9 of the best teas to help you fall asleep
Feb 7, 2022, 2:03 PM
This article was medically reviewed by Kailey Proctor, MPH, RDN, CSO, a board-certified oncology dietitian at the Leonard Clinical Cancer Institute with Mission Hospital.
- The best teas for sleep are typically a type of herbal tea that is caffeine-free.
- Some herbal teas like chamomile and lemon balm contain compounds that promote sleep.
- Other teas that may help you fall and stay asleep include lavender, rooibos, and valerian.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Having a cup of tea can be part of a healthy sleep routine. The best teas for sleep are herbal teas partly because they are caffeine-free.
Moreover, “many herbal teas contain compounds that reduce the time it takes to fall asleep by binding to GABA receptors (neurotransmitters) in the brain, which help induce sleep,” says Elysia Cartlidge, RD, owner of Haute and Healthy Living.
And if you make a habit of it, sipping a cup of tea before bed can help train your brain that it’s time to prepare for sleep, says Liz Weinandy, a registered dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Here are nine of some of the best teas to help you fall asleep faster and get a better night’s sleep overall.
Chamomile is an herb that has been used as a sleep aid for centuries. These days, it’s the main ingredient in “sleepy time” teas.
Chamomile is a mild sedative that contains apigenin, a chemical that acts on the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, similar to how some medications, like Ambien, help treat insomnia.
To help you sleep, have one cup of chamomile tea an hour or two before bedtime, says Amy Adams, RD, founder of Backyard RD.
Important: Pregnant people shouldn’t drink chamomile tea, since it may increase risk of preterm labor or miscarriage.
How to make it: Steep chamomile tea in 100 °F water for 4-5 minutes. Enjoy plain or add honey for a touch of sweetness. (Directions may vary based on product, so check the packaging for best use and vary the steeping time to determine what strength you prefer most.)
2. Lemon balm
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. It contains a compound called rosmarinic acid, which acts on GABA receptors and facilitates sleep.
Lemon balm is also an antioxidant that can boost the immune system, so it has added benefits during the winter and fall when colds and the flu often interrupt sleep, says Adams.
To use lemon balm for sleep, drink a cup of lemon balm tea two hours before bed. You can drink it warm or cold.
How to make it: Steep lemon balm tea in 175° F water for 3 minutes.
3. Lemon verbena
Although there’s limited research on lemon verbena tea, one 2018 study found that people who took a 10-milliliter dose of lemon verbena syrup an hour before bedtime reported falling asleep quicker, sleeping longer, and feeling less sleepy during the day.
In addition, a small 2021 study found that people who took a 400 mg supplement of lemon verbena daily had less muscle soreness after intensive exercise. Because of that, Adams recommends drinking a cup of tea containing lemon verbena after vigorous exercise, or an hour before bed.
How to make it: Pour boiling water over lemon verbena tea and steep for 3-5 minutes.
Valerian has been used as a sedative for centuries, says Weinandy. It’s believed that the compounds in valerian, including valerenic acids and valepotriates, act on GABA receptors in the brain, leading to sleepiness.
However, research on valerian for insomnia is mixed. A 2020 scientific review found some evidence of effectiveness but called for more research on what form of valerian – a supplement, a tea, or something else – might help facilitate sleep.
How to make it: Pour boiling water over valerian tea and steep for 10-15 minutes.
“There is some anecdotal evidence that the antioxidant levels in rooibos tea combined with its anti-inflammatory properties may help with sleep,” Cartlidge says. If you want to try it, she suggests a cup two hours before bedtime.
How to make it: Pour boiling water over rooibos tea and steep for 2-5 minutes depending on how strong you like it.
There are numerous studies indicating lavender, in various forms, may promote sleep, but the research for lavender tea’s effectiveness, specifically, is debatable.
For example, a small 2015 study of postpartum women found that drinking lavender tea each day for 2 weeks reduced fatigue initially, but after four weeks the impact was similar to that of a placebo.
“There is some evidence to suggest that lavender aromatherapy may only have a short-term effect on sleep quality and the same might be true of drinking lavender tea,” Cartlidge says.
To try lavender tea for sleep, brew a cup about two hours before bed, and take time to smell the scent of lavender from the tea.
How to make it: Pour boiling water over your lavender tea and steep for about 2 minutes.
“Despite the lack of evidence to support using honeybush to promote sleep, you may choose to enjoy a warm cup of this tea as part of your nighttime routine since it is caffeine-free,” Cartlidge says.
How to make it: Pour boiling water over your tea bag and steep for 4-5 minutes. For a bolder flavor, steep honeybush tea for longer. Honeybush also makes a great iced tea served with lemon.
Turmeric is a herb in the ginger family that has been said to help improve digestion and reduce inflammation, among other health benefits. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that can help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain. That may help with sleep, although there’s little research on turmeric and sleep.
Still, its overall health benefits make it a good option to replace caffeinated drinks throughout the day.
“Turmeric tea can be consumed at any time of the day since it is caffeine-free and does not necessarily induce sleep,” says Adams.
How to make it: Put one cup of water, milk, or a milk alternative in a pot. Add a sprinkle of turmeric, honey, and lemon. Warm on low heat for 10 minutes, then enjoy.
9. Green tea
Green tea contains some caffeine, so it shouldn’t be consumed before bedtime but can still be a good substitute for beverages with more caffeine. A small 2017 study found that adults who drank more low-caffeine green tea during the day had lower stress levels than adults who drank fully caffeinated green tea.
Even fully caffeinated green tea only has about 12 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, compared to about 95 mg in an average cup of coffee. It’s a good option for a morning or early-afternoon pick-me-up that won’t affect your ability to sleep later that night, says Adams.
How to make it: Heat water to just below a boil. Pour over the bag and steep for 3 minutes. For iced tea, steep a bit longer, then allow the beverage to cool. Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha powder in your cup with the hot water for matcha tea.
Things to consider
If you’re going to drink tea as part of your bedtime routine, choose herbal teas, which are naturally caffeine-free. Avoid teas like black tea, matcha, or even green tea, which contain caffeine, says Adams.
Herbal teas are generally safe, but can have interactions with certain medications. If you’re on medications, have other health conditions, or are pregnant or nursing, talk with your doctor before starting to consume herbal teas regularly.
Best teas for at night
We test and recommend the best teas for all times of the day. Here are some of our picks for the best tea to drink at night:
- Best after-dinner herbal infusion: Harney & Sons Peppermint Herbal Tea, $5.79 on Target
- Best after-dinner black tea: Bigelow Decaffeinated Constant Comment, $16.68 on Amazon
- Best before-bed herbal infusion: Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer, $19.74 on Amazon
- Best before-bed chamomile tea: Traditional Medicinals Organic Chamomile with Lavender, $28.68 on Amazon
Although there’s research on some types of herbs and their impact on sleep, there’s little definitive proof that drinking tea can help you sleep.
“Most research has focused on herbs in extract or supplement form and not as tea,” says Cartlidge. “Therefore, more high-quality research is needed to better understand how herbal teas may improve sleep.”
Still, many people find drinking tea relaxing, and research indicates there may be some health benefits.
If you are going to use tea to try to sleep better at night, do it as part of a holistic sleep hygiene routine that includes going to bed at the same time, avoiding electronics before bed, avoiding large meals two hours before bed, and minimizing sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol intake.
“Taking stock of what we eat, drink, and do before bed are all important for good sleep hygiene,” says Weinandy.