What to drink—and not to drink—for better sleep

cup of tea on white sheets

In a perfect world, sleep would be as easy as flipping off the lights, jumping into bed and closing your eyes. Sadly, that’s not the case for most of us. We need a little help to unwind and drift off to snoozeville.  

While many factors influence your slumber the liquids you sip at night can play a major role. Some drinks can lull you into rest, while others have the opposite effect.  

So, here are four drinks to try for better sleep – and four to avoid. 

4 drinks that help promote sleep 

1. Tart cherry juice 

The latest hack for better sleep: tart cherry juice. It’s a trending favorite among influencers and wellness experts, and for good reason. Pure tart cherry juice is a great source of magnesium—which may help calm and relax muscles—and melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in your sleep-wake cycle. Drinking a glass before bedtime might improve the quality and duration of sleep, according to research.1 

An important caveat: Tart cherry juice is…well, tart – so sugars are often added, and this can interfere with the benefits. Try to find 100% pure tart cherry juice with no added sugars, and combine it with ice or sparkling water to help it go down more easily. 

2. Warm milk 

A favorite for all ages, a glass of warm milk is one of the best things to help you unwind before bedtime. Warm drinks help you to relax and milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that plays an important role in making serotonin, a brain chemical linked to slumber. Not only do you need serotonin to make melatonin, but it also plays a huge role in how well and how long you sleep.  

So heat up a glass, savor each sip and cue your body it’s snooze time. 

3. Chamomile tea 

Chamomile tea has long been touted for its calming and relaxing effects. It’s a flowering herb from the Asteraceae plant family with mild sedative properties. The tea contains apigenin, a compound that interacts with receptors in your brain that are involved in your sleep-wake cycle. By stimulating these receptors, chamomile tea can promote drowsiness and help you fall asleep faster.2  

Enjoying a cup about an hour before bedtime should help soothe your mind and prepare your body for sleep.  

4. Valerian root tea 

Valerian root is derived from the Valeriana officinalis plant and has been used for sleep and relaxation for centuries. Though more research is needed, experts believe adding valerian root tea to your nightly routine can help with restful shuteye.  

That’s because it contains valerenic acid and other compounds that interact with certain receptors in your brain, including GABA receptors, which are involved in regulating sleep and relaxation. By enhancing the activity of GABA, valerian root tea helps promote feelings of calmness, making it easier to fall asleep.3  

What’s more, it can improve sleep quality by increasing deep sleep—aka slow-wave sleep—so you feel more refreshed in the morning.  

So if quality slumber is a nightly struggle, try brewing valerian root tea as a before-bed drink. 

4 drinks to avoid close to bedtime: 

1. Cut the caffeine early 

It’s no secret that caffeine can keep you awake, but what you might not know is how long that effect can last. Caffeine can have a significant impact on your system for as much as 6 hours after drinking, according to some research.4  

So while we all love our late-afternoon pick-me-up, it might be a good idea to swap your hot brew for a decaf tea – and avoid other caffeinated beverages within 6 hours of bedtime. 

2. Limit alcohol  

While a glass of wine or cold beer might seem appealing after a long day, these nightcaps can sabotage sleep. True, it can induce drowsiness at first, but it also causes fragmented sleep, making you feel less rested when you wake.  

In fact, alcohol can disrupt sleep almost as much as caffeine—even in small amounts. It does this by getting in the way of hormones your body makes during healthy sleep and by triggering symptoms like snoring, sleep apnea and sleep disruption.  

To prevent this issue, keep your alcohol consumption moderate and avoid drinking within 4 hours of bedtime. 

3. Avoid sugary drinks 

This probably isn’t surprising, but sugary drinks like sodas and even some fruit juices can interfere with sleep. The high sugar content can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to restlessness and making it harder to fall asleep.  

Sugar also impacts your sleep cycle. The more sugar you eat or drink before bed, the less time you’ll spend in deep, slow-wave sleep, according to one study. If you can, opt for healthier, sugar-free alternatives. 

4. Keep away from citrus drinks 

While citrus juice is often touted as a health drink, having it too close to bedtime can cause discomfort, especially when lying down.  

Citrus fruits are naturally acidic. Drinking their juice right before bed can trigger acid reflux or heartburn, which can make it challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night.  

To minimize digestive discomfort, avoid drinking citrus and other acidic drinks before bedtime. 

Last words 

While it’s important to pay attention to what you drink, it’s also important to think about how much. Taking in too many fluids before bedtime can lead to frequent nighttime bathroom breaks. This disrupts your sleep and makes it harder to achieve deep, uninterrupted rest.  

To minimize disruption, it’s best to reduce your fluid intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. 

Read next: 5 ways to optimize your bedroom for sleep

About Gabby 

Gabby is a Nutritionist with a master’s degree in strategic communications. She loves using her nutrition-fluency with storytelling to encourage positive change. Before Persona, she worked at a mental health clinic helping clients manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through diet.    

Gabby is just one of the many experts at Persona who are here to accelerate your wellness journey. If you have questions about nutrition or your personalized program, reach out now or book a free appointment with Gabby or another of our amazing nutritionists.   

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.      

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.        


  1. HowatsonG, Bell PG, TallentJ, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. EurJ Nutr. 2012;51(8):909-916. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7 
  2. Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Rep. 2010;3(6):895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377 
  3. Bent S, PadulaA, Moore D, Patterson M, MehlingW. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2006;119(12):1005-1012. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.02.026 
  4. Drake C; RoehrsT; ShambroomJ; Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med 2013;9(11):1195-1200. 
  5. St-Onge MP, Roberts A, Shechter A, Choudhury AR. Fiber and saturated fat are associated with sleep arousals and slow wave sleep. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2016;12(01):19-24. 

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