Tea Helps You Sleep in More Ways Than One

Many of you humans see tea as a stimulant, but it is also, rather surprisingly, also a soother. You can ease your stress and get help sleeping. Honest! Has this little teapot every steered you astray? TOOOT!

Tea Pillows

Gina Wu began making pillows filled with tea and other ingredients several years back. We were sent one of her travel pillows to try.

A travel sized pillow (click on photo for details):

Ever thought you could dream on a pillow of tea? Neither did my humans. In fact, when they were asked awhile back to try a tea pillow, they asked, “A pillow made of tea?” It was a reasonable question. After all, tea is, well, you know, sort of liquidy, at least after being steeped. In dry form, tea is just a bunch of tiny pieces of dried leaves from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), not the sort of thing one considers suitable for dreamland. Duck feathers, foam, etc., are strong contenders, but not little crunchy bits.

Now, my ‘she’ human has a hyper-sensitive sniffer — a gift and a curse. The gift part is when she says something smells good, you can depend on it. The curse part is that when something smells bad, she has to be very careful around it or suffer the consequences. That’s as true for tea as for any other odoriferous substance.

Tea scents can evoke different emotional reactions in her. