With the holidays just around the corner, it’s a safe bet that the coming weeks will be filled with festive drinks, jam-packed social schedules, and late nights celebrating with loved ones. Great for the soul, perhaps not so great for our sleep schedules. Which is why so many of us, particularly this time of year, reach for sleep-promoting foods and drinks to help promote maximum snooze time, from magnesium tablets to cacao-based snacks.
But when it comes to sleepytime sips, what’s the best thing to drink to ensure a restful sleep? One thing you can certainly cross off your list: green tea before bed.
To be clear, green tea isn’t bad for you. Far from it—there’s a lot of research that shows that green tea offers up lots of benefits for heart and brain health. Most of these perks come down to a type of antioxidant compound present in the green tea. “The polyphenols such as flavonols, especially the catechin epicalocatechin gallate (EGCG), in green tea contribute to the variety of potential health benefits found in research studies,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. “These include neuroprotective benefits as well as contribution to prevention of blood sugar irregularities and cardiovascular disease,” she explains.
Curious about other green tea benefits? Get the lowdown from a top dietitian:
It also offers up a smaller amount of caffeine than other drinks with only 29 milligrams per cup. Compare that to black coffee’s 90 to 120 milligrams per cup and black tea’s 47 milligrams per cup. Translation: You’ll get a bit of energy with less chance of the jitters (or a big crash).
While drinking caffeine before a power nap is generally a solid idea, that does not translate to drinking any form of caffeine, including green tea, before bed. “Decaffeinated green tea may be okay before bed, but I recommend abstaining from caffeine four to eight hours before bed, depending on individual tolerance,” Jones says. For many people, that’s between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. “Disruptions in sleep patterns may lead to metabolic irregularities that counteract the benefits of the green tea polyphenols,” she explains.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean we should ditch our green tea or matcha habit; you’re just better off enjoying the drink earlier in the day. “I recommended consuming green tea with snacks or in between meals. Some people report nausea when drinking green tea on an empty stomach in the morning, so waiting until after a meal can help with that,” Jones says. “Since the compounds in tea can reduce iron absorption, I also don’t recommend it to women or athletes at meals, as their iron needs are higher,” she adds. That might mean skipping it when you’re eating animal protein, lentils, or leafy greens.
As for what to drink before bed, go with a different tea or water. “Water is just fine in the evening to hydrate, as is a naturally flavored seltzer,” she says. As long as the bubbles sit well in your stomach, go for carbonation if desired.
“However, if you’re craving a warm beverage, reach for chamomile or lavender teas which have a calming effect,” she says. And feel free to add some lemon, warm milk or honey for extra flavor. “For those with a high activity level, tart cherry juice, which contains melatonin, can benefit not only sleep, but also muscle recovery from exercise,” she adds. You’ll be off counting sheep in no time.
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