Good sleep is crucial to your overall health.
Unfortunately, about 30% of people suffer from insomnia, or the chronic inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or achieve restorative, high-quality sleep (, ).
Herbal teas are popular beverage choices when it comes time to relax and unwind.
For centuries, they have been used around the world as natural sleep remedies.
Modern research also backs the use of herbal teas and their effectiveness as a sleep aid.
This article explores 6 of the best bedtime teas for catching some z’s.
For years, chamomile tea has been used as a natural remedy to reduce inflammation, decrease anxiety and treat insomnia.
In fact, chamomile is commonly regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer.
Its calming effects may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile tea. Apigenin binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep ().
A study in 60 nursing home residents found that those who received 400 mg of chamomile extract daily had significantly better sleep quality than those who did not receive any (4).
Another study involving postpartum women who had poor sleep quality found that those who drank chamomile tea for a two-week period reported overall better sleep quality than those who did not drink chamomile tea (5).
Furthermore, a study involving people with chronic insomnia found that those who received 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days fell asleep about 15 minutes faster than participants who did not receive the extract.
Moreover, those who received the extract woke up fewer times in the middle of the night, compared to the placebo group ().
The results of these studies are encouraging, especially for those who struggle with getting a good night’s rest. However, further studies are needed to confirm chamomile tea's effects on sleep.
Summary Chamomile tea contains an antioxidant called apigenin, which may help initiate sleep. Also, drinking chamomile tea may help improve your overall quality of sleep.
Valerian is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat problems like insomnia, nervousness and headaches.
Historically, it was used in England during World War II to relieve the stress and anxiety caused by air raids (7).
Today, valerian is one of the most popular herbal sleep aids in Europe and the US ().
It’s available as a dietary supplement in capsule or liquid form. Valerian root is also commonly dried and sold as tea.
Researchers are not entirely sure how valerian root works to improve sleep.
However, one theory is that it increases levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.
When GABA is present in large abundance, it can increase sleepiness. In fact, this the way in which certain anti-anxiety medications like Xanax function (7).
Some small studies support valerian root as an effective sleep aid.
For example, one study in 27 people with sleep difficulties found that 89% of participants reported improved sleep when taking valerian root extract.
Additionally, no adverse side effects, such as morning drowsiness, were observed after taking the extract (9).
Comparatively, a study in 128 people found those who received 400 mg of liquified valerian root reported a decrease in the time it took them to fall asleep, fewer nighttime awakenings and overall improved sleep quality, compared to those who did not receive the extract (10).
A third study evaluated its long-term effects. In this study, a decrease in insomnia symptoms was reported after participants received 600 mg of dried valerian root daily for 28 days (7).
It is important to note that these findings were based on participant reporting, which is subjective. The studies did not evaluate objective data that is associated with sleep quality, such as heart rate or brain activity.
Nevertheless, drinking valerian root tea may help improve sleep quality without adverse side effects.
Summary Valerian root may increase sleepiness by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA. Smaller studies suggest that valerian root may improve overall sleep quality by shortening the time it takes to fall asleep and decreasing nighttime awakenings.
Lavender is an herb often touted for its aromatic and soothing scent.
In ancient times, Greeks and Romans would often add lavender to their drawn baths and breathe in the calming fragrance.
Lavender tea is made from the small purple buds of the flowering plant.
Originally native to the Mediterranean region, it’s now grown worldwide ().
Many people drink lavender tea to relax, settle their nerves and aid sleep.
In fact, there is research to support these supposed benefits.
A study in 80 Taiwanese postnatal women showed that those who took time to smell the aroma and drink lavender tea daily for two weeks reported less fatigue, compared to those who did not drink lavender tea (12).
Additionally, another study in 67 women with insomnia found reductions in heart rate, heart rate variability and improvements in sleep after 20 minutes of lavender inhalation twice weekly for 12 weeks (13).
Therefore, if anxiety is one of the reasons you may be missing out on some vital shut-eye, drinking lavender tea may help.
Summary Lavender is best known for its relaxing aroma. Drinking lavender tea may improve sleep quality, especially in those with insomnia or anxiety-related disorders.
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family and is found all over the world.
While frequently sold in extract form for use in aromatherapy, lemon balm leaves are also dried to make tea.
This citrus-scented, aromatic herb has been used for reducing stress and improving sleep since the Middle Ages.
Evidence shows that lemon balm increases GABA levels in mice, indicating that lemon balm may act as a sedative (16).
Furthermore, one human study showed a 42% reduction in insomnia symptoms after participants received 600 mg of lemon balm extract per day for 15 days ().
If you chronically experience sleep problems, sipping lemon balm tea before bed may help.
Summary Lemon balm is an aromatic herb that increases GABA levels in the brains of mice, thus initiating sedation. Drinking lemon balm tea may decrease insomnia-related symptoms.
Passionflower tea is made from the dried leaves, flowers and stems of the Passiflora plant.
Traditionally, it has been used to alleviate anxiety and improve sleep.
More recently, studies have examined the ability of passionflower tea to improve insomnia and sleep quality.
For example, one study in 40 healthy adults found that those who drank passionflower tea daily for a week reported significantly better sleep quality, compared to participants who did not drink the tea (18).
Another study compared passionflower in conjunction with valerian root and hops to Ambien, a medication commonly prescribed to treat insomnia.
Results showed that the passionflower combination was as effective as Ambien at improving sleep quality ().
Summary Drinking passionflower tea may improve overall sleep quality. Also, passionflower in conjunction with valerian root and hops may reduce symptoms of insomnia.
Magnolia is a flowering plant that has been around for over 100 million years.
Magnolia tea is made mostly from the bark of the plant but also consists of some dried buds and stems.
Traditionally, magnolia was used in Chinese medicine for various symptoms, including abdominal discomfort, nasal congestion and stress relief.
It is now regarded worldwide for its antianxiety and sedative effects.
Its sedative effect is likely attributed to the compound honokiol, which is found in abundance in the stems, flowers and bark of the magnolia plant.
Honokiol is said to work by modifying GABA receptors in your brain, which may increase sleepiness.
While further research is needed to confirm these effects in humans, preliminary research suggests that drinking magnolia bark tea may help improve sleep.
Summary In mice, magnolia bark tea has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep and increase the amount of overall sleep by modifying GABA receptors in the brain. However, further research is needed to confirm these effects in humans.
Many herbal teas, including chamomile, valerian root and lavender, are marketed as sleep aids.
Many of the herbs they contain work by increasing or modifying specific neurotransmitters that are involved in initiating sleep.
Moreover, they may help you fall asleep faster, decrease nighttime awakenings and improve your overall sleep quality.
Unfortunately, most of the current research used these herbs in extract or supplement form — not the herbal tea itself.
Given that herbal supplements and extracts are very concentrated versions of the herb, a diluted source like tea is likely to be less effective.
Further research that involves larger sample sizes is needed to fully establish herbal teas and their role in improving sleep in the long run.
Additionally, since many herbs and supplements have the potential to interact with both prescription and over-the-counter medications, always consult your healthcare provider before adding an herbal tea to your nightly routine.
While results can vary by individual, these herbal teas may be a good approach for those who are looking to get a better night’s sleep naturally.