A good night’s rest is often overlooked as an important component of health.
Experts recommend that adults aged 18–60 get at least 7–9 hours of sleep each night (1).
Too little or too much sleep is associated with an increased risk of depression, diabetes, heart disease, and even death (2).
But sleeping for at least 7 full hours each night does not always come easy.
Fortunately, a variety of sleep-inducing drinks can help you catch some z’s.
Here are 9 drinks that may improve your sleep naturally.
Cherries are stone fruits that vary in flavor depending on the variety. They can be sweet, tart, or sour and grow in different colors, including yellow, red, and purple.
Cherries’ tryptophan content is believed to be one reason these fruits aid sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s a precursor to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate when you fall asleep and wake up (5, 6, 7, 8).
Though both sweet and tart cherry varieties contain melatonin, the tart types pack the most. In fact, one study found that tart Montmorency cherries may have up to six times more melatonin than sweet Balaton cherries (3, 9, 10, 11).
A similar study in 30 participants observed that consuming a cherry-based product twice daily improved nightly rest, decreased the number of nighttime awakenings, and resulted in higher urinary melatonin levels first thing in the morning (12).
Finally, one study noted that drinking 2 cups (480 ml) of cherry juice each day for 2 weeks increased total sleep time by 84 minutes and helped treat symptoms of insomnia in adults aged 50 and older (13).
If you decide to drink cherry juice to help you sleep, you may want to opt for amounts similar to those used in these studies. Drinking 2 cups (480 ml) per day has not been linked to any side effects (12).
Cherries are a great source of tryptophan and melatonin. Drinking 2 cups (480 ml) of cherry juice per day may increase your melatonin levels and improve your sleep overall.
Chamomile is a daisy-like flower that is part of the Asteraceae family.
Tea made from this plant has been consumed for ages. It has multiple health benefits, including relieving cold symptoms, reducing inflammation, and improving skin health. The tea is made by infusing chamomile flowers in hot water (14).
Another study in 80 women who experienced reduced sleep quality noted that physical symptoms of sleep inefficiency were significantly improved after participants drank chamomile tea daily for 2 weeks (16).
Chamomile may help with anxiety and insomnia, which could also improve sleep.
To make chamomile tea at home, add 4 tablespoons of fresh (or 2 tablespoons of dried) chamomile flowers to 1 cup (237 ml) of boiling water. Let the flowers steep for about 5 minutes before using a mesh strainer to drain the liquid from the flowers.
Chamomile tea may help with insomnia, though more research is needed. It’s more likely to aid sleep quality. You can make it at home using just two ingredients.
Ashwagandha has a reputation for being a powerful medicinal plant. It’s sometimes called Indian ginseng or winter cherry.
One study in mice found that triethylene glycol — an active component of ashwagandha leaves — promoted non-rapid eye movement sleep, the sleep phase during which your body regenerates tissue and bone (24).
You can buy ashwagandha tea bags at most grocery or health food stores.
Another way to drink ashwagandha is in moon milk. Moon milk is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for insomnia made by adding ashwagandha, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg to warm milk.
Though ashwagandha tea is safe for most people, some individuals should be cautious. This includes those with autoimmune disorders, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people taking medicine for blood pressure, blood sugar, or thyroid disease (21, 27).
Alleviating insomnia is only one of ashwagandha’s many known benefits. The root is often steeped in hot water or warm milk. Certain groups should exercise caution with the plant.
Valerian is a perennial plant that blooms sweet-smelling pink or white flowers and is part of the honeysuckle family.
Similarly to ashwagandha, the root of the valerian plant is used as a medicinal herb that’s known to promote sleep and relieve insomnia (28).
Valerian particularly shows promise for alleviating insomnia and improving sleep quality among menopausal women. One study found that 30% of postmenopausal women who took a 530 mg valerian capsule twice a day for 4 weeks reported improvements in sleep quality (29, 30).
While a large body of research suggests that valerian may treat insomnia, researchers have concluded that more studies are needed before specific recommendations regarding dosage and treatment regimens can be made (20, 31, 32, 33).
To make valerian root tea, steep 2–3 grams of dried valerian root in 1 cup (237 ml) of hot water. Let it sit for 10–15 minutes before straining (34).
Valerian is considered a safe strategy to manage insomnia that doesn’t alter circadian rhythm — your body’s daily pattern that decides when it’s time to sleep and wake. However, one study observed that large doses increased anxiety levels (20, 35, 36, 37).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that women who are pregnant or nursing, as well as children under 3 years old, avoid valerian (38).
Furthermore, the root can enhance sedation and should never be mixed with alcohol or drugs like barbiturate and benzodiazepines (38).
Valerian tea may help treat insomnia and improve sleep quality, especially among menopausal women. Yet, more research is needed on dosage and treatment directions.
Formally known as the Lamiaceae, the herbs of the mint family are well known for their culinary uses. This includes peppermint, which appears to be powerful and versatile in its uses.
