Insomnia is a health condition defined as a chronic lack of sleep. It’s something that most of us will experience at some point in our lives and something that can present in a variety of ways. It’s a misconception that you need to stay awake for nights on end to be diagnosed with insomnia. In actual fact, anyone who struggles to get the sleep they need may be suffering from insomnia.
There are many potential causes and cures for insomnia, the most non-intrusive and natural of which is to take a herbal supplement or drink a herbal tea. In this guide we’ll look at the best herbal teas for insomnia, seeing which ones work and which ones don’t.
Drinking Tea to Help with Insomnia
Before we get to which tea is best for insomnia, there are a few things that need to be said. Firstly, unless you’re highly susceptible, none of these teas or herbs will knock you out like prescription medication would. If they were that effective then we wouldn’t need prescription drugs and we’d all be a lot happier as a result.
However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t help at all. Many insomnia suffers will benefit from herbal teas and sedative herbs in one way or another, especially if they are used in combination with relaxation techniques, such as performing yoga, meditating, putting the phone away and having a relaxing bath.
You shouldn’t expect them to hit you like a brick and make all of your problems go away, but they can help and most importantly they don’t come with any of the serious side effects that you get from prescription-strength sedatives and hypnotics.
Best Tea for Sleep
Chamomile, also known as camomile, is our personal choice for sedating relaxing herbs. It contains oils that have been proven to have a relaxing, sedative effect. However, there are many misconceptions with regards to this tea and if you have tried it before, only to dismiss it when it didn’t work for you, then you might have been the victim of one such misconception. So don’t give-up on it just yet and take the following into consideration.
Chamomile for Sleep: The Misconceptions
The main misconception with regards to chamomile is that its main purpose is to help you sleep. In actual fact this is more of an additional benefit, as chamomile is actually better used as an anti-anxiety drug. It is prescribed for this purpose and is often distilled into essential oils and given to patients who suffer from chronic anxiety and panic attacks.
The active oils in chamomile help to soothe and calm the mind, taking away your stresses and helping you to come down from the highs of the day. So rather than drinking it an hour before going to bed, try drinking a strong cup or two several hours before. As soon as work is over and you’re beginning to relax, drink and enjoy.
The other issue with chamomile is that a lot of the chamomile tea sold in supermarkets and online is very weak, made from grinding up the entire plant (stalk and flower) and adding this to teabags. A few minutes in boiling water and this teabag will give you a weak concoction at best.
To truly test the sedative potential of chamomile tea you need whole camomile flowers that are left to steep for at least 5 minutes and preferably longer (it’s often a good idea to allow it to continue to steep as you drink). This could result in you getting as much as 5 times the beneficial oils as you would from consuming a weak teabag version.
Other Teas that Help you Sleep
There are a few other teas that may be able to help you relax and/or sleep. The best one of these is valerian. This is actually more effective at helping you to sleep than chamomile ism but as discussed below there are a few problems with consuming valerian tea that you just don’t get with camomile.
Valerian Tea for Insomnia
As mentioned above, valerian is a potent herb that really can help you to relax and unwind and is actually prescribed for this reason in several European counties. The herb comes from the valerian root, as opposed to the flower, and therein lies the main issue with valerian.
The camomile flower is delicate, fragrant and delicious when brewed in a tea. There are no tannins and it’s not very strong, so you can steep it for many minutes longer than usual and it’ll be even more beneficial and just as delicious. Valerian, on the other hand, is a potent root that tastes about as fresh and fragrant as it looks, which is to say not very fresh or fragrant at all.
To get a beneficial dose of valerian root in the form of valerian tea you would need to drink a couple incredibly strong cups, which is a big ask when you consider that even the smallest amount of valerian root tastes like your cat’s litter tray after you’ve been on holiday for 6 weeks.
By all means take a valerian tablet or two on an evening. Combine it with camomile if you want a really potent herbal insomnia cure. But for the love of God don’t drink it.
Hops Tea for Insomnia
Hops have been linked to feelings of relaxation and are often added to drinks, herbal supplements and more for this very reason. But the effects are not strong enough to be noticeable unless you’re consuming very large amounts and even then you probably wouldn’t notice much change.
Hops may be a decent addition to a herbal tea blend as they provide a certain depth of flavor, but as a sleep aid hops tea is not something we would recommend simply because it’s not something that has ever worked for us or anyone we know that has tried it.
Lavender Tea for Insomnia
Lavender, like camomile is loaded with essential oils that can aid with relaxation. The difference here is that these essential oils seem to be at their best when breathed in. They do something miraculous to the brain, instantly promoting feelings of relaxation and calm at the slightest sniff.
That’s not to say that lavender tea is useless though, far from it. In fact, when addd to herbs like camomile and—God forbid—valerian, it can provide a deeper, more beneficial experience all round. After all, every time you take a sip of the tea you’re breathing in the fragrance, which means that those lavender oils are triggering those calming hormones.
As with camomile, the product needs to be of high quality as those oils lose their appeal if they are not fresh.
Banana Tea for Insomnia
This is a strange one, but an interesting one nonetheless. It consists only of banana, which is boiled for ten minutes before the fruit is strained out and the liquid is consumed. The idea behind this is that the potassium and magnesium in the fruit will help to relax your muscles and trigger feelings of calm, while the sedating amino acid L-tryptophan will further feelings of relaxation,
Those minerals really do have those effects, but it’s not quite that simple. You need a lot of L-tryptophan, and unless you’re deficient in potassium or magnesium, you probably won’t notice any major effects from them. It’s certainly soothing and it’s not going to do you any harm, but unless it’s consumed with other herbs in a sedating herbal cocktail, then it’s probably not going to have the effects you seek.