The Best Drinks for Better Sleep

It’s probably dawned on you by now that getting the ideal, extra restful and completely uninterrupted night’s sleep is pretty much all but impossible. That’s regardless of what you’ve got going on during your waking hours. Especially with the temptation of our phones and social media hanging over our shoulders, sometimes sleep doesn’t seem to be a top priority. Even when it’s really what we need most.

We all probably wake up way earlier in the morning and stay up later than we would like. Who doesn’t like being able to Netflix binge late into the night and then wake up to sunlight coming through the windows, rather than a blaring alarm and the entire groggy day ahead of us?

Sometimes getting to sleep and staying that way can be just as big a feat as dragging yourself out of bed at the alarm in the morning. And with the billion things we all seem to consume ourselves with during our waking hours, winding down before hitting the sack can be the toughest part of the day.

It’s important to slow down and chill out for a while before trying to get straight to sleep, or else you aren’t going anywhere but a caffeine-driven trance the next morning, yet again. And while that doesn’t sound like too treacherous a job, everyone can use a little help with it from time to time.

No matter where you’re from or when you were born, you’ve probably gone to your mom as a child unable to sleep, and been sent back to bed with a glass of warm milk (then promptly heading to snooze town). That’s just one of the countless drinks known for helping the wound-up try to wind down before attempting to get some shut-eye. Not to mention a bunch of herbs and supplements used in teas that can have the same effect.

It’s better to opt for natural remedies and supplements before heading straight for the sleeping pills, which really aren’t relaxing you and promoting restful sleep, but sedating you.

What if it were possible to feel like you slept in, even if you were nowhere close? Sounds too good to be true right? Take a look at a few of these helpful (and tasty) pre-bedtime drinks before making a verdict.

Hot Cocoa

There are few things more delicious or comforting than some nice warm cocoa before drawing your day to an end. And this isn’t a new trick. The original before bed cocoa sippers were the Mayans, who gave it a twist with some other spices and herbs for extra health benefits and flavor.

Warm Milk

This one you saw coming. The classic sleep tonic just can’t be left out or forgotten. Milk’s secret to being so relaxing is its source of calcium and tryptophan, which your body turns into melatonin (the natural sleepy hormone). An even better option is skimmed milk, which gives your body less sugar and fat to process, allowing you to fully relax and actually get to sleep when you plan to.

Chamomile Tea

Making yourself some chamomile tea about a half hour or so before bed can act as the perfect relaxant. It helps to calm nerves and settle your stomach, and it’s caffeine free. The flavor is nothing too intense, and it has its own source of natural sugars, so you don’t need to add anything to it at all.

Peppermint Tea

All kinds of mint tea are super popular, not only because of the sleep-inducing properties but because it tastes great and mint is also said to aid in focus if needed. It’s similar to chamomile and has some of the same effects, but typically has more flavor. The taste and smell can aid in stress, and the tea itself can help out with immune system support, stomach problems, and even digestion.

Hot Chocolate

Not to be confused with its classic relative, hot cocoa. While the two do have similar tastes, cocoa is made with only cocoa powder, while hot chocolate has cocoa butter as well. Cocoa is also mixed with water, while hot chocolate is mixed with milk, making it a creamier alternative, and also giving you the benefits of milk at the same time.

Cherry Juice

A 2010 study published in the Medicinal Food journal suggested having around a cup of tart cherry juice in the morning and one about two hours before bed. The study showed a significant decrease in insomnia in those who participated. The juice is so helpful for sleep because of its source of melatonin, and drinking some in the morning as well as before bed can help regulate your sleep cycle.

Lemon Balm Tea

Lemon balm is actually a part of the mint family. The lemony leaves can be steeped in boiling water to make flavorful, relaxing tea for when you want to switch it up from mint every night. Lemon balm has been used to reduce anxiety and promote sleep since the middle ages, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Decaffeinated Green Tea

Green tea is rich in an amino acid called theanine. The acid has been shown to be helpful in promoting sleep and lowering stress levels. Regular green tea, however, has caffeine, so be sure to spring for the caffeine free variety when looking to use the flavorful tea to wind down in the evening.

