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The Best Time to Drink Tea for Sleep

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Feb 18, 2022

If you’re drinking tea in an effort to improve your sleep quality, the timing doesn’t actually matter that much.

Tea takes a while to have an effect, but it also has an effect on stress (which then improves sleep) that lasts for quite a while, so it’s not like there’s a specific time window before bed that’s necessary to drink it in.

What am I basing that on?

Several studies have looked at the effects of tea on sleep, and I’ll be summarizing those for you in this short post.

Why Does Tea Promote Sleep?

It’s important to understand why tea can improve sleep in people in order to realize why timing isn’t that important.

The key part of tea in regards to sleep is L-theanine.

L-theanine is an amino acid that has significant anti-stress effects. It is found in all “real” teas like white, green, and black teas.

Not surprisingly, having less stress (and typically anxiety as well) is good for sleep quality.

Certain herbal teas can still improve sleep, but often for different reasons, and typically not as well.

How Caffeine in Tea Affects Sleep

One factor that can matter when drinking tea to improve sleep is caffeine content. Some teas are high in caffeine, while others are low in caffeine, and it makes a difference.

It’s well known that caffeine can cause insomnia symptoms, and it takes a long time to clear it out of your system.

Ideally, any tea with a significant amount of caffeine should be consumed in the morning.

How Long Does It Take For Tea to Make You Sleepy?

I’ve read several studies to find the best teas for insomnia, but none so far have specifically looked at the optimal time to drink it.

However, we can still look at the methodology used in those studies for some clues.

One study let subjects drink low caffeine green tea whenever they wanted throughout the day, and as much as they wanted to (1). They found that:

Sleep quality was higher in participants that consumed a larger quantity of LCGT (low caffeine green tea).

The majority of tea was consumed throughout the day, and most subjects drank around 1 liter in total.

Another study had elderly subjects drink 5 cups per day of both normal and low caffeine green tea throughout the day. They found that the low-caffeine green tea had a positive effect on sleep quality (2).

Finally, a study looking at passionflower (a herbal tea) tea had subjects drink a cup of tea one hour before going to bed (3). In terms of sleep quality, they saw a small, but statistically significant improvement.

SummaryWhile the data isn’t perfect, studies do suggest that drinking tea at any point in the day will have an impact on sleep.

Summary: The Best Time to Drink Tea to Get to Sleep

I don’t think most people should be focusing on a specific time to drink tea in most situations. Instead, drinking more (e.g. 1-1.5 liters) would have a more beneficial effect.

However, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Hydration - If you drink too much before bed, you may have to get up to go to the bathroom. Alternatively, not drinking enough at night can lead to dehydration, which can also affect sleep.
  • Caffeine content - Aim to drink low-caffeine varieties of tea when possible. Teas with a high amount of caffeine should not be consumed in the evening as the caffeine will impact sleep more negatively than the L-theanine can compensate for.

Aside from general daily drinking, having a cup of low-caffeine tea 1-2 hours before bed seems like a reasonable routine for most people based on what we’ve looked at here.

References

  1. Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content
  2. Ingestion of green tea with lowered caffeine improves sleep quality of the elderly via suppression of stress
  3. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Investigation of the Effects of Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower) Herbal Tea on Subjective Sleep Quality

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.