Discovering which herbs, plants, and ingredients are “best for rest” can be a fun experiment. If you’re unsure what flavors you like, or how they will work, start with a single-ingredient tea.
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Since before the Middle Ages, lavender has been used to help people relax. Aromatherapy research shows that simply breathing its scent can relieve tension, improve mood and alter brain waves. The best lavender often comes from the Mediterranean, especially Provence.
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Chia Seed Drinks
Chia seeds are considered a “super food” today, but the Mayans and Aztecs also thought they possessed amazing healing powers. They are high in tryptophan, which induces sleep, and the seeds can be enjoyed in a drink before bed.
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Nighttime Tea Blends
In addition to single ingredient teas, be sure to sample some blended teas and tonics. Puritan’s Pride has nine Nighttime Teas to try and there is something for almost any palate.
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Warm milk may not contain any particular amino acids or compounds that make you sleep, but the warmth that spreads through your belly has a calming effect, and there are theories that the temperature reminds us of the warm milk we were fed as infants.
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Lemon Balm Tea
Lemon balm doesn’t cause drowsiness, but it aids in relaxation and reduces anxiety with its delicate lemon and mint scent and flavor. If you want a natural way to relieve stress, Traditional Medicinals’ Lemon Balm Tea works wonders and has loads of fresh lemon and mint flavors; but don’t sip this if you are taking hypothyroid medication.
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Passion flower was a favored analgesic of the Aztecs and it has been used by healers throughout history because it reduces insomnia and is a mild sedative. Alvita’s Passion Flower Herbal Tea is best, but you may want to serve it with some honey and cinnamon to play down the tea’s vegetal character.
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Scientists still aren’t sure why chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) has a calming, sleep-inducing effect, but it works for many and pairs well with lavender, lemon balm and valerian root in Taylors of Harrowgate’s Organic Chamomile Tea.
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Catnip is not just for the kitty. This herb has powerful anti-anxiety properties and helps calm the mind so you are lulled into a deep sleep. Try Teepee Dreams from the Native American Tea Company.
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Sour Cherry Juice
Dark, sour cherries, like the Morello or Montmorency varieties, contain very high levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Their juice, combined with vanilla and honey, makes a lovely drink that will help you sleep and eliminate free radicals. You can use Swanson’s Organic Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate for the juice.
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Sleep tonics or compounds are different from teas because they can be taken on their own, easily added to any of the aforementioned teas and tonics, and are often designed to alleviate specific conditions like insomnia. Try Sleep Tonic with Melatonin, Relaxing Sleep or Dream Water.
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If you want a warm, chocolaty treat before bed, try making a hot drink using milk and carob powder. Carob powder tastes a lot like chocolate but contains high levels of vitamin B, which helps increase serotonin to help you sleep (and there's no caffeine).
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Americans work hard, play hard, and carry all of that stress to bed at night. Sometimes we can't seem to turn our brains off, and as a result, we've become a nation of insomniacs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lack of sleep has been linked to chronic disease, low productivity at work and poor quality of life.
So what are we doing to cope? Many of us jumpstart our brains every morning with industrial levels of caffeine just to get going, only to end up wide-eyed with insomnia at night. Thankfully, you don't have to resign yourself to long hours of tossing and turning in bed; there are plenty of natural teas, tisanes, and tonics that will have you snoring in no time.
Discovering which herbs, plants, and ingredients are "best for rest" can be a fun experiment. If you're unsure what flavors you like, or how they will work, start with a single-ingredient tea. Chamomile and lavender are two of the best-known, most commonly used sleep remedies because they work well and they smell and taste lovely. With the addition of a bit of raw honey for sweetness (honey also triggers a sleep response), both teas are easy first steps for the uninitiated.
To give your sleep aids a boost, it also helps if you go to bed at the same time every night, get a minimum of seven hours of sleep, and develop a bedtime routine that encourages you to relax and decompress before you lay down. Avoiding foods and drinks that contain caffeine after lunch (yes, that includes chocolate) and taking a warm shower or bath before going to bed helps, too.
Check out the slideshow above for the best teas and tonics to get a good night's sleep.