If you have difficulties falling asleep or getting good quality sleep, you might consider taking a herbal tea to sleep. For people who are leery of taking prescription sleeping pills, which often have potentially dangerous side effects, a herbal tea to sleep has several advantages. While synthetic sleep aids are targeted to have a specific and powerful effect on the brain, natural sleep herbs are thought to holistically regulate brain chemistry in a way that is gentler on your body and encourages the onset of natural sleep rather than artificially inducing sleep. Sleeping pills can leave you feeling drowsy and tired the next day, and many people build up a long-term resistance to them, requiring a higher dose to achieve the same effects. Your body has to work hard to metabolize sleep medications, and long-term use can be hard on the liver and other organs. Also, prescription sleeping pills may impair dream recall, not at all what you want if you’re interested in exploring your dreams!
In contrast, herbal tea for sleep has a long and well-documented history of safe use. Peoples all over the world have used herbs in smoking blends, tinctures and tea to sleep better, for relaxation, and to encourage vivid or even lucid dreams. Especially for those new to dream herbs, brewing a herbal tea for sleep and vivid dreams may be a gentler route than smoking herbs to help sleep or taking a tincture or capsule. And if all you want to do is achieve that higher quality of sleep you’ve been missing out on, a herbal sleep tea is a great way to relax and reduce the stresses and anxieties of everyday life.
Chamomile is probably one the best known herbal teas that help you sleep and promote relaxation before bed. Chamomile makes a gentle and effective sleep tea because it contains the amino acid glycine, which acts as a nerve relaxant and mild sedative. In England, using chamomile tea to sleep has been a folk remedy since at least the Middle Ages! Chamomile tea is one of the best relaxing teas to bring on a good, calming night of rest, and it tastes great, too!
Another herb to help you sleep is hops, a mild sedative herb which you might recognize as a main ingredient in beer. While I don’t recommend drinking a beer before bed (alcohol can make you drowsy, but it ultimately leads to poorer quality sleep), hops brewed in a sleep tea with other rest-promoting herbs can have a noticeable sedative effect for people seeking quicker onset of sleep.
Herbs with anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing, qualities can also make the best tea for sleep. How often have you been unable to sleep because you couldn’t stop thinking about the day ahead, or about an issue that was troubling you? One of the hardest parts of falling asleep can be turning off the internal dialogue that many of us have running in our heads at all times. While bedtime meditation can help to quiet our thoughts, herbs such as valerian root, passionflower, and kava kava are also effective in cutting down on anxiety and nighttime restlessness. Valerian has been prized in Europe for centuries as an anxiolytic and remedy for insomnia, and modern studies have proven valerian to be one of the most effective natural treatments for insomnia. This herb has relaxing effects similar to Phenobarbital, but valerian is not addictive and works without the next-day drowsiness and impaired concentration of an artificial barbiturate.
Passionflower is a plant native to South America which is used as a relaxant and anxiolytic. If you’re trying to increase vivid dreams, passionflower can have a synergistic effect when brewed in combination with other relaxing herbs. An infusion of passionflower with St. John’s Wort, hops and valerian root produces a very calming herbal tea for sleeping that’s also quite tasty. People who do dream work often use passionflower as a potentiator for other herbs with specific calming or dream-promoting effects. I like to buy passionflower in dried form, as it’s perfect for brewing a tea to sleep well and encourage dreams.
Kava kava may be the best plant medicine for quieting that inner voice that keeps us awake at night, and thus among the best tea that helps you sleep. The kavalactones in this herb promote calm, ease stress, and work to promote deep sleep, which can be useful for people with disrupted or low quality sleep. Kava kava’s calming qualities also help reduce anxiety and can cut down on the duration and intensity of mild panic attacks. If you’re interested in trying out kava’s stress-busting abilities for yourself, it is possible to obtain kava kava in many different forms, from the whole dried root to instant drink mixes and capsules. Try taking kava about 30-60 minutes before bed to get the most out of kava’s sleep-inducing powers.
Two of my personal favorite dream herbs are Calea zacatechichi (called by many the original “dream herb”) and Silene capensis, or African Dream Root. In dried form, both of these dream herbs can be prepared as a tea. African Dream Root may be prepared and drunk either in the morning (at a ratio of ½ teaspoon steeped in ½ cup of water) or evening (1 tablespoon in 2 cups of water). While Silene capensis has almost no effect on you while you are awake, after you fall asleep it encourages vivid dreams and increases your chances of becoming lucid in the dream state.
Calea zacatechichi can be infused into a tea or smoked shortly before bed to induce lucid dreams. Many dream workers take both preparations in combination to increase the potency of this powerful dream herb, though you might prefer trying them in a tea first, as smoking Calea can be a bit heavy on the lungs. For maximum effect, we recommend setting your alarm to go off 4-5 hours after you fall asleep and drinking Calea tea when you wake up, to coincide with your longest period of REM sleep! This really does work! Drink this infusion slowly with a bit of natural sweetener to help disguise the bitter taste of Calea zacatechichi, and with luck you’ll be on your way to a memorable lucid dream!
Although all of the dreaming herbs discussed here have somewhat different effects, they can all be made in to a lovely and calming tea to sleep that will bring you good, calming rest and vivid or even lucid dreams without any of the nasty side effects of pharmaceutical medicines. Try a few of the above-mentioned herbs, and you are sure to find the herbal teas for sleeping that provide you with just the effects you desire!