Quality sleep is very much in the spotlight at the moment. As the link between sleep and mental and physical health become stronger, it’s inevitable that the food and drink industry will be pushing products that promote better sleep.
None more-so than the herbal drink industry that is awash with bedtime brews that promise to lure you into a blissful slumber.
But how much science is behind these bold claims? And which of these herbal remedies actually work?
To get to the bottom of this we’ve done a little digging to separate the wheat from the chaff to put these bedtime brews to the test.
Do herbal teas help you sleep?
Herbal teas aren’t new. They’ve been around for thousands of years, originating in the East before being embraced by the West as a potentially natural herbal remedy.
They’ve been linked to weight loss, lower cholesterol and combatting anxiety.
But can they also induce sleep?
In short: quite possibly. While there’s little strong scientific evidence, some teas – such as chamomile – have been found to induce sleep in various empirical studies.
One study in a nursing home, for example, found those who took chamomile daily experienced better sleep than those who didn’t.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of trying and testing for yourself, allowing for a couple of weeks to see if your preferred bedtime beverage is having an effect.
So, which ancient brew is for you? Here are 5 of our favourites to get you started…
5 great bedtime brews to help you sleep
One of the most popular herbal teas around – with more than one million cups being sunk a year. And no wonder, it’s been around for literally thousands of years.
Chamomile contains apigenin, which is an antioxidant that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain that may decrease anxiety and help induce sleep. This is why chamomile is seen by many as a natural tranquillizer and sleep inducer.
Another theory supporting the effects of chamomile is that it contains compounds that bind BDZ and GABA receptors in the brain, which creates a sedative effect. Again, it’s worth noting that these theories aren’t supported by clinical studies.
Lavender is a bit of a buzzword loved by health and sleep experts everywhere at the moment. The calming and soothing fragrance of lavender is regarded as a relaxant that can reduce anxiety and thus induce sleep.
One study of 80 postnatal women found that lavender did indeed help to improve sleep quality and reduce the signs of depression.
It’s worth noting, however, that the study concluded the effects of lavender worked in the immediate term, with no evidence supporting long term effects.
As with chamomile, valerian plant extract reportedly stimulates the GABA receptor in the brain and helps to induce sleep. Yet again, studies are inconclusive as to whether valerian scientifically promotes sleep.
As with all herbal teas, it’s best trying them out for yourself as each individual will react differently to their respective benefits.
Lemon balm is a mint herb that’s been widely used for a range of ailments, from sleep disorders to indigestion.
Studies have been positive, with links between using lemon balm – or a combination including lemon balm- and better sleep being established.
Peppermint tea apparently carries many health benefits, such as stress relief, improved concentration, alleviating stomach problems and sinus relief.
And of course it’s been linked to improving sleep quality.
Why? Well, apparently menthol in peppermint relaxes the muscles, which in turn prepares you for a better night’s sleep.
It’s even been suggested that drinking peppermint tea before you hit the hay leads to more vivid dreams too.
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