As the fall months rapidly approach and the sun lowers in the sky a couple of minutes earlier each night, it becomes just a little bit easier to spend the evening indoors, relaxing and unwinding (hopefully in low light). Bundling up and reading season has officially begun (until fall T.V. starts back up, at least), so what do you reach for instead of a beer or sugar-loaded soda in the evening to help calm your nerves with something to sip on? For a lot of people, the answer is green tea. In the last ten years or so, this bright, grassy, aromatic tea has entered the public consciousness as somewhat of a health tonic, and it’s practically common knowledge that green tea is filled with beneficial compounds, but a big question remains — should you drink green tea before bed?
First Off, What is Green Tea?
Green tea is an unoxidized tea made from the leaves of camellia sinensis (the tea plant). Leaves are plucked, withered slightly, and cooked to preserve the green-ness and prevent oxidation, then either pan-fired (heated to neutralize enzymes) or steamed (to get a bright green color). It would fill a whole book explaining all the variants and production methods of green tea, but in short, it comes in a dried form, powdered or as loose leaves, that you put into the water at 180-185 degrees F and steep for about 3 minutes. The tea is grassy and aromatic and has been enjoyed as far back as the Tang Dynasty for its enjoyable flavor (600-900) though the Han Dynasty (206-220) drank green tea for its medicinal purposes, of which there are many. You can find green tea at pretty much any shop that sells tea. Green tea benefits are numerous, and luckily, some of them pertain directly to your ability to fall asleep.
Can Green Tea Help You Sleep?
Okay, here’s where we can get into some of those medicinal purposes that green tea has been revered for all these years:
- Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid whose key benefits include anti-anxiety and relaxation. L-theanine is known for inducing tranquilizing and calming effects while simultaneously improving alertness. It has been repeatedly studied and confirmed that folks with higher reported stress levels and those who feel overwhelmed regularly lose sleep. L-theanine can help with that, it’s a sleep-promoting compound! A single serving of green tea helps stimulate brain wave production, which becomes relaxation-inducing Alpha waves when you’re calming down for the evening.
- Green tea decreases your appetite. By assisting in the regulation of blood sugar and hormones (especially important for pre-diabetic and diabetic folks), green tea helps you stay less hungry and increase the rate at which you burn fat. What does that mean for sleeping? Well, eating meals (especially heavy or greasy ones) in the late evening can contribute to poor sleep quality, increased nightmares, and a spike in nighttime awakening. By helping you not snack in the evenings, green tea effectively boosts your sleep quality!
- Green tea contains antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. The polyphenols (micronutrients packed with antioxidants and health benefits) present in green tea can help potentially improve issues caused by sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or even heart disease. If inflammation keeps you from being able to get comfortable and fall asleep quickly (or stay asleep), it might behoove you to start enjoying those green tea benefits!
Are you excited now to try green tea before bed? Here are our recommendations:
“I love this tea. I’ve been drinking it daily for a few years and couldn’t recommend it more highly. The flavor is great, not too much lemon and it’s extremely consistent.”
“I am pleased with this purchase/brand - taste is really good and chamomile puts me to sleep right away (and if you had couple cups before night time - good all night sleep guaranteed! ha! ha!).
“My favorite Republic of Tea flavor ever! There's a hint of cinnamon that's added to the green tea and gives it a unique flavor.”
“One of the best teas I've tasted. I did research and found this is one of the two teas on the market that is completely natural, with no additives. Wonderful smell and taste!”
Side Effects of Green Tea at Night
Okay, there’s one catch here, and that has to do primarily with your body’s own sensitivity to caffeine because — that’s right — green tea contains caffeine. On the plus side, it’s not a ton of the stuff, as one cup of green tea has about 30 milligrams of the compound — that’s about 1/3rd of the amount in a cup of coffee. The magnitude of its effect really has to do with how you react to caffeine. Some folks are more susceptible to its awakening properties, while others can drink cup after cup and still hit the hay when the time comes. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you might benefit from finding a decaf green tea or steeping your tea in room temperature water instead of boiling water (caffeine binds to water more easily as temperature increases).
The other potential issue is that if you’re drinking a couple of cups of any fluid right before bed, you might have to wake up and use the restroom. Getting up in the middle of ht night for that may interrupt your sleep (devastating for insomniacs), though for some people nighttime bathroom trips aren’t an issue at all. Play it by ear and feel out what works and doesn’t work for your body!
The Final Word on Green Tea Before Bed
The tradeoff of green tea benefits to potential downsides is pretty clear. If you’re sensitive to caffeine and waking up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, drinking green tea before bed might not be the best for you. On the other hand, if neither of those is an issue, there are a ton of potential benefits to this wonderful drink.
Can green tea help you sleep? Absolutely! Its antioxidant and appetite-decreasing properties are beneficial, but the L-theanine content really stands out in its ability to decrease stress and increase mental relaxation.
Plus, is there anything more pleasant than sitting down in the evening with a warm cup of tea and a good book on your lap on a cool fall evening? If that doesn’t help you get to sleep, nothin’ will. So please, pour another cup and wind down — it’s starting to get dark out.