Chamomile tea is perhaps the most recommended natural sleep aid around. And if claims are to be believed; drinking this caffeine-free beverage will have you snoozing before you know it.
And if you’re sitting there reading this, eyes hanging off your face after another sleepless night, I have good news for you, chamomile may just be the sleep solution you have been looking for!
What is Chamomile Tea?Chamomile tea is a traditional herbal medicine that has actually been used over thousands of years to treat many different ailments, including insomnia. As you may have guessed, the tea is brewed from the flowers of the chamomile plant.1
There are two different plants known as chamomile; German chamomile (Matricaria recutit) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Although they are technically different plants, both fall under the “chamomile” name and both are used to treat the same health problems. If you buy pre-packaged tea, German chamomile is most commonly used.2
In the wild, you can identify chamomile by it’s daisy like flowers consisting of white petals and yellow center. The plant itself is spindly and grows low to the ground. If you’re having a hard time imagining it, let me paint you a picture… err… photograph.
If you have noticed wild chamomile growing in your yard and have considered making yourself a DIY sleep tea, I would advise against it. This chamomile is likely a different species known as pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea). While it may look similar, it won’t give you the same sleep benefits.
When you buy loose chamomile for brewing tea, the flowers are cut at the stem and dried. And as you can see, when dried, chamomile looks completely different again.
The chamomile used in tea bags is the same dried chamomile as above but finely chopped. By preparing the chamomile in this way it will evenly fit inside the teabags and infuse faster when steeping.
You can take a chamomile pill, use a chamomile tincture/extract or even inhale the it as an essential oil to take advantage of it’s benefits. By far the most popular way of taking chamomile is by drinking a freshly brewed chamomile tea.
Why is chamomile tea the ultimate sleep aid?
Unlike other sleep aids, that only focus on one cause of sleeplessness, chamomile tea can provide relief to a variety of sleep disruptors, including:
1. Insomnia – First and foremost, chamomile fights that annoying sensation where you don’t feel tired. If you glance at the clock and see that it is well past your bedtime, and you don’t feel tired yet, sipping on chamomile tea can induce that sleepy feeling.
2. Anxiety – Anxiety and insomnia go hand in hand. Your racing, unwanted thoughts bring with it a night of restlessness. A cup of chamomile tea before bed will help calm your mind long enough that you can drift off to sleep.
3. Depression – Drinking chamomile tea before bed can help rid you of that worn-out unwanted companion that clings to you like a cloud of hopelessness. While it won’t outright cure depression, it can rid you of these unwanted feelings long enough to fall asleep.
4. Indigestion – The cause of sleeplessness that I most identify with. But perhaps that’s because I overeat too close to bed. A cup of chamomile tea can treat your upset stomach, reducing muscle spasms and inflammation, so that you can sleep pain free.3
Best Chamomile Teas
Please note that this section is under construction. We are currently brewing up over 20 different pre-packaged chamomile teas to rank them on taste, quality, and value. Check back soon to see the results!
In the mean time, why not check out some of the other relaxing blends of tea designed to help you sleep, ranked according to tasted and effectiveness, by us. Read our review of sleep teas here.
When should you drink chamomile tea to improve your sleep?
There does not appear to be a hard and fast rule as to when is the right time to drink chamomile tea. Some people drink multiple cups across the day. Others a cup at night.
However, if you want to use chamomile as a sleep aid, there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence in support of drinking chamomile tea prior to falling asleep, as part of your pre-bed ritual.
Just how close to bed that is will depend on you. I know if I drink anything within 10 minutes of heading to bed, I’ll awake at night to go to the bathroom. If I drink chamomile tea after a stressful day, it’s typically half an hour before bed.
How much chamomile tea should you drink
There is no standard dose of chamomile. Studies have used between 400 – 1,600 mg daily in casual form. And when it comes to tea, some people drink one to four cups of chamomile tea daily, brewed for 5 – 10 minutes in a mug. 4
This leaves the dosage a little open to interpretation. Start with a single cup before your bedtime and observe if there are any noticeable effects.
What if I don’t like the taste of Chamomile tea but still want to use it as a sleep aid?
