Drinking Green Tea Right Before Bed Might Keep You Awake

Photo: Unsplash / Monika Grabkowska
When it comes to healthy habits for promoting sleep, one thing you can certainly cross off your list is drinking 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 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 says.

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Green teas can also help improve your mood. "This is likely because of the l-theanine in green tea," registered dietitian Neva Cochran, RD, previously told Well + Good. "Many scientific studies have found a connection between l-theanine and mood as well as with cognitive function.” And, green tea is also hydrating, good for your bones, and could even help protect against certain cancers. In other words, green tea does the body good.

Caffeine content of green tea

In addition to the aforementioned health benefits, another reason green tea tops the list of go-to healthy drinks is because it contains less caffeine than coffee, says Brittany Modell, RD, a registered dietician, intuitive eating counselor, and body image coach.

Green tea 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). In fact, drinking green tea during the day might actually help you sleep better.

Modell adds that this makes green tea a great alternative for those that want to consume less caffeine overall, deal with anxiety (caffeine can worsen symptoms), or who don’t love the effects of caffeine (we’re looking at you, jitters).

That said, although green tea contains less caffeine than other caffeinated beverages, Modell says some people may still be sensitive to green tea, in which case the boost of energy it provides can make it difficult for them to not only fall asleep but stay asleep throughout the night.

“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.

Modell also notes that in addition to a person’s caffeine tolerance, the type of green tea you drink can also impact how it affects your sleep as not all green teas are created equal. Even decaffeinated green tea, she says, which contains as little as 2 milligrams of caffeine per serving, can be too much caffeine before bed for some people, while others may tolerate it just fine without it disrupting their sleep quantity or quality.

How green tea affects your sleep

Obviously, this doesn't mean you need to kick your green tea or matcha habit altogether; you may just be better off enjoying the drink earlier in the day. Since green tea (and caffeine) affects everyone’s sleep differently, Modell advises doing some experimentation to find what time works best for you. “Some people can consume caffeine in the evening and feel nothing while others can drink caffeine at 1 p.m. in the afternoon and not fall asleep until 2 a.m.,” Modell says. “The best way to tell [your ideal time of day to drink green tea] is by trial and error. Take note of how your body and mind feels when you consume green tea and if there are certain times of day where it makes you feel your best.”

Furthermore, Jones adds that it’s also important to keep in mind what you pair with the green tea. “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.

What to drink before bed instead of green tea

If after some trial and error you find that green tea does not in fact vibe well with your body, as in it keeps you wide awake at night, there are plenty of other drinks you can sip before bed. “Water is just fine in the evening to hydrate, as is a naturally flavored seltzer,” Jones says. As long as the bubbles sit well in your stomach, go for carbonation if desired. “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.

Still, there is just something so cozy and comfy about sipping a warm tea as you snuggle up between the sheets, and for some it’s a key part of their wind down ritual. If you feel the same, Jones and Modell point to chamomile or lavender teas for their calming effect. “Chamomile contains apigenin, which can have a calming and sedative effect,” Modell says. “Lavender is often used in aromatherapy and has been found to be incredibly calming.” Feel free to add some lemon, warm milk, or honey for extra flavor. Another bedtime tea to add to your list: valerian root, which Modell notes has shown to improve sleep thanks to naturally occurring sedatives valepotriates and sesquiterpenes . Whatever warm beverage you opt for, you'll be off counting sheep in no time.

Learn the differences between green tea and matcha: 

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