects of chamomile and thus far, results are positive.
Used to treat restless sleep and anxiety since the second century AD, valerian root is widely respected for its sedative and anti-anxiety properties. Many studies have shown how valerian root in herbal teas helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality.
For instance, 44% of participants who consumed valerian root in one Swedish study described their sleep as “perfect,” while 89% reported “improved” sleep (source). While no one in this particular study reported side effects, be aware that drinking valerian tea can cause headaches, dizziness, and stomach problems for some people.
Why Should You Drink Tea Before Bedtime?
The benefits of drinking tea for sleep are two-fold. First, herbal teas for sleep get your body ready for bed by relaxing your muscles and calming your anxieties. Whether the active ingredient is passion flower, chamomile, or valerian root, all three have been shown to reduce anxieties and ease stress in the muscles.
Second, circumstantial evidence suggests that a bedtime ritual, like drinking tea before bed each night, helps the body prepare for the night’s sleep and its soothing effects help you drift off to sleep much easier.
How Should You Use Tea for Sleep?
You should always check with your physician before using an herbal tea for sleep since herbs like those described in this article can cause adverse reactions with some prescribed medications. Sometimes the herbs enhance the drug, while other times they decrease the drug’s potency.
For example, drinking chamomile tea for sleep can reduce the effectiveness of clotting agents intended to stop bleeding. Aside from chamomile, common herbs used in teas like licorice root, peppermint and ginger can also interact with drugs.
Reviews of the Best Teas for Sleep
Organic India Tulsi Wellness Sleep Tea
Active ingredients: tulsi and chamomile
Organic India brings us this interesting blend that includes an active ingredient not listed in the section above on common herbs used in bedtime teas: tulsi also known as “holy basil.” This plant is considered both a natural sleep aid and immune system booster.
It has a moderately spicy flavor and smells very spicy, too. A unique blend, it often works within an hour to relax the body and reduce anxiety, preparing your body for bed.
- Includes tulsi, an overall wellness herb
- Moderate spicy scent and flavor
- May take up to an hour to work
Active Ingredients: passion flower and chamomile
Founded in 1969, Yogi Teas carry a wide variety of herbal teas. Their bedtime blend is a smooth and spicy tea with a strong taste of cardamom. While its aroma mainly comes from sweet chamomile and passion flower (the active ingredients in this tea), it also has hints of licorice and rosehip. The tea also includes skullcap leaves, which are said to enhance meditation and self-awareness. A great blend, Yogi Bedtime Tea can make you relaxed and more aware of your thoughts at the same time.
- Stronger taste than most herbal blends
- May help with self-awareness as well as sleep
- May take up to an hour to work
Traditional Medicinals Organic Nighty Night Valerian Tea
Active Ingredients: valerian root and passion flower
With a strong amount of valerian root comes an unfortunate side effect: the smell of old gym socks! But it’s a small price to pay considering valerian root is the best herb for sleeplessness. If you can get past the smell, you’ll discover a wonderful, bittersweet, minty flavor that’s moderate to mild in body.
Take note, this tea is intended to treat occasional sleeplessness, not everyday insomnia. That’s because regular use of valerian root, as mentioned earlier, can cause side effects. But for the one off sleepless night, this tea works great and fast (within 15 to 30 minutes).
- Pleasant flavor
- Works within 15 to 30 minutes
- Off-putting smell for some
- Intended only for occasional insomnia
Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Herbal Tea
Active Ingredient: chamomile
Take a whiff of this tea for sleep and it may instantly remind you of childhood. Since the 1970’s, many happy customers have been giving this tea to their children with positive results.
While its strong scent of chamomile, spearmint, and lemongrass can be a bit overpowering, its chamomile and mint flavor is mild to moderate. The Sleepytime flavor is also smooth, creamy, and has a lingering taste of blackberry, hawthorn, and hint of spearmint. Add a little raw honey or lemon to boost the flavor to its maximum, if desired.
This bedtime tea works for most people after about ten minutes, at which time you should feel calm and relaxed. But unfortunately, the chamomile isn’t too strong and may not help put you to sleep, especially if you’re an adult. And while the tea has around 25 milligrams of valerian root per serving, that’s also not enough to make a real impact.
- Smooth, creamy taste
- Mild, pleasant smell
- Doesn’t work for everyone
- Too little valerian root to be helpful
Bigelow Tea Herbal Tea Sweet Dreams
Active Ingredient: chamomile
The aroma of this tea will draw you in and grab your attention, with its distinct smell of chamomile, spearmint, and peppermint. We anticipated a strongly mint-flavored drink but were wrong. Instead, its flavor is very mild and barely perceptible, almost like you’re drinking hot water! But it does the job for most people within about ten minutes — relaxing the body and making you feel sleepy. Some people, however, have no success with it.
- Beautiful aroma
- Fast acting (within ten minutes)
- Almost imperceptible taste
What Is the Best Tea for Sleep?
All the herbal teas reviewed are great products that can actually work to relax the body and prepare you for sleep. But of the five products discussed, the Organic India Tulsi Wellness Sleep Tea seems to work best, while also contributing to overall wellness.
This tulsi tea has a great flavor, stronger than many herbal teas for sleep, and an equally pleasing aroma — all reasons why it’s clearly the best tea for sleep currently on the market. So long as you don’t mind waiting a little longer for it to do its magic, this may be the perfect tea for you!
Now Over to You!
What are your thoughts about using teas for sleep? Leave your comments below!