Americans work hard, play hard, and carry all of that stress to bed at night. Sometimes we can’t seem to turn our brains off, and as a result, we’ve become a nation of insomniacs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lack of sleep has been linked to chronic disease, low productivity at work, and poor quality of life.
So what are we doing to cope? Many of us jumpstart our brains every morning with industrial levels of caffeine just to get going, only to end up wide-eyed with insomnia at night. Thankfully, you don’t have to resign yourself to long hours of tossing and turning in bed; there are plenty of natural teas, tisanes, and tonics that will have you snoring in no time.
Discovering which herbs, plants, and ingredients are “best for rest” can be a fun experiment. If you’re unsure what flavors you like, or how they will work, start with a single-ingredient tea. Chamomile and lavender are two of the best-known, most commonly used sleep remedies because they work well and they smell and taste lovely. With the addition of a bit of raw honey for sweetness (honey also triggers a sleep response), both teas are easy first steps for the uninitiated.
To give your sleep aids a boost, it also helps if you go to bed at the same time every night, get a minimum of seven hours of sleep, and develop a bedtime routine that encourages you to relax and decompress before you lay down. Avoiding foods and drinks that contain caffeine after lunch (yes, that includes chocolate) and taking a warm shower or bath before going to bed helps, too.
Since before the Middle Ages, lavender has been used to help people relax. Aromatherapy research shows that simply breathing its scent can relieve tension, improve mood, and alter brain waves. The best lavender often comes from the Mediterranean, especially Provence.
Chia Seed Drink
Chia seeds are considered a “super food” today, but the Mayans and Aztecs also thought they possessed amazing healing powers. They are high in tryptophan, which induces sleep, and the seeds can be enjoyed in a drink before bed.
Summer Whitford is the DC City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @FoodandWineDiva.