By Liz Friedman, MS
Choosing the right beverage in the evening could be your key to restful slumber. Each of these sleep enhancers works in slightly different ways, so give them each a try and see which works best for you! In all cases, choose organic where possible, and avoid if allergic.
Chamomile tea: This herb is well known as a calming agent and is thought to promote sleep through its apigenin content. Apigenin is a flavonoid compound that binds to the benzodiazepine receptor in the brain, causing a direct sedative effect. As a bonus, apigenin also acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective compound.
Lavender tea: Lavender tea is made from steeping the fresh or dried buds of the flowers of the lavender plant. Lavender has an interesting mechanism of action; first, the scent of lavender contains linalool, a compound shown to directly reduce anxiety through GABA (an inhibitory, relaxing neurotransmitter) circuits when inhaled as well as when ingested. Second to its calming effect, lavender also promotes slow-wave sleep which allows you to sleep more deeply for longer.
Lemon Balm tea: Lemon balm is an herb in the mint family that has a distinct lemon aroma. Lemon balm is a calming herb with a long history of use for stress and anxiety dating back to the Middle Ages. Similar to lavender, the mechanism of action of lemon balm lies in the GABA pathway, but its primary active compound is called “rosmarinic acid.” It influences an enzyme that allows GABA to stick around longer in the brain, allowing you to relax and slip more easily into sleep.
Passionflower: Passionflower tea is made from the flowers of the Passiflora incarnata plant. To date, the specific active ingredients in this plant remain elusive, but the presence of GABA itself as well as a variety of flavonoids and other active constituents combine to produce a calming effect, and an improvement in quality of sleep.
Non-Dairy Golden Milk: Golden milk is one of many names given to a combination of turmeric and milk and other spices used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. Black pepper is often added to “activate” the turmeric, and other warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, star anise and cayenne are often added for flavor and to boost activity of the turmeric. We recommend using Almond milk for this recipe. Almond milk contains tryptophan, which is used in the body to make serotonin, and subsequently melatonin, the main sleep hormone. Almond milk is also rich in magnesium, which supports deep, restorative sleep by both regulating melatonin and by binding directly to GABA receptors to calm nerve activity in the brain and body. The turmeric in golden milk is a superfood of sorts; with vitamins, minerals , fiber, and most importantly, the antioxidant curcumin. Curcumin has beneficial anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects, and can increase serotonin/melatonin levels to improve sleep. To improve its absorption, curcumin needs black pepper and healthy fat, so adding a little black pepper to your almond milk/turmeric combo will give the best results. Antioxidant ginger provides flavor and helps calm a troubled stomach. Finally, antioxidant cinnamon supports healthy sugar metabolism which can also improve sleep quality. Golden milk is best served warm before bedtime.
GOLDEN MILK RECIPE
- 8 ounces unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, or 1½ teaspoons fresh grated turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, or 1 thin slice of fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 Pinch black pepper
- Optional: nutmeg, cardamom, star anise, clove
- Optional sweeteners: raw honey or maple syrup to taste
- Whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer (not boil)
- Lower the heat to maintain a simmer for 2 minutes, whisking frequently.
- Pour into a mug and add sweetener to taste