While chamomile is one of the more milder tasting teas that you can drink before bed, the natural herby flavor isn’t for everyone.
You could always try holding you nose while you drink!
But on a more serious note, you could always try a bedtime tea blend instead. These sleep teas contain a mixture of natural herbs such as valerian and passionflower to help you fall asleep.
And unsurprisingly, chamomile is almost always used as a main ingredient. But because chamomile is mixed with other, more tasty herbs, many people choose bedtime blends for their pleasant flavor instead of straight chamomile tea. You can check out our review of tea blends for sleep, here.
Is chamomile tea a safe sleep aid?
As far as natural sleep aids go, chamomile is generally considered by experts to be safe to use with very few potential side effects.
However, those of you who are allergic to ragweed pollen may find that the pollen found in chamomile tea triggers your allergies. It is also suggested that chamomile can interfere with blood thinners and other sedatives. As always, consult with your doctor before introducing a new supplement to your diet.
Due to the lack of evidence about chamomile teas long term safety, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.5
Is there any scientific evidence to back up the sleep inducing claims of chamomile tea?
It is widely accepted that chamomile is an effective sleep aid. So much so that it is found as the main ingredient in a sleepy tea blends, teas that make use of multiple sleep inducing ingredients, to combat insomnia.
But if you are suffering from sleepless nights, and have tried other natural sleep aids that have made similar claims, you have a good reason to be skeptical.
Fortunately, there are quite a few studies that indicate chamomile may be an effective sleep aid.
In 2009 a German study explored the effects of chamomile on patients with mild to moderate anxiety. Patients taking chamomile showed significantly greater reduction in anxiety than those taking a placebo.6
A follow up study in 2012 showed that chamomile also has powerful antidepressant activity, and may be useful in treating depression, in addition to the previously observed anxiety reduction. Perhaps most interesting was that the effects of chamomile seemed to increase with continued use. Your body does not appear to develop a tolerance to chamomile.7
A preliminary study looked at the effects of chamomile and sleep with findings showing that chamomile may be used to treat patients with chronic primary insomnia. Chamomile may be particularly suited to those that who take a long time to fall asleep (sleep onset latency) or those who wake up multiple times across the night, as well as those who have an adverse reaction to their current insomnia medication.8
Animal research supports the findings. One study showed that rats dosed with chamomile extract fell asleep significantly quicker than those without.9
Another study on mice, who inhaled chamomile oil, showed significantly reduced levels of stress hormone (ACTH) in the brain. An EEG revealed that mice who had been treated with chamomile had a substantial improvement in mood and reduced levels of anxiety.10
While research cannot conclusively say that chamomile will put you to sleep, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it can. Just reading through the comments section on Amazon, or the comments left under various chamomile articles shows that thousands of people swear that chamomile tea helps them fall asleep.
If you are looking for a natural sleep aid that is cheap, natural and readily available, chamomile tea may be perfect for you.
What is in chamomile tea that helps you sleep?
One theory is that Chamomile tea contains 36 different flavonoids. And that one of them, apigenen, binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. The result is a calming effect.11
However, others believe it is little more than a placebo effect at work. Not including caffeinated drinks, there is a reason why so many people enjoy brewed teas of all varieties. Because they are relaxing.
But this relaxation isn’t caused by the teas chemical properties. It is caused from:
- Drinking a warm liquid feels good.
- The placebo effect (we think it relaxes us, so it does).
The “I think this relaxes me, so it does” effect is the same concept behind how a glass of warm milk can help you sleep better.
Another interesting thing to note is that by brewing a chamomile tea each night, you are essentially creating a nightly ritual. And once you are in the habit of this ritual, your brain will begin to associate brewing and making yourself a cup of chamomile tea with winding down, in preparation for sleep.
Whatever the reason, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the benefits that chamomile tea has on sleep. So something must be at work. And if chamomile tea is the one thing to improve your sleep, does it really matter what the cause is?
If you have tried chamomile tea and are still suffering from insomnia, why not check out our guide on 100 different ways to fall sleep better. You may find the solution to your insomnia there!
Do you use chamomile tea as a sleep aid? Let me know in the comments below!