For me, sleeping soundly is hit or miss. Some nights I’m out like a light; others, I’m tossing and turning for hours on end until I finally doze off. But over the years, I’ve learned that a key determinant of the quality of my sleep has a lot to do with my nighttime routine leading up to the moment my head hits the pillow. If a boozy nightcap is involved, I usually feel restless and irritable the next day. However, according to sleep specialists, there are a few drinks that we can sip ahead of bedtime that can help assist with catching some Zs. (Think: Chamomile tea, tart cherry juice, water, and green tea.)
- Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and prenatal and postnatal health expert
In addition to these sleepytime drinks, I’ve recently discovered that hibiscus tea is great for so much more than just hydration. I spoke with a registered dietitian who shared the benefits of hibiscus tea for sleep, plus what happened when I tried drinking it before hitting the hay for an entire week.
Health benefits of drinking hibiscus tea for sleep
According to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, there are a few reasons why hibiscus tea can help with getting a solid night of sleep. For starters, hibiscus has a bevy of health benefits that support several bodily functions. For one, it’s packed with antioxidants and polyphenols which help support the cardiovascular system, protect against free radicals, and help lower inflammation. Studies also show that drinking hibiscus tea can help potentially lower blood pressure.
But aside from these benefits to your overall well-being, Manaker says hibiscus is particularly useful for achieving high-quality sleep. “Unlike true teas that naturally contain caffeine, herbal teas—like hibiscus—are caffeine-free. The simple act of sipping on a soothing warm drink, like hibiscus tea, can help people feel calm and ready for bed,” Manaker says. But beyond that cozy, warm, and soothing feeling, studies have also linked hibiscus to sleep-inducing properties. “Some data shows that it has a sedative effect, helping people sleep,” she adds.
The study conducted on mice measured anxiety and assessed the degree of sleep improvement after administering hibiscus extract. The results showed that the hibiscus increased REM sleep time and had a favorable effect on anxiolysis (a state of relaxation or reduced anxiety levels). The study suggests that hibiscus may be a decent option for those hoping to manage stress and improve sleep quality without using synthetic prescription drugs for insomnia that may have adverse long-term effects. However, it’s important to note that this was a study done on mice—and that you should always consult with a medical professional before consuming any new sleep-boosting agents (including teas) to assess if they're the right choice for you.
The study suggests that hibiscus may be a decent option for those hoping to manage stress and improve sleep quality without using synthetic prescription drugs for insomnia that may have adverse long-term effects.
What happened when I tried drinking hibiscus tea for a week to get better sleep
I’ve had hibiscus tea several times before (namely, at Mexican restaurants that served agua de jamaica, or hibiscus iced tea). However, in my past experiences, this meant that my consumption of the drink was usually midday and paired with a boatload of food. Though I usually chalked it up to feeling pleasantly refreshed and satiated thanks to a good meal, perhaps the cupful of hibiscus tea I sipped on had something to do with how relaxed I typically felt afterward.
To really hone in on the relaxation benefits of consuming hibiscus tea, I decided to test drinking it nightly for a week straight to see what effect it had on my ability to get a good night’s rest. (Similar to my tart cherry juice for sleep experiment a few months back.) I brewed a cup of warm water each night and steeped some of The Republic of Tea’s natural hibiscus superflower tea in it. Unlike the version of the hibiscus iced tea I usually had at restaurants—which was sweetened with sugar—this version was way more tart and tangy. Although it’s not an unpleasant flavor, it’s not as sweet as tart cherry juice or as subtle as a cup of chamomile.
However, unlike the cherry juice, the feeling of relaxation after consuming hibiscus tea was much more immediate. Within just a few minutes of consuming this drink, I felt instantly more relaxed as a wash of calmness ran through my body. There were times I felt drowsy, but never uncomfortably so.
It was very similar to that after-bath or post-massage floaty feeling, which definitely carried into my sleep. During the nights I sipped on hibiscus tea, I noticed I slept very soundly and fell asleep much quicker than usual.
As I headed to bed, I could feel that my limbs were less tense, and that tight feeling I usually experience around my neck and shoulders by the end of the day was more subdued. It was very similar to that after-bath or post-massage floaty feeling, which definitely carried into my sleep. During the nights I sipped on hibiscus tea, I noticed I slept very soundly and fell asleep much quicker than usual. I also felt more relaxed and rested the next day.
To be honest, although my experiment was to analyze its effect on my sleep patterns, I ended up deciding that I’ll try sipping on hibiscus tea during the day to help alleviate my stress and anxiety—instead of just saving it for before I head to bed.
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