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5 Calming Drinks That Will Help You Get a Better Night's Sleep

Swap out your nightcap for one of these soothing beverages.

If you typically reach for a nightcap to send you off to sleep, experts have a warning to share. Though alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly by having a depressant effect on the central nervous system, it can actually disrupt your slumber later on in the night. According to the Sleep Foundation, this occurs as the "liver enzymes metabolize alcohol. This can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and other issues the following day," their experts write.

Instead of reaching for an alcoholic beverage, which may ultimately hinder your rest, there are several other calming drinks that can help you drift off to dreamland and stay there. Read on to learn which five drinks can soothe you to sleep, and which other health benefits they offer.

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Tart cherry juice

Cherry juice in a glass

Research shows that tart cherry juice is one of the most effective beverages for achieving a good night's sleep—and it comes with a range of other health perks. "Cherries, particularly sour or Montmorency cherries, have been demonstrated to provide a variety of health benefits," says the Sleep Foundation. "The juice of sour cherries, also known as tart cherry juice, can help fight inflammation, reduce muscle soreness, and boost your immune system. Research suggests tart cherry juice may also help people sleep," their experts write.

The foundation notes that the beverage contains roughly nine milligrams of tryptophan for every 100 grams of tart cherries, as well as melatonin, a sleep hormone which helps the body transition to sleep.

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Ashwagandha tea

White tea in cup and teapot

Lindsay Delk, RD, RDN, the food and mood dietitian, says her favorite drink to recommend for relaxation and sleep is ashwagandha tea. Ashwagandha can improve your sleep and increase your mental alertness when you wake up," she tells Best Life. "It can also improve your resistance to stress and decrease your anxiety, which can help you fall asleep," she says, citing a 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine.

The purported benefits don't stop there. Studies have shown that besides reducing stress and anxiety, ashwagandha may help lower blood sugar, increase muscle and strength, sharpen your focus, and more.

Chamomile tea

Herbal chamomile tea and chamomile flowers
iStock / ValentynVolkov

Drinking a hot mug of chamomile tea is another relaxing way to get a better night's sleep. As a 2010 study published in the journal Molecular Medicine Reports points out, "chamomile preparations such as tea and essential oil aromatherapy have been used to treat insomnia and to induce sedation (calming effects). Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer." The researchers explain that the sedative effects of chamomile tea occur because it contains the flavonoid apigenin, which binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain and causes a feeling of calm.

The study also indicates that there may be several other health benefits associated with drinking chamomile tea. Chamomile is believed to improve a wide range of ailments, including "hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids," the study authors write.

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Warm milk

Person holding a mug

Drinking a warm glass of milk at night has a longstanding reputation for bettering your sleep. However, as The New York Times emphasized in a 2007 article, this has little to do with its nutritional content. In fact, the author notes that consuming protein-rich foods like milk hinders tryptophan from entering the brain.

That's why milk's effectiveness as a sleep aid may come down to one simple question: Whether or not you used to drink warm milk before bed in your childhood. If the answer is yes, you may still benefit from pouring a warm cup of milk in the evening hours. "Surveys have found that many people swear by milk as a sleep aid, and that may have something to do with psychology," Anahad O'Connor wrote for the Times. "Scientists say the routine of drinking a glass of milk before bed can be as soothing as a favorite old blanket."

Valerian root tea

Happy young woman drinking a cup of tea in an autumn morning. Dreaming girl sitting in living room with cup of hot coffee enjoying under blanket with closed eyes. Pretty woman wearing sweater at home and enjoy a ray of sunshine on a winter afternoon.
iStock / Ridofranz

Research suggests that valerian root tea is also an effective sleep aid. "Results from multiple studies indicate that valerian—a tall, flowering grassland plant—may reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and help you sleep better," explains the Mayo Clinic, describing the beverage as "fairly safe."

However, their experts note that "not all studies have shown valerian to be effective, and there may be some dangers." In particular, side effects may include headache, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, or excessive sleepiness. It is also best to avoid drinking valerian root tea or taking valerian root if you have liver disease, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the health authority writes.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more