9 of the Best Drinks to Help You Sleep (and 4 to Avoid!)

Updated: Jun. 28, 2021

Having trouble drifting off to sleep? Try one of these concoctions to help you get your Zzzs.


Chamomile-lavender tea

You’ve heard about the soothing power of both chamomile tea and lavender. Why not combine the duo for the ultimate sleep-promoting brew? “The oil and herb contain compounds that work directly on the nervous system to de-stress, calm, and help settle nervous tension,” says Marie Ruggles, registered dietitian and essential oils educator. “It’s especially helpful if you’re often on your computer or phone before bed,” she adds. To make a cup yourself: steep two bags of chamomile tea in a cup of hot water for eight minutes, then add one drop of 100 percent pure lavender essential oil. (Check out the 9 other best teas for sleep too.)


Tart cherry juice

For a fruity way to fall asleep, cherry juice may be what you need. In small studies, insomniacs who consumed two eight-ounce servings of tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks spent more minutes asleep (nearly 90 minutes in one study!) compared to a placebo. Cherries may have anti-inflammatory properties that help regulate sleep. Make sure you buy 100 percent juice with no added sugar. Check out these foods that can help you sleep.


Almond butter smoothie

Whirl together soy milk, almond butter, and banana in a blender. All three are sources of magnesium, which research shows can help you fall asleep easier and snooze better during the night. Magnesium may help calm down your nervous system and activate neurotransmitters involved in sleep regulation. Find out the surprising symptoms of magnesium deficiency.


Warm milk

Does milk help you sleep? Yes: If you enjoy the taste, then go for it, says Ruggles. “The sleep effects of milk probably has more to do with the way it transports you back to childhood,” she explains. And that’s enough for many. “These imprinted memories are very powerful,” she adds. The New York Times likens the warm milk trick to “a soothing old blanket.” Pour a couple ounces, warm up on the stove, and enjoy.


A cool glass of milk

Not into warm milk? No problem—just drink it cold. A Japanese study found that, when in combination with staying active, people who consumed dairy were more likely to report they could fall asleep within a half hour of going to bed compared to a control group. Here are common myths about dairy you can safely ignore.


Hemp milk

The non-dairy beverage is one of the few plant sources of omega 3s. Getting more of these fatty acids in your diet could score you up to an extra hour of snooze time per night, shows research in the Journal of Sleep Research. They may boost levels of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin to help reduce sleep problems. The omega 3s from fish are best, but no one wants fish at bedtime. Hemp is another way to make sure you get ample amounts in your diet. Just make sure you choose unsweetened versions to save on added sugar (sweeten it up yourself with a little honey if needed).


Bone broth

A good cup of bone broth can be especially soothing in the colder months. “Make a ritual of sitting down with a warm cup of bone broth and transitioning toward sleep is deeply nourishing and calming to the nervous system,” says Ruggles. To get the most out of it, use a big wide-mouth teacup (you don’t need to fill it all the way) that you can embrace with both hands and slowly savor.


Lemon balm tea

Looking for more teas that help you sleep besides chamomile? Try lemon balm. In one study, which analyzed the effectiveness of a lemon balm-based commercial supplement found that after 15 days of taking the botanical, people had 18 percent less anxiety and 42 percent less insomnia, likely because of its ability to increase levels of stress-calming neurotransmitters in the brain. As a bonus, the soothing warmth of tea can also help prep your body to rest after a harried day.


Passionflower tea

The native American herb works similarly: by increasing levels of relaxing neurotransmitters, helping prevent before-bed rumination that keeps you wide-eyed way past your bedtime. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends steeping one teaspoon of dried passionflower in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes (strain before drinking). Sip one hour before bed.


Avoid: Wine

It might feel like you can let out a big sigh when you have your first sip, but when it comes to your sleep, it does anything but help you rest. Research shows drinking booze before bed does help you fall asleep quicker, but it comes at a price — disrupted sleep in the second half of the night. Plus, “nighttime is when your body resets and heals, and you don’t want alcohol to compromise that process,” says Ruggles.


Avoid: Coffee

If you’re rolling your eyes, it’s because you’ve heard time and time again that caffeine can keep you wide-eyed way past your bedtime. So you know not to order a java around dinner. But what you probably don’t know is that it stays in your system and affects your ability to snooze longer than you think. In a study from Henry Ford Hospital, drinking caffeine as many as six hours before bed can slash your slumber by one hour. And know that while you may think an espresso is a no-no but feel better about coffee, know that coffee can actually contain almost four times the caffeine of a single espresso.

Avoid: Soda

Lay off the bubbles before bed. In one study in the journal Chest, popping a can of pop was associated with suffering from reflux and heartburn overnight—and that discomfort can seriously disrupt sleep so you yawn your way through the next day. Given soda is a major source of added sugar, cutting it out will boost your health in more than one way. Good night!

Avoid: Valerian tea

It’s long been thought that this flowering herb can help you drift off when your head hits the pillow—but according to a 2007 review of 37 controlled trials published in the journal Sleep Medicine, there was little difference between valerian and a placebo on sleep. It did find that it was safe—so there’s no harm in trying to see if it works for you—but it’s unlikely it’ll be the cure for your snooze problems.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest