Now that we’re well into autumn and winter is just around the bend, you may be more inclined to grab a hot drink before bed. If tea is your choice of beverage, which type or flavour do you choose?
Here’s a rundown of some of the more soothing ingredients found in herbal teas and the science behind their sleep-inducing properties:
Valerian root is one of the few herbs that have been proven to subtly increase the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in some people’s brains, which can have a calming effect. Taking valerian root can also ease insomnia, although you will need to persevere for a few weeks after taking it to properly notice any effect. As an active ingredient, valerian root should be taken with caution, so be mindful of any other medicines that you are taking.
This is a tried and tested tea that has been used since ancient Egyptian times to help people drift off. There isn’t an established explanation for why the plant seems to help us nod off, but there is a theory that suggests the soothing effect of chamomile comes from the metabolic cells of the plant that bind to the benzodiazepine (GABA) receptors in your brain, increasing your feelings of sleepiness. Whether or not this is exactly what happens, many swear by this drink to help them get to sleep at night. It also has many antioxidant and immune-boosting properties, so no matter your reason for using it, chamomile can be beneficial to your diet.
Lemon, Honey and Ginger
This well-known mixture, while generally considered a cure for colds, can be employed to help you get to sleep.
Ginger has many health benefits, such as relieving nausea, aiding digestion and reducing inflammation. Meanwhile, lemon helps with liver function, aids the detoxification process and also plays a part in the digestion process. Honey pops up all the time when you research getting to sleep, and there seems to be some contention as to whether it’s helpful or detrimental to sleep. Some research has suggested that a teaspoon of raw honey just before bed can give your liver a much-needed boost during the night.
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort comes from a perennial flowering plant from the family Hypericaceae. This herbal remedy has been used for centuries and is used for treating mild to moderate depression. The exact active ingredient of the plant is not completely known, however it is also prescribed to people for insomnia and colds. It is thought to work by allowing serotonin to linger in the brain, lifting the mood and helping you to relax and de-stress. Be careful with St. John’s wort though, as it can react negatively with other medications – particularly antidepressants – and it may not be a good idea to take alongside valerian root. Moreover, St. John’s wort should not be taken if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as the long-term effects are unknown.
If you’re not a fan of herbal teas and you prefer the more typical Yorkshire or green tea, you can opt for a decaffeinated option.
There are a few ways that tea can be decaffeinated, including water extraction, CO2 extraction and chemical extraction:
- Water extraction has been found to remove a lot of the taste from tea so it is not very common.
- CO2 extraction is the preferred method for consumers as it is natural and chemical-free but the downside is that it is very expensive, so it may up the price of your cuppa.
- Don’t let chemical extraction deter you, the tea is subjected to thorough cleaning after the chemical process is complete and the chemical residue found on the leaves is negligible; you would have to drink a ton of tea to face any ill effects from the chemicals left behind!
What kind of tea is your go-to bedtime drink? Let us know in the comments below.