Our bodies are beautiful, delicate, complicated things. Like the butterfly that flaps up a whirlwind, even tiny lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on our health and well-being.
For instance, did you know that sipping caffeine-free tea can help you sleep better? In this article, we look at the best blends of tea for a good sleep, as well as the importance of sleep for our health and well-being.
How often do you get enough sleep?
We don't mean, 'enough to cope' or 'enough so I'm not slumped in my office chair by 11 o'clock'. We mean the full seven hours or more that doctors recommend for a healthy mind and body.
If the answer's 'rarely' or 'never', it's time to start treating your snoozes more seriously.
See, sleep isn't just about keeping you sharp through those morning meetings. It's an essential part of the body's self-regulatory routine.
You can think of it as 'tidy-up time' for our brains and bodies. While we sleep, we perform essential maintenance tasks such as repairing cells, organising thoughts and clearing out unneeded chemicals. If we don't sleep enough, we increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity and depression.
The good news is that simple changes – like switching your bedtime drink to a herbal tea – can help improve sleep quality.
It might seem counterintuitive to drink tea before bed. After all, doesn't tea contain caffeine?
It depends. Common-or-garden English breakfast teas – the kind you find in cupboards and cafes across the country – contain caffeine. Lots of it.
On average, a cup of black tea with milk contains around 47 milligrams of caffeine. That's roughly equivalent to a half-can serving of a certain popular energy drink. Ouch.
No question, then – the best tea for a good sleep is caffeine-free tea. There are plenty of herbal blends that swap the sneaky stimulant for healthy natural ingredients. And, in some cases, these ingredients come with sleep-boosting benefits of their own.
Teacups ready? Let's take a look at a few snooze-worthy blends.
People have consumed chamomile for centuries – both for its sweet, earthy flavour and its many purported health benefits.
Studies have shown promising results for chamomile as a digestive aid and blood sugar regulator, among other things.
And – yes – many swear that chamomile tea is the best tea for a good sleep, hands down.
Scientists aren't quite sure why, but it might be linked to an antioxidant called apigenin. This binds to the same receptors in the brain that respond to certain sedative drugs.
In one trial, women who had recently given birth drank chamomile tea for two weeks. The group who consumed the tea demonstrated better sleep quality and fewer symptoms of depression compared to the control group.
The results aren't conclusive – and chamomile's benefits likely vary from person to person. However, if you're after tea for a good sleep, you'll be pleased to know that chamomile tea comes highly recommended by many.
There's something so soothing about the scent of lavender. That's why people pack it into pillows, stuffed animals and scented candles. For some, one sniff can send them to La-La Land.
Can you expect a similar result from drinking lavender tea? Anecdotally, yes. Glance at online reviews for lavender teas and you'll see glowing reports from countless nocturnal converts.
To paraphrase a few: 'It has a calming effect', 'I'm sure it improves my sleep', 'It's my ideal "winding down" drink before bed'.
And while there haven't been many studies into the effects of lavender on sleep, the few that exist have shown potential. One, for instance, found that lavender oil could decrease anxiety and depression in older people. This may, in turn, lead to better sleep.
Of course, you can do your own research. Brew a cup of lavender flowers and sip it slowly before you hit the hay. If it works for you – great!
Green tea typically contains caffeine, which is bad news for sleep quality. However, caffeine-free green tea ranks among the best tea for a good sleep – especially if you enjoy its soothing, grassy flavour.
What makes it so effective? It's believed to be down to a clever little substance called L-theanine. This naturally occurring chemical is thought to help reduce stress, improve cognitive function and maintain healthy sleep patterns.
Researchers are divided on the issue. One notable study found that L-theanine might activate brain regions that are responsible for relaxation. Other research groups say there's no scientific consensus or that more research is needed.
Want to try it for yourself? You'll be pleased to know that green teas – even caffeine-free varieties – are absolutely packed with L-theanine. Green tea contains, on average, 6.56 milligrams of L-theanine per gram, compared to 5.13 milligrams for black tea.
Many things affect our ability to sleep. Choosing tea for a good sleep is a great start, but you can enjoy even better results by making broader lifestyle changes.
We're talking about eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and avoiding chronic stress, among other things.
Easier said than done, right? Not if you treat yourself to a wellness break at The Glass House.
Our retreat is an adventure in tranquillity. Everything you do here – from eating delicious plant-based meals to practising your yoga – is designed to help you feel healthier and more relaxed.
Want to include tea in your routine? Good news: we've stocked our rooms with herbal blends from our friends at Twist Teas.
Twist Teas is an independent, family-run business based in rural Hertfordshire. The company specialises in 'blends with benefits', a selection of functional teas that aim to boost energy, aid digestion or – yes – promote better sleep.
Have a rummage through the range when you arrive. Who knows? You might find the best tea for a good sleep right there in your room.