Peppermint has been used in traditional medicine for years. The tea is believed to have antiviral, antimicrobial, and even anti-allergenic properties. Peppermint may also help with gastrointestinal (GI) conditions like indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (39, 40, 41, 42).
Peppermint tea is easy to make. Simply boil 2 cups (480 ml) of water and add a handful of peppermint leaves. You can adjust the quantity of leaves depending on how strong you like your tea. Let the leaves sit in the hot water for at least 5 minutes.
Peppermint tea is generally safe, but it may interact with certain blood pressure, indigestion, and diabetes medications. If you’re taking any medications, you should consult your healthcare provider before drinking peppermint tea or using peppermint oil (45, 46).
Peppermint tea may improve your sleep by soothing gastrointestinal distress and discomfort in the evenings. More research is needed on peppermint as a potential sedative.
That’s because milk contains tryptophan. Tryptophan naturally increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for happiness and well-being. Plus, serotonin is a precursor to the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin (49, 50, 51).
Simply put, tryptophan increases serotonin levels, which increases melatonin levels. Melatonin may promote sleep and help combat various sleep disorders, including jet lag, shift work sleep disorder, and insomnia (52, 53, 54).
It’s possible that having a glass of warm milk before bed is simply a soothing ritual that helps you unwind and prepare to rest. If you want to give warm milk a try, simply choose your favorite milk and bring it to a low simmer on the stove for a couple of minutes.
Unless you’re lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, there’s no harm to giving this bedtime ritual a shot.
Milk contains tryptophan, which helps increase melatonin levels and induce sleep. Drinking warm milk before bed is also a soothing nighttime ritual.
7. Golden milk
Golden milk not only harnesses the sleep-aiding potential of warm milk but also boasts tumeric.
For example, a study in mice found that 72 hours of sleep deprivation resulted in weight loss, anxiety-like behavior, and oxidative damage (59).
To make golden milk, combine 1/2 cup (118 ml) of milk, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 small piece of ginger, and 1 teaspoon of honey. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3–5 minutes.
Each of the ingredients in golden milk is generally considered safe. Still, individuals taking certain medications, including blood thinners and drugs to reduce stomach acid and manage diabetes, should exercise caution with turmeric and ginger (63, 64).
Milk, turmeric, and ginger each contain compounds that may improve sleep quality through a few different mechanisms. Golden milk is a calming drink that combines all three.
Almonds are tree nuts packed with healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Almond milk is a creamy, nutty alternative to cow’s milk that is made by blending almonds with water and then straining the pulp.
Whole almonds may improve sleep quality. Violet oil made from almonds or sesame seeds has even been used in traditional Iranian medicine for many years as a treatment for insomnia (65).
In one study in 75 people with chronic insomnia, participants reported significant improvements in sleep quality after self-administering 3 intranasal drops of either violet or pure almond oil nightly for 30 days (65).
In another study in 442 university students, the number of participants who reported insomnia decreased by 8.4% after consuming 10 almonds daily for 2 weeks (66).
Since almond milk is made from whole almonds, it may also promote good sleep. Almond milk is high in sleep-promoting hormones and minerals, including tryptophan, melatonin, and magnesium. In fact, 1 cup (237 ml) of almond milk contains nearly 17 mg of magnesium (67, 68, 69).
Almond milk can likely be found at your local grocery store. It comes in a variety of brands and flavors. You can also make it at home.
Given that almond milk is made from whole almonds, people with nut allergies should avoid almond milk and products made with it.
Almonds are high in sleep-promoting hormones and minerals. Thus, almond milk is also high in compounds that may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
They’re also high in potassium. Potassium and magnesium are two minerals that relax your muscles and may help you unwind at the end of a long day (74).
By combining bananas and almond milk in a smoothie, you can really pack in a powerful tryptophan and melatonin punch that might help reduce symptoms of insomnia.
To make a banana-almond smoothie, blend:
- 1 fresh or frozen banana
- 1 cup (237 ml) of almond milk
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of almond butter
- 1/2 cup of ice (if using fresh a banana)
This simple recipe makes a good smoothie base to which you can add other ingredients that are rich in magnesium and potassium, such as leafy greens, orange juice, dark chocolate, yogurt, or avocados.
As long as you don’t have an allergy to bananas or almonds, a smoothie like this is a healthy and delicious way to end the day.
Banana-almond smoothies contain many sleep-promoting compounds. Almonds have tryptophan and melatonin, while bananas boast muscle-relaxing potassium and magnesium.
The bottom line
Sometimes good sleep can be easily interrupted or hard to come by.
Fortunately, many beverages can serve as natural sleep aids.
Some sleep-promoting drinks are high in compounds like tryptophan and melatonin, while others encourage sleep by easing pain and discomfort in the evenings.
Most drinks with sleep-promoting potential can be prepared with just a few simple ingredients in 5 minutes or less.
Consider trying a few of the drinks above to find out which ones help you sleep best.
If you continue to have trouble sleeping, speak with your healthcare provider to get to the bottom of what may be causing your sleep difficulties.