We all know that tea is good for you. Packed with antioxidants and beneficial phytonutrients, tea can bring a wide variety of benefits to your body whenever you drink it. Plus, the fact that it's mostly water is helpful for the millions of people who live with chronic mild dehydration.
One relatively recent trend you might have seen is the push to encourage people to drink a cup of tea before bed each night. This isn't anything new – heck, the sleepytime tea blend used as a sleep aid has been around for more than 40 years – but there has been a recent push to classify the benefits. Which, after all, is what we're doing here.
Keep in mind that a lot of the benefits we're listing here are benefits you get any time you drink tea, but with an eye specifically for how beneficial they are when you drink tea before bedtime. If you're familiar with the benefits of tea, there might not be a lot new here for you, but it's worth scanning anyway; you might find something unexpected!
Green Tea Can Help Encourage Restful Sleep
One of the biggest potential benefits of tea is specifically from green tea, not from a chamomile-herbal blend. Green tea contains a compound called L-theanine. L-theanine has a variety of beneficial properties, but foremost among them is its ability to calm anxiety and help you relax.
This additional relaxation helps you fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, sleep for longer, and be more rested when you wake up. Amazing what a little stress relief can do, right?
Tea Helps Cardiovascular Health
If you've ever found your heart racing while you're trying to sleep, or you've just felt like you're not able to calm down, you could try a cup of tea. Another beneficial effect of tea is that it can help lower your bad cholesterol, generally improving your cardiovascular health.
Some people experience an elevated heart rate when they lay down for the evening, and tea can help calm this. Tea can be quite powerful; studies have shown that drinking 5+ cups of green tea per day can reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 15%.
Tea Has Some Anti-Cancer Properties
Now, cancer isn't likely to be an emergent concern keeping you up at night. If you've had cancer before, though, and you're worried about it coming back, drinking green tea may help minimize that anxiety while also potentially preventing cancer from forming.
The reason is the polyphenols in green tea. Several of these compounds, including EGCG, have been shown to have some anti-cancer properties. It's not about to replace chemotherapy, and it's not a guaranteed preventative measure, but it's better than the alternative of not drinking tea.
Tea Helps Stimulate Dopamine and Serotonin
Dopamine and serotonin are both neurotransmitters, created in the body and used as messengers to keep you happy and relaxed. They're beneficial chemicals, they make you feel good, they boost your mood, and they improve your overall outlook on life.
What does this have to do with tea? Tea may stimulate the production of more of these neurotransmitters. That's why it's so pleasant to drink! Also, fun fact: a large portion of the neurotransmitters your body produces aren't made in the brain, they're made in the gut. Tying together the gut and the brain is the gut-brain axis, a sort of informational highway between the two. Tea, by stimulating the production of neurotransmitters in the gut, help your brain chemistry in many ways.
Tea May Promote Over-Night Fat Loss
Green tea contains caffeine, which is usually a bad thing for sleep, but it's a thermogenic chemical. What this means is that, when you consume caffeine, your body uses it to stimulate the metabolism and convert fat into energy.
Your body doesn't shut down at night. In fact, in some ways, it becomes even more active. It spends energy healing and recovering from the micro and macro-stresses of the day, it heals from wounds, it focuses on sorting and storing memories, and a whole lot more. It consumes energy to do this.
Drinking a cup of tea before bed can help your body consume just a little bit more energy. You're not going to wake up every morning with an extra two pounds lost, but you can burn another hundred calories over what you would normally burn in the night, potentially. Over the course of weeks and months, this can add up.
Tea Promotes Good Oral Hygiene
Did you know that tea is mildly antimicrobial? The combination of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and antimicrobials helps keep your mouth clean and healthy.
Tea isn't going to replace brushing and flossing in the evening, of course. You can consider it a supplemental tool. When you drink a cup of tea before bed, and then brush and floss, you help clean your teeth and gums more than brushing and flossing alone. This can help fight off cavities and gum disease, both of which can be unpleasant or painful and can keep you awake at night.
Tea Helps Fight Off Neurodegenerative Diseases
Much like the potential anti-cancer properties, tea can potentially help ward off the onset of diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Neither of these are emergent conditions that are keeping you up at night, but the stress of worrying about them can be reduced, as well as the chances of getting them in the future.
Tea Helps Bolster the Immune System
The immune system is a phenomenally complicated set of reactionary and protective cells throughout your body, and it's difficult to pin down even how it fully works, let alone how to affect it. One thing we know, though, is that low-grade inflammation throughout the body is bad for you, and that green tea can help fight off that inflammation.
