Research has shown that a number of beverages can help you sleep better and fall asleep faster, like tart cherry juice and chamomile tea. But there's one expert-recommended sleepy-time drink we definitely didn’t anticipate until now. When you drink it at the right time of day, green tea can help promote restful sleep. (After all, when we’re not drinking a double espresso to get a jolt of energy first thing in the day, we’re likely sipping on a luscious matcha latte that can make us feel similarly awake and well-caffeinated.)
- Michael Breus, PhD, sleep expert and clinical psychologist
We caught up with Michael Breus, PhD, leading sleep specialist known as “The Sleep Doctor" and clinical psychologist, to better understand why he considers green tea the best healthy drink to sip before bed for restful sleep.
Why drinking green tea can help you sleep better
“Drinking green tea throughout the day—yes, rather than at night—may be helpful for reducing fatigue and increasing sleep quality," says Dr. Breus. "This is because of a compound in green tea called L-theanine, which helps your brain relax by reducing stress-related hormones and neuron excitement." If you regularly consume green tea and do it several hours before bedtime, you can still reap its sleep-inducing benefits without the caffeine buzz (...or the need to wake up in the middle of the night to pee).
One small caveat is that you should be mindful of the type of green tea you pick up at the store. “Make sure you're drinking a lower-caffeine green tea, if possible—some blends of green tea, particularly matcha, have high caffeine content. This may keep you awake if you drink it too late,” Dr. Breus says. Research suggests that green tea with reduced caffeine is particularly beneficial when it comes to reducing stress and improving sleep quality. A few low-caffeine green tea options include Organic Hojicha Tea or Organic Orange Spice Tea.
Low caffeine green teas
How does L-theanine found in green tea help promote restful sleep?
According to Dr. Breus, L-theanine helps promote relaxation and sleep quality by contributing to a number of changes in the brain. For starters, he says it can trigger the production of two critical rest-inducing hormones. “L-theanine elevates levels of GABA, as well as serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters. Increasing levels of these calming brain chemicals boosts relaxation and can help with sleep," he says.
In turn, this reaction can simultaneously help reduce anxiety and boost your brain health in the long run. "L-theanine also reduces levels of chemicals in the brain that are linked to stress and anxiety. Essentially, research tells us that L-theanine can improve sleep quality not only by acting as a sedative, but also by lowering anxiety and promoting relaxation,” Dr. Breus explains. “This suggests that L-theanine can protect brain cells against stress and age-related damage over time.”
Lastly, the sleep expert notes that L-theanine can also help lift your mood and increase your focus. “L-theanine appears to trigger the release of alpha waves, which enhances relaxation, focus, and creativity. That’s the state of mind you experience when meditating, being creative, or letting your mind wander in daydreaming,” Dr. Breus says. Studies show that alpha waves are seen in the electroencephalogram (EEG) during a normal wakeful state where a subject is quietly resting.
Fortunately, by consuming the right types of green tea (low-caffeinated ones) and at a reasonable time of day (at least a few hours before bedtime), you can easily benefit from this drink's relaxing benefits. Cheers!
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