12 Best Drinks Before Bed to Help You Sleep
12 min read
Last Modified 30 November 2023 First Added 19 October 2020
There are few childhood memories quite as nostalgic as your favourite bedtime drink. Perhaps it was warm milk with a bedtime story before bed? Or maybe hot cocoa to help you enter a dreamy, relaxed state? As adults, we often leave these childhood comforts behind, but there are plenty of drinks to help us sleep that aren’t dictated by age.
Here, we explore the best bedtime drinks and dig into the science behind why they’re an ideal beverage for our sleep routines.
If you’re looking for something to make you feel a bit fancy before heading off to bed, this is the mocktail recipe for you. Made famous by Gracie Norton with her viral TikTok, it calls for just a couple of sleep-inducing ingredients to help you drift off:
the only time i struggle with sleep is right at the end of my luteal phase! This is working WONDERS!! 💛 (not something im planning on drinking every single night, just near the end of my luteal phase! #healthyhabits #mocktails #bettersleep #sleep
Both the magnesium and cherry juice can help you sleep by themselves, but making yourself a nice drink as part of a bedtime routine is a great way to relax and signal it’s time to wind down.
Not to be confused with sugar-heavy hot chocolate, cocoa is one of the by-products used for making chocolate. In powder form, it can be added to hot water to make a chocolate-flavoured drink. It’s not quite as creamy or sweet as your typical hot chocolate, but that’s why it’s better for sleep. Less fat and less sugar ensure your body isn’t kicked into action just as you are about to nod off. Here’s what Psychology Today had to say about it:
“A drink containing two to three teaspoons of pure (100%) cocoa powder in a mug of hot water or milk is better for you than chocolate powders or drinks with added sugars, fats, or other ingredients.”
A true classic in the bedtime drinks category, warm milk has been a firm favourite for centuries – but it’s not just about the soothing taste. Milk is actually packed with ingredients that make us sleepy. Consider tryptophan, for example. Milk contains this amino acid, which has been proven to improve sleep. Here’s what The Journal of Medicinal Food says on the matter:
“Milk has long been known and used to promote sleep. The sleep-promoting effect of milk has been attributed to its psychological associations (i.e., the memory of a mother giving milk at bedtime) and its rich store of sleep-promoting constituents (e.g., tryptophan).”
Now, we enter the realm of herbal teas for sleep. Chamomile is considered one of the best drinks before bed. That’s because it contains a therapeutic antioxidant called Apigenin. This antioxidant is widely believed to help reduce anxiety and initiate sleep. And while studies are relatively rare, those which have been completed show real promising results:
“Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.”
A little complex, perhaps, but quite simply, chamomile is widely known to have a big impact on sleep.
A godsend for those of us who are stressed out and sleep-challenged, lavender has long been known for its sleep-inducing properties. Typically, it’s used in the form of essential oils, but the same benefits can be achieved from lavender tea. Flavourful and floral, this herb has a history of use that stems back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. But its status as a drink that helps you sleep is more than just an old wives’ tale. In an academic study for Hindawi.com, this long-favoured herb has been given credence with modern science:
“Lavender has been suggested as an excellent natural remedy to treat insomnia and improve the sleep quality. Single-blind randomized studies investigated the effectiveness of lavender odor on quality of sleep showed that lavender improved the mean scores of sleep quality in fifteen healthy students, in sixty-four ischemic heart disease patients, and in 34 midlife women with insomnia.”
And you don’t just have to stop at lavender tea, either. Add a few sprigs of fresh lavender to a cup of warm milk, and you could be on your way to the land of nod in no time at all.
Green tea has quickly become a favourite of millennials and Gen Z, and is often considered the best bedtime drink as it contains the sleep-promoting compound Theanine. But there’s a catch…
Your typical green tea contains around 22mg of caffeine. Compared with coffee and black tea, that’s not a huge amount. But it’s still not ideal for sleep. Instead, opt for decaffeinated green tea, which has just 2mg of caffeine, and you’ll get all the sleep benefits without any sneaky energy boosters.
Just like green tea, cherry juice contains theanine, an amino acid known for its sleep-inducing properties. Like most herbal and fruit teas, it has been used for centuries, stemming all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. If you fancy getting creative, mix your cherry juice with milk, and you will have a bedtime drink that’s stood the test of time!
If you have trouble sleeping, you’re going to want to try valerian root tea – trust us! It is delicious and a natural sleep remedy. This is because valerian root contains compounds called valerenic acid and valepotriates, which are believed to interact with GABA receptors in the brain, promoting feelings of calm and reducing anxiety. As a result, drinking a warm cup of valerian root will help you relax and fall asleep faster.
Almond milk is a great choice for bedtime because it contains magnesium, a mineral that can help promote relaxation and reduce muscle tension. Magnesium is known to help regulate the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can reduce feelings of anxiety and promote feelings of calm, making it easier to fall asleep.
In fact, in one research study, 442 university students who suffered from insomnia consumed 10 almonds a day for 2 weeks. The effects were closely monitored, and the researchers found that insomnia decreased by 8.4% – amazing!
Just like regular cow’s milk, almond milk contains tryptophan, the amino acid that we mentioned earlier – it helps produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. So, a warm glass of almond milk before bed can be a comforting and soothing way to prepare for a good night’s sleep. It’s also great for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan, as it’s a plant-based milk alternative.
