8 Drinks That Help You Sleep Like Magic
Sleep affects every single aspect of our lives, but often, we just aren't getting enough sleep.
Whether it's staying up late to work or waking up early to knock a few extra errands off our lists, sleep gets deprioritized. This disrupts our sleeping patterns, and we are left feeling fatigued, prone to sickness and can even develop sleeping disorders.
In the U.S., 70 million people have insomnia, and 62 percent of adults experience a sleep problem a few times per week. That’s over half a population not getting enough sleep!
Many turn to medications like Ambien or Lunesta to sleep and find they have serious side effects or high addiction profiles.
Others turn to over-the-counter medicines with mixed results. However, there are plenty of natural, tasty and effective drinks that can whisk you off to sleepy land without a lot of expense on your wallet or body. Here are a few of my favorites.
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1. Tart Cherry Juice
I remember my grandmother drinking tart cherry juice before bed because she swore it reduced her joint pain and allowed her to sleep. If any of us grandkids tried to sneak some (it was cherry juice, after all), her cheery grandma-like exterior would fade, and we would be assigned a chore as penance for attempting to swipe her sleeping potion. She truly believed in its power, and she wasn't wrong.
Tart cherry juice is an effective sleep aid because it contains tryptophan. Tryptophan (the stuff in turkey that makes us so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal) is an essential amino acid which turns into serotonin. The serotonin converts to melatonin, which is the hormone that controls our sleep cycle. Melatonin causes our body temperatures to lower and promotes sleepiness.
A study out of Louisiana State University showed that drinking tart cherry juice helped people fall asleep and lead to extra sleep each night. In the study, participants drank eight ounces of tart cherry juice, twice per day. The participants’ results showed that drinking cherry juice led to sleep and an average 84 additional minutes of sleep per night.
To help you sleep, drink one-half cup to one cup of tart cherry juice about an hour before bed each night. If you want to follow the study above protocol, have two cups per day, one in the morning and one an hour before bed.
2. Chamomile-Lavender Tea
When you ask around about drinks to help you sleep, chamomile is one of the most common answers you will hear. Chamomile is known for its tranquility-promoting characteristics and is ideal to induce sleep. In fact, Medieval monks would advise people to lay in chamomile flower beds if they were depressed or needed to relax. Today, there are several studies that prove what the monks knew. Most studies give credit to the compound apigenin in chamomile for its relaxing effects.
Lavender is another often recommended remedy for insomnia or sleep difficulties. It has been used since the Middle Ages as a relaxant and is said to melt the pains of the brain. What most people don’t realize is the oil can be consumed and is not limited to aromatherapy alone. Lavender has been shown to act as a mild sedative and encourages drowsiness, but has also shown to increase the quality of sleep. In fact, researchers have found that it increased slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep. Deep sleep is critical to health as it is necessary for memory consolidation and processing our day. Growth hormone is also secreted during deep sleep, which helps us regulate cell reproduction, growth, and cell regeneration.
Bringing both powerhouses together in one mighty tea is sure to help you relax and lull your mind to a sleepier, healthier place.
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Two bags of any chamomile tea
100% lavender oil (the bottle should say: Safe for consumption)
- Put two bags of chamomile tea in hot water for 8 minutes to steep.
- Add one drop of 100 percent pure lavender oil.
A word of caution: Those who are allergic to ragweed, asters, daisies, or Echinacea, or those on blood thinners may not be advised to use chamomile. See your doctor to see if chamomile is safe for you.
3. Warm Milk
What if I told you that using warm milk as an effective sleep aid is all in your head?
Well, it is. Because it was a common practice for many children to be given a warm glass of milk before bed, we as a society have created a psychological connection between warm milk and sleep. Our brains believe it, so it happens.
Now milk does have a small amount of tryptophan in it; it is just not significant enough to make us fall asleep. Warm beverages also have a naturally soothing quality to them which relaxes us. Add the psychological impact of warm milk before bed, and it magically happens!