Inflammation is (a lot of times) caused by your immune system reacting to an infection or a foreign agent. It could be a tiny spot of disease, or an infection, or an allergic reaction, or an irritation. It could be nearly anything, and sometimes even nothing at all.
Drinking tea helps reduce inflammation and calm an over-active immune system. This gives it more energy and more ability to react to and attack diseases and illnesses it otherwise would put on the back burner until they're more aggressive. In this way, green tea can help minimize how much you get sick, how long you stay sick, and how sick you get.
Tea is Full of Nutrients
It should come as no surprise that tea is packed full of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your body. Vitamins like A, C, K, D, and E are all present in large quantities, and you're also likely to get minerals like manganese, zinc, and chromium. All of these are essential to your body's functioning.
We mentioned above that your body spends time while you're sleeping working on recovery and healing. By giving your body vitamins and minerals to work with, you further promote that healing by ensuring the building blocks of recovery are there.
Excellent Herbal Teas to Drink
"But tea has caffeine in it!" you cry, and that's true. In fact, we're listing it in the risks down below. If you want to avoid drinking caffeine before bed, you have two options. One is decaf tea, which we also discuss below. The other is herbal tea.
Herbal teas don't actually include the green tea plant, but that doesn't mean they aren't beneficial. There are a lot of different herbs you can take as part of a tea in the evening that can help relax you and provide benefits throughout the night.
Chamomile is the big one. Everyone knows of chamomile as a tea to help you sleep, and indeed, it's very relaxing. Some people find the sleep to be deep and dreamless, while others find it seems to have harsher edges, but most of the time it's beneficial. Chamomile is a great herb and is the basis of almost every sleep-focused herbal tea on the market.
Lavender is another excellent and common ingredient used in basically everything meant to relax and calm you down. It's in bath bombs, it's in lotions, it's in perfumes, and it's in tea. Lavender has been proven to improve time to sleep, sleep quality, and sleep duration, though those effects have been tested more in aromatherapy than in tea. Luckily, lavender in tea smells great too, so you get the best of both worlds.
Valerian Root is sort of the "old world" rival to chamomile. It's a similar herb used for a similar purpose, and it has been well studied and found to have beneficial effects in fighting off insomnia. It does this by increases the production of GABA, another neurotransmitter that makes you sleepy when there's a lot of it in your system. You can, of course, combine valerian with lavender and chamomile, and even combine them all with green tea to try to fight off the negative effects of the caffeine in green tea.
Lemon Balm is not actually related to lemons but is closer to the mint family. The slightly citrusy scent of lemon balm is a great counterpoint to many of the more floral scents in herbal teas. Like valerian root, lemon balm has been shown to increase GABA in the body. You can use one or the other, or mix them both for a stronger effect.
Magnolia Bark is a much more rare and expensive ingredient, despite its age; it has been around for millions of years and has been used as a sedative for pretty much as long as there have been people to try it. You can get the compound that sedates you from the bark, stems, and flowers of the plant, but it's likely to be a bit more costly than other similar herbs.
Peppermint is one of the most widely recognized teas for relaxation, and for good reason. It's strong, it smells great, and it has a huge array of health benefits. It has no caffeine, so the only thing it stimulates is your senses. It's one of our favorites!
Kava is a more exotic herbal option and is part of the national drink of Fiji. It has some very powerful sedative properties and will do a great job at relaxing you, but it shouldn't be taken too often; there's some evidence suggesting it might be bad for the liver if consumed too frequently.
Potential Risks of Bedtime Tea
While we've listed a lot of benefits, there are a few potential drawbacks to bumping up your tea habit.
First of all, tea – the actual camellia sinensis tea plant, not herbal teas – contain high levels of oxalates. These oxalates can increase the potential occurrence of kidney stones. If you're not prone to kidney stones in the first place, you're probably going to be fine, but if you've had them before, you might want to limit yourself to 1-2 cups of tea per day.
Secondly, tea – in particular black tea, but also green tea – has caffeine in it. It's not as much caffeine as coffee or a soft drink, but it's still some caffeine, which can have the opposite of a calming effect when you're trying to sleep. A lot of it depends on how much caffeine you get throughout your days, though.
You can also opt for decaf tea. Decaf versions of green tea exist, but the process that removes the caffeine also removes a lot of the beneficial polyphenols and antioxidants that gives you a lot of other benefits. It can still be a calming habit, but it won't be quite as healthy as full-bodied tea.
Consider this: drink black tea in the morning to wake up, green tea in the afternoon to begin the cooldown of your day, and herbal tea in the evening to help calm you down and help you sleep. You get the benefits of a wide range of different teas and tea blends, as well as a whole host of different benefits from whatever herbs you add to your herbal blends.
Why not get the best of all possible worlds, all at once?