The Republic of Tea “Get Some ZZZ’s” Tea

This harmonious blend of herbs and widely known, super helpful sleep promoters like passionflower, spearmint, and chamomile is not only caffeine free but also tasty to the point of craving it even midday. However, the blend also contains valerian root extract, which is named a mild sedative, so maybe stick to drinking it at bedtime.

Celestial Seasonings “Sleepytime” Tea

This one is a common favorite of tea-drinking, involuntary night owls everywhere. Sleepytime tea has been around and popular for years, and is known mainly for its blend of sleep promoters like chamomile, mint, and lemongrass. The tea is also available in Sleepytime Vanilla, which adds a sweet boost before heading to bed with a satisfied sweet tooth and ready to catch some serious Zs.

Harney and Son’s “Yellow and Blue” Tea

This floral-flavored tea is primarily a mix of chamomile and lavender specifically paired to help calm the nerves before bed. The two combined have super effective anxiety-reducing effect according to the University of Michigan Medical Center.

Pure Coconut Water

Coconut water is originally advertised as an energy-boosting drink, but it can really go either way. The drink is a super good source of magnesium and potassium, both of which can really help your muscles relax. It also contains some B vitamins, which are known to help lower stress.

Banana Smoothie

This one’s fun, delicious and effective. Blend a small banana with some almond butter and unsweetened soymilk or almond milk (or regular milk to get the melatonin benefits from there). Together they make the perfect bedtime smoothie, with a great amount of potassium and magnesium which can relax your muscles.

Ovaltine Classic Malt or Chocolate Malt Mix

In India and Britain, this malt beverage has been popularly used for sleep promotion for ages. The original brand Horlicks it hard to come by in the US, but Ovaltine is very similar (if not identical with a different name). Both are a good source of B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium. The overall effect is relaxed muscles and an easy trip to dreamland.

Drinks to Avoid if Your Goal is Sleep

While there are tons of drinks you could have in your house that you had no idea were natural sleep helpers, the same goes for sleep robbers. There are countless types of drinks that you’ve probably been having before bed that will make you say “ah ha!” as to why you’ve continued tossing and turning in spite of your countless other sleep improving efforts and regimens.

Here are just a few…

Alcohol

This one may come as a surprise, seeing as the immediate effect of alcohol is feeling relaxed and sleepy. And while this may be the case, drinking alcohol right before bed can be extremely disruptive to sleep. It’s not rare for people to drink some alcohol in the evening to unwind and calm themselves after a long day.

But depending on how long that early evening recliner-wine nap is, some people may have difficulty returning to sleep once they actually head to bed. Evening napping for any reason disrupts your body’s internal clock and makes it think that it’s daytime already when you wake up from your cat nap.

For some people, alcohol as a sedative is pretty effective, but once the alcohol has been metabolized and registered by their body (maybe three to four hours into the night), most of the time they wake up suddenly and have trouble getting back to sleep. And if/when they do manage to get back to sleep, it isn’t normally restful – it would most likely be filled with tossing and turning and vivid dreams with frequent awakening. They would wake up groggy and unrested, and could even develop snoring or sleep apnea.

Coffee

Coffee is the way that many people wake themselves up for their early mornings after nights of tossing and turning. But when the caffeine from your morning cup of joe wears off in four hours or so, then comes the dreaded slump. To refill or not to refill?

If you catch another cup to prevent the slump, you’ve getting yourself even more full of caffeine, and if not, you’re liable to fall into an afternoon nap, throwing off your body’s natural clock. Heavy daily consumption of caffeine is disruptive to your sleep cycle whether you refill or not.

Afternoon or evening caffeine can even awaken any restless-leg symptoms you may not even know about yet.

The Bottom Line

When trying to budget your drink consumption for the best sleep, it really isn’t a tough equation. But the drink you choose is equally as important as the time you choose to drink it. Trying to stick to things that are half caffeinated and half uncaffeinated (if coffee is absolutely necessary) will cut down on the adverse effects you see later that night.

But if you can live without your morning caffeine, try to stick to one of the other delicious options that will reward your sweet tooth while also rewarding your sleep cycle.