If you don't drink dairy or want to increase your sleep chances, try drinking hemp milk to get a dose of omega-3's. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that an increase in fatty acids (like omega-3) lead to fewer wake episodes and nearly an hour of extra sleep. More investigation is needed to clarify the findings further.
4. Lemon Balm Tea
Another oldie-but-goodie, lemon balm has been used since the Middle Ages to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. This ancient herb contains terpenes, which are believed to produce a relaxing effect.
In a study analyzing the effectiveness of a lemon balm-based commercial supplement, it was found that after 15 days of taking lemon balm, participants experienced 18 percent less anxiety and 42 percent less insomnia. These results are attributed to lemon balm's ability to increase levels of stress-calming neurotransmitters in the brain.
About 30-45 minutes before bed, enjoy a cup of lemon balm tea. You can purchase a quality pre-made tea bag or pour about 6 ounces of hot water over one tablespoon of fresh lemon balm leaves and steep for 15 minutes. Add honey if you'd like to add a little sweetness to your night!
A word of caution: Pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those taking thyroid medication may not be able to use lemon balm.
5. Coconut water
Most people drink coconut water for a burst of energy or to replace electrolytes after a grueling workout or yoga class. What you might not know is coconut water contains significant amounts of magnesium and potassium that can help you sleep
Most people are magnesium-deficient primarily because it doesn't show up in many foods we consume daily. It is something you will want to get into your diet fast! Magnesium has been shown to calm down the nervous system, deactivate adrenaline (which will keep you up) and activate the GABA neurotransmitter (it's what ‘switches off' your brain) used for sleep regulation. Those who have low magnesium can often experience insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
Potassium is another major mineral in the body that relaxes muscles and nerves, as well as promotes circulation and digestion. Like lavender, potassium is also linked with slow-wave sleep. According to a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, potassium was shown to be a key factor in getting good sleep. Chiara Cirelli, SMPH psychiatry professor and senior author of the study says, "Without potassium channels, you don't get slow waves, the oscillations shown by groups of neurons across the brain that are the hallmark of deep sleep.”
You can either go to a natural food market and have them cut a fresh coconut for your coconut water (so good!) or use a quality, natural prepackaged coconut water. The ingredients label should simply say coconut water.
6. Banana Smoothie
Another sleep drink that has tons of magnesium and potassium to help you sleep is also a sweet treat as well! Enjoying a small banana smoothie an hour before bed is another way to get those two essential minerals (magnesium is present in all three ingredients!) into your body for a restful night’s sleep.
½ teaspoon almond butter
½ cup soymilk
One small banana (I always slice mine before blending)
- Add all ingredients to the blender and blend to desired consistency.
- Enjoy one hour before bed.
7. Passionflower Tea
The passionflower is a herb that has been widely used in for anxiety and sleep disorders. Scientists believe that passionflower is effective for relaxing and sleep because it increases the chemical GABA in the brain, which lowers brain cell activity, making it possible to relax and clear the mind.
In a double-blind study published in Phytotherapy Research, participants drank a daily cup of passionflower tea for seven days and completed a sleep diary rating their sleep. It was found that those who had the passionflower tea reported significant improvements in their sleep.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends steeping one teaspoon of dried passionflower in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes (strain before drinking). Sip one hour before bed.
A word of caution: Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not take passionflower.
8. Hops tea
Most people associate hops with beer, and alcohol is a big no-no for those who are having a difficult time sleeping. Hops, however, have been shown to calm the nerves, relax the body, and relieve stress in their non-alcoholic form.
Anecdotal information from olden-day Europe and scientific studies from today have shown that hops not only usher people to sleep but also lead to better quality sleep.
If you’d like to try Hops Tea, check out my recipe in one of my other articles, on Homemade Sleep Aids.
Remember, sleep is a critical part of a healthy life. By living in a sleep-deprived state, you risk a higher mortality rate, obesity, heart problems, higher rates of inflammation, and have higher rates of mental disorders and stress. By getting good, restful, adequate sleep, you not only slash health risks but also perform better, have greater stamina and experience a bump in creativity.
Try one (or more) of these natural remedies to help you sleep.