Lemon balm is a herb that has been used for centuries to aid sleep. Studies have shown that drinking lemon balm tea can help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. One of the active compounds in lemon balm, called rosmarinic acid, has been found to have a calming effect on the nervous system as it activates GABA-ergic neurons. So, drinking a warm cup of lemon balm tea before bed can soothe your mind and make it easier for you to fall asleep. And isn’t that just wonderful!
This is a fantastic bedtime treat that will help you to drift off into a peaceful slumber. Kava tea is known to be an effective, natural, and short-term sleep remedy for people who suffer from anxiety and insomnia. This is because it contains kavalactones, compounds that can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
One thing to keep in mind is that kava tea can have some side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, and an upset stomach. So, if you want to start sipping kava tea before bed, make sure you consult your doctor first.
Not the most exciting bedtime beverage, but just plain old water can help you stay hydrated if you’re thirsty before bed and during the night. Getting enough water daily is essential for our overall health as it helps the body keep a normal temperature, lubricate and cushion joints, protect the spinal cord and get rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements.
It can be particularly beneficial for those who live in warmer climates or generally feel hot at night and are likely to sweat, preventing dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include headaches, dry mouth, lips, and tongue, and feeling dizzy or lightheaded – all of which can make it harder for you to relax and catch those forty winks.
Although, like any liquid before bed, you should watch how much you consume. This is because drinking too much before bed can cause frequent urination during the night, disturbing your precious sleep cycles. If you have ever wondered how many sleep cycles you need to feel rejuvenated each morning, check out our sleep cycle calculator.
Most bedtime drinks contain ingredients or chemicals that help the body’s sleep process. Often, the reason certain drinks help you feel sleepy is because they contain antioxidants or amino acids.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that plays a key role in your body’s sleep-wake cycle. It increases both serotonin and melatonin in the body, key players in helping you nod off and get a restful sleep. Here’s what Insomnia.net said about it:
“Tryptophan increases serotonin, which also increases melatonin, both neuro-transmitters in your brain’s pineal gland. These neural “gateways” regulate sleep and mood chemicals that affect sleep and mood balance. When either serotonin or melatonin is disrupted you can suffer insomnia and depression symptoms.”
Theanine, also known as L-theanine, is a non-protein amino acid. It’s believed that it increases serotonin levels in the body. This is why it helps you sleep, as Serotonin helps our bodies produce and regulate melatonin, which plays a fundamental role in the body. Here’s a quote from Total Health Magazine:
“A recent clinical trial conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health in Japan has proven L-theanine’s ability to promote quality sleep. When L-theanine was taken before bedtime, it enhanced the quality of actual sleep of all the test subjects. In fact, all the participants reported a significant absence of “feeling exhausted” and a reduced need for sleep when using Suntheanine.
“In addition, the study showed that L-theanine produced a notable improvement in what is known as sleep efficiency, an index of actual sleep time enjoyed between the time of falling asleep and the final morning awakening. To add icing to the cake, test subjects using Suntheanine reported a superior mental state prior to falling asleep and a decreased occurrence of nightmares.
“The study confirmed that Suntheanine does not promote sleep or increase the duration of sleep, but rather improves the quality of sleep by allowing the mind, while in a sleep state, to fully relax and recuperate. This is why the subjects did not report feeling groggy but instead felt refreshed and alert upon wakening. L-theanine is a much needed solution to the two major problems currently compromising so many American’s health and overall well-being—stress and sleep deprivation.”
Many antioxidants are considered therapeutic. Apigenin, which we mentioned earlier in relation to chamomile, is one of these. Antioxidants are often found in fruits and plant-based foods. Most herbal and fruit teas contain them.
In studies on sleep, it was found that a big part of why we sleep is so our bodies can combat oxidative stress. As antioxidants combat the same, research was undertaken to see if, by way of association, antioxidants would help kick in our sleep process. But don’t just take our word for it; here’s a quote from Total Health.
“Taking natural antioxidant supplements as a sleep aid is promising, according to recent research. Scientists have discovered that healthy sleep is one of the extra benefits of eating fruit or taking concentrated fruit extract supplements. Antioxidants have already been proven to help with those pesky free radicals that age you and weaken your immune system.”
To back up the relationship between antioxidants and sleep, a full-scale study was published by the Mediators of Inflammation journal. This study identified that despite only a few studies having been completed, the results are promising:
“To date, relatively few studies have investigated the interrelationship between inflammation, oxidative stress, and antioxidants with sleep quality. In one such study, adherence to a kiwi diet (2 kiwi/night for 4 weeks), a fruit rich in vitamins C and E and serotonin, improved sleep onset and duration. Another similar study found that tart cherry juice, rich in vitamins A and C, improved sleep quality, suggesting increased melatonin levels as a possible mechanism for this effect.”
When considering the best drinks for bed, you need to consider every ingredient. For example, coffee contains antioxidants yet clearly is not one we’d recommend for sleep! To ensure you get a blissful sleep, you must consider everything that is in your bedtime drink. If you’re not using one of the identified drinks in our list, do research on the ingredients and how they impact sleep. For a quick guide, here’s a list of what you should avoid before bed:
Related: Why Alcohol Is Bad Before Bed
So, there’s plenty of science behind the best drinks to help you sleep. At the most simple level, opt for sugar-free drinks which contain sleep-inducing amino acids and antioxidants. Make sure to stay away from energising ingredients. If you’re a little unsure, do some research. Or, stick to our list, and you’ll likely be off to sleep in no time at all!