Sleepy time tea is a favorite among tea fans. Not only is it a refreshing, great-tasting herbal infusion, but it brings together all the best things about a relaxing cup of tea in potentially helping to bring about precious sleep.
I like to make a big, steaming cup and bring it with me to the couch while I wind down for the night after getting 3 hyped up kids to bed. Oy.
As well as being caffeine-free, natural and a calming activity in itself, sleepy time tea ingredients may actually have sleep-inducing properties. But what are these ingredients and does sleepy time tea actually work?
Let’s explore the most common sleepy time tea ingredients.
Chamomile is by far the most common of the sleepy time tea ingredients, with some varieties containing up to 42% of this popular herb. Not only does it make a delicious tea, but there has been research into chamomile’s potential health benefits.
Like many tea ingredients, chamomile has been said to have a calming effect, perhaps helping soothe conditions such as insomnia, stress, anxiety and upset stomachs.
The research into its effects as a mild tranquilizer have looked into a substance called apigenin, which can bind to the specific neural receptors which help to initiate sleep.
Valerian is a herb native to Europe, but which also grows in parts of Asia and North America. The active substances come from the root, which is why you will often see it referred to as ‘valerian root’ in supplements and ingredients.
As compared to chamomile and others, it is a stronger natural sedative which has been used since the 2nd century. As a sleepy time tea ingredient, it’s relatively common and there is some evidence to support its sleep-inducing qualities.
Studies have looked into its use in treating insomnia and it has been seen to moderately improve the condition. Participants in one study reported less nighttime waking when taking valerian supplements.
Similar to chamomile, Valerian is believed to bind to receptors in the brain, in this case inhibiting the reabsorption of serotonin. Its sleep-promoting qualities are linked to its potential to decrease anxiety and increase feelings of calm.
Similar to valerian, L-theanine is a substance which is used for enhancing a serene mental state, and so is sometimes used as a sleepy time tea ingredient. A study of men in their 20s reported feeling more efficient and energized on waking. However, this was after taking a supplement and L-theanine’s properties are unlikely to be powerful enough in tea alone.
Lavender is another age-old plant, used since Roman times for reducing stress, as a decoration and scent.
It’s still commonly used today for all of these purposes, and apart from sleepy time tea, its links to bedtime also come in the form of being used under pillows and in the bath.
There is evidence to support its potential sleep-promoting qualities, with a 2005 study showing that increased deep sleep time could be linked to its smell.
Furthermore, it could be that the effect is stronger in women. This study of postnatal mothers found lower rates of depression and fatigue in those drinking tea with lavender. An effect which stopped after they stopped. This is positive as it’s linked specifically to tea.
4. Lemon Balm
Fresh and citrus-scented, lemon balm is another plant which has been used for multiple cosmetic and holistic health purposes.
Lemon balm has a stronger flavor, so may not be found widely as it gives a particular taste, but it is still a common sleepy time tea ingredient.
There has been research into its potential in terms of its active ingredients and potential for inducing sleep. A couple of studies found 81% of people with mild sleep issues saw improvement when taking lemon balm (and valerian); and a 42% reduction in symptoms of insomnia when taking a supplement for 15 days.
It is thought that lemon balm works towards these effects by interacting with the receptors in the brain which aid sleep. Due to its potential calming effects, lemon balm is also used to reduce stress, anxiety and indigestion.
Passionflower is a sweet plant commonly used as a sleepy time tea ingredient. It has been known to be used to combat anxiety and obsessive thoughts, calm the stomach, alleviate indigestion and relax the nervous system.
Passionflower too increases GABA neurotransmitter to help block anxiety and excitement-promoting substances in the brain.
6. Tilia Flowers
Tilia, also known as linden or basswood, is another common sleepy time tea ingredient with wide-reaching potential effects.
Like Camellia sinensis, tea leaves, themselves, Tilia flowers contain flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants act on a range of conditions such as inflammation, high blood pressure and even cancers by reducing cell aging and damage.
Due to its action on inflammation, Tilia itself is used in supplement form to combat headaches, colds, breathing problems and joint pain.
As one of the sleepy time tea ingredients, these properties may assist by having a relaxing effect on the body and so helping people to fall into a restful sleep.
Other Sleepy Time Tea Ingredients
There are a range of other ingredients that you might see in sleepy time tea.
St John’s Wort is a very common natural remedy used to help with symptoms of depression. It too binds to neural receptors to prevent absorption of relaxing hormones in the brain. In this way, it could be helpful in sleepy time tea for those with depression and anxiety who suffer from insomnia as a result.
Catnip isn’t just for making your feline friend act crazy! In fact, it has the opposite effect in humans and increases drowsiness so is an occasionally seen sleepy time tea ingredient.
Spearmint is another potential anti-inflammatory, helping with indigestion and headaches which often come with sleeplessness. As an added bonus, it makes for a refreshing and popular minty tea taste.
Blackberry leaf, similar to spearmint, is another ingredient popular for both its anti-inflammatory properties and great taste.
Magnolia bark has been used in Asia for centuries as a nerve and anxiety reliever. The active compound is magnolol, which is a mild sedative.
Hops tea is made from the same plants which are used to make beer. It perhaps unsurprisingly has similar effects – although hopefully in a more healthy way! Hops tea has been taken to reduce stress and anxiety.
Sleepy Time Tea and Melatonin
We’ve explored some of the most common sleepy time tea ingredients. But there is another element to this potentially calming drink which some see as essential to its effectiveness – melatonin.
But just what is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, located in the brain. It controls your sleeping and waking cycles by working with your circadian rhythms. This is your internal body clock, and tells the pineal gland how much melatonin to make in order to wake you up or send you off to sleep.
Your circadian rhythms are influenced by light exposure throughout the day. Therefore, levels of melatonin will increase in the evening and drop in the morning in order to control sleep cycles. This is why you might get thrown off and feel more tired in winter when there is less light.
Therefore, increased levels of melatonin should aid the onset of sleep. Studies have shown that taking it two hours before bed aided speed of falling asleep, but it can be effective within 30 minutes to an hour.
Melatonin has also been used to treat immune function, blood pressure and cortisol levels,. It can be found in tomatoes, olives and barley as well as in supplement form.
In terms of sleepy time tea and melatonin, for these reasons, it is often taken alongside this calming drink to increase the effects of both.
Sleepy Time Tea Side Effects
When we drink sleepy time tea we’re hoping to fall asleep of course. For this reason, these ingredients’ potential activity on the body can have side effects. These should be carefully noted depending on the ingredients listed on your individual tea.
Chamomile can be an allergen and should be avoided by those who are pregnant or due to have surgery for its potential blood-thinning properties.
Valerian has the potential to interfere with other medications and can have a slow build up to being effective.
Tilia and lemon balm can also be allergenic. Both should be avoided by those who are pregnant, particularly the latter for its action on menstrual cramps.
As always, it’s important to carefully read all ingredients and apply them to your individual health situation. Consult your doctor if you’re concerned.
So, Does Sleepy Time Tea Work?
That’s the all-important question, and after exploring its most common ingredients the answer is – potentially! Due to the levels in tea as compared to supplements, effects will never be as strong. This is why we usually see sleepy time tea made up of several or most of the ingredients listed.
The effects of active sleepy time tea ingredients will depend on the individual and how they usually react, as well as your particular issues with sleep.
All things considered, as long as it’s healthy for you to do so, give sleepy time tea a try if you’re struggling to get some z’s. There is positive evidence to support sleepy time tea ingredients’ effects to help create conditions for restful sleep. Sweet dreams!
What has been your experience with sleepy time tea ingredients–does it work for you?
Share with us in the comments below!