With poor sleep quality linked to low mood, trouble with concentration and even sugar cravings and weight gain, there is a range of bedtime drinks to help you get the zzzs you deserve.
Although there is no 'magic number' when it comes to how much sleep we should get, experts agree that, typically, most adults require between seven and eight hours in order to feel refreshed and function well both mentally and physically. And yet, according to the British Sleep Council, 74 per cent of Brits get less than seven hours' kip a night.1
Why is sleep important?
How much sleep we get impacts everything from our immune system to memory, and even our mental health and wellbeing. In fact, one study found that sleeping six hours per night for 14 nights, compared with regularly getting eight, produced 'cognitive performance deficits equivalent to up to two nights of total sleep deprivation'.2
And, not only can one bad night's sleep affect our mood, concentration and alertness, but long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences, and has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and even strokes.
Drinks to help you sleep
Sleep experts have long recommended a warm bedtime drink just before bed to help promote a good night-time routine. And, studies have shown that just getting into the regular habit of having a warm drink before bed can trigger a feeling of sleepiness on its own.
Whether you prefer a cold drink or a warm bedtime drink, here's our list of the best drinks before bed to help you drift off.
One of the healthiest drinks you can have at any time of the day, including before bed, is water. Although not directly linked to improved sleep, water prevents dehydration and, research shows there may be a link between poorer sleep and dehydration.
Tea to help sleeping
There are a range of teas that can be helpful for sleep; black tea isn’t good for sleep, however, as it contains caffeine and is diuretic. But various herbal teas can be the best hot drinks for sleep.
Herbal teas for sleep include:
- Chamomile tea: Tea made from the daisy-like Chamomile flower has multiple health benefits, including improving sleep quality, reducing anxiety and insomnia, relieving cold symptoms such as inflammation, and improving skin health. Often referred to as the ’sleep tea‘, researchers believe the flavonoids in this sweet tea help to relax nerves and muscles.
- Ashwagandha tea: This powerful medical plant has been used to treat stress and anxiety, and in tea, it has been shown in studies to help the body wind down and promote good sleep quality.
- Peppermint tea: Peppermint is mostly believed to have antiviral and anti-microbial properties, as well as helping with easing bloating and upset stomachs. Although not clinically proven to aid sleep, it may relieve any pain you have that could prevent you from drifting off.
- Lavender tea: It’s no secret that lavender has calming and soothing effects, and a study5shows that not only can lavender tea improve sleep quality, but also can make you less fatigued.
- Passionflower tea: Although research is limited, passionflower tea has been used for improving sleep time.
- Green tea: Considered to be the healthiest tea, green tea boasts a range of health benefits, including improving mental health, gut health and cardiovascular functions. Alt-hough to aid in sleep, opt for decaf green tea, as it normally has caffeine which may have the opposite effect.
- Lemon balm tea: Any herbal tea mixed with lemon balm, or specifically lemon balm tea, can make a perfect sleep aid as it calms stress and helps with insomnia and healthy sleep
- Valerian tea: A perennial plant which blooms with pink or white sweet-smelling flowers, the root is used as a medicinal herb known to promote sleep and help with insomnia and sleep. Drinking valerian tea before bed can help you sleep soundly, but there are other ways to consume the valerian root, such as through supplements.
Traditional Herbal Medicine (THR) for sleep
- Traditionally used to aid sleep and relieve sleep disturbances
- 300mg root extract, equivalent to 1,500mg-1,800mg Valerian root
- Regulated by the MHRA and of guaranteed quality
Tart cherry juice
Tart cherry juice blend is a great sleep aid. Recent research has provided some supporting evidence for these claims, attributing cherry's antioxidant properties to the reduction of muscle soreness, its naturally high melatonin content, as well as its ability to increase the availability of tryptophan in the body. All of which makes this a great drink for sleep.
If you’re interested in a healthy drink for sleep, banana smoothies aren’t just refreshing but can also help you to sleep. Since bananas are high in magnesium, tryptophan, melatonin and potassium, they all promote relaxation for your muscles and body, as well as promoting good sleep. And pairing bananas with milk – or almond milk – to make a smoothie can be a nice treat and a great drink before bed.
Many people ask does warm milk make you sleep? And the verdict is that it can; milk does contain tryptophan – an amino acid found in the likes of turkey – which is thought to help promote feelings of sleepiness. While some people swear by it, it may just be the placebo effect. With extra benefits of protein, vitamin D and calcium, drinking warm milk before bed is worth trying for yourself!
To upgrade your milk before bed, you can make golden milk, which combines milk with turmeric, ginger and a teaspoon of honey. This uses the milks power of tryptophan to increase melatonin levels with turmerics effects of reducing anxiety, depression and inflammation.
For those with a lactose intolerance, vegans or lovers of plant-based milk, you can opt for drinking almond milk to help sleep. Almonds are packed with healthy fibres, vitamins and minerals and have been seen to improve sleep quality. Drinking almond milk for sleep can also help promote hormones such as tryptophan, melatonin and magnesium, all good for calming you and making you feel tired.
Another great bedtime drink is Ovaltine or another malted milk. This is because Ovaltine is high in magnesium content, which can help with sleep, as being deficient in this mineral has been associated with sleep disorders. This bedtime drink can also help reduce levels of stress and help to relax muscles. You can also find magnesium supplements to take which can help aid sleep.
Night Time 5-HTP
Pure, natural plant-based 5-HTP
- Converted into serotonin and melatonin in the body
- Serotonin and melatonin influence sleep and mood
- Added B vitamins and magnesium for psychological and nervous system support
Does hot chocolate help you sleep? It may sound too good to be true, but cocoa has long been used as a sleep remedy. In fact, it was first cultivated by the Mayans, the first known sippers of cocoa before bedtime, who prepared it by roasting cocoa beans, hot water and a pinch of spices.
But beware: most commercially available hot chocolates are high in sugar and calories, which can have a detrimental effect on sleep, health and weight.
MYTH BUSTER: 'Isn't there caffeine in hot chocolate?' Technically, yes. But unless you've ordered a 'Mocha' (an espresso, hot milk and cocoa powder combo), there's not much chance of it keeping you up at night. In fact, hot chocolate typically contains a measly 5mg of caffeine per mug. Less than the average cup of decaf coffee!
Drinks to avoid before bed
While there are great drinks to get you to sleep, there are also some that can be detrimental to getting a good night’s rest. Here is a quick list of some of the worst drinks to have before bed:
- Caffeinated teas or drinks (energy drinks)
- Sugary drinks (sodas)
It’s no secret that any drink that contains caffeine or sugar can have the opposite effect and keep you awake at night. And alcoholic beverages not only keep you awake for longer, but the sleep you get won’t be great quality, leaving you feeling groggy (and hungover) in the morning. If you’re looking for the best drink before bed, avoid these and stick to the ones we’ve suggested to get those sweet, sweet dreams.
The Best Bedtime Drinks
Sometimes good sleep can be interrupted or hard to come by, but a lot of drinks make great sleep aids. While some are high in tryptophan and melatonin, others ease pains and stress in the evenings, which can help you get to sleep faster. We hope that our list of drinks to help you sleep helps you. Feel free to try and find the best one for you. Here at Healthspan, we also offer a range supplements for sleep which can help you catch those long-awaited zzzs.