Many of us are now inclined to do the most when it comes to maintaining effective sleep hygiene. For some that means using an Apple Watch to optimize a sleep schedule, for others means playing hypnosis apps to lure us into slumber, and for others still, it means sliding on a brain-sensing white-noise headband. Whatever strategies you personally employ for maximizing your sleep game, though, just know that the quest, in general, is a noble one. After all, having a good sleep pattern is a crucial element to living well. Research has even shown that adding a mere 20 minutes of extra winks holds the power to boost mood, lower our stress levels, and give a substantial kick to overall health. But, even with all of this evidence being true, and products abounding to optimize all of them, what if the secret to a good night’s rest actually isn’t trying a million different methods, but simply knowing what to drink to sleep faster?
Okay, maybe falling asleep isn’t necessarily as simple as sipping a magical elixir, but, as it turns out, certain beverages can help. Just like there are plenty of foods that can help us sleep soundly, enjoying beverages with plenty of soothing nutrients can likewise assist us in clocking those coveted REM hours. Furthermore, there’s also truth in the opposite, in that certain drinks can also sop you from snoozing to your ideal level.
If you find yourself tossing and turning every night, and the bags under your eyes have grown so heavy, they may as well be a Birkin, we’ve got your back. Below, Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, registered dietitian and founder of BZ Nutrition, shares what to drink to sleep faster…and what to avoid at all costs.
Not sure what to drink to sleep faster? These 7 drinks may help
Regarding what to drink to sleep faster, the top choices have a recurring pattern: Most fall into the camps of decaffeinated teas and strains of milk. “The properties in tea—everything from the antioxidants to the aroma—help to calm stress, and release feel good hormones that help ease the mind and aid in a deeper sleep,” says Zeitlin. “If you want an extra boost in calm, add in a few drops of Manitoba Harvest Broad Spectrum Peppermint CBD oil ($25)—both the peppermint extract and the CBD oil work as natural calming agents.”
Let’s get a little bit more specific, though, shall we?
1. Lavender tea
This is one of Zeitlin’s absolute go-to beverages when it comes to dozing off, and the choice feels obvious. Lavender is a famed herb in the world of wellness, known for its assistance in soothing the nervous system. And just like sniffing lavender essential oil can calm down a restless mind, sipping on lavender tea can zen you out to some sweet zzz’s.
Shop now: Stash Organics lavender tea, $10
2. Lemon Balm Tea
This is another herb that seeks to soothe. “Lemon balm extracts have been found to produce a sedative effect in mice and a handful of human trials have found calming and anti-anxiety effects,” registered dietitian nutritionist Karen Collins, RDN, previously told Well+Good. “Some studies suggest that lemon balm combined with valerian might help reduce insomnia.”
3. Valerian Tea
Speaking of which, valerian root has been historically used to fall asleep quicker, although the research is a little mixed. According to Collins, valerian could possibly decrease the time it takes to get to sleep and reduce anxiety, “but it is likely to be no better than placebo.” Still, if you’re willing to believe, this earthy-tasting tea could find a spot in your cabinet.
Shop now: Valeriana valerian root tea, $12
4. Chamomile Tea
Finally on the tea front, chamomile tea—a beloved herb for relaxing—is another quick-reach choice for Zeitlin. On a personal note, it’s one of two things my Yiayia used to give me in order to conk out.
5. Cow’s Milk
…Annnd this is the other drink my Yiayia used to give me in order to conk out. Warm it up if you’re feeling bold, and get ready to snooze.
6. Hemp Milk
“Both [cow and hemp milk] have some tryptophan, an amino acid that helps us feel sleepy and relaxed,” says Zeitlin. “You know, that ingredient that we say makes us so tired after all that turkey on Thanksgiving? Well, we find it in other protein-rich foods, too, like cow’s dairy and hemp foods.”
Shop now: Pacific Foods hemp milk, $4
7. Almond Milk
“Almond milk will have some [sleep benefits], too, but hemp will have more since it naturally has more protein to offer in the first place, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein,” says Zeitlin. “If you are choosing a milk substitute, then just make sure it is an unsweetened version, as sugar will have the opposite effect on your sleep goals.”
And here’s what you might want to avoid drinking before bed:
Knowing what to drink to sleep faster is actually only half the battle in ensuring that you can clock those treasured eight hours. That’s because knowing what to avoid is also crucially important. The first on the list is only you can probably guess: coffee.
“Caffeine is a stimulant with a pretty long half-life, which translates to keeping you up and alert for a long period of time,” Zeitlin says. It’s great in the a.m., less than ideal in the late p.m. “Since everyone responds differently to caffeine, I recommend all my clients quit caffeinated beverages by 3 p.m. If you still need a coffee fix, choose decaf or, better yet, choose a tea that naturally has less caffeine than coffee.”
The other no-go beverage is a straight bummer. As far as alcohol is concerned, Zeitlin always advises her clients to put the wine glass down at least two hours before bed. “Three is even better,” says Zeitlin. “While you might think ‘but drinking always helps me fall asleep,’ passing out and getting good quality sleep are two very different things. You may pass out quickly from drinking booze, but you wake up more frequently during the night and it disrupts your REM cycle…which is where that true restful, quality sleep comes from.”
Finally, Zeitlin recommends that you avoid sugary drinks like juices, bottled smoothies, sweetened teas, and sodas. “Sugar revs up the internal engine and can throw your sleep hormone, melatonin, off balance,” she says. “The hard truth is that these drinks are never a healthful choice, [and] certainly not within two hours of bedtime.”
On that note…pass me a mug of warm milk, and I’ll call it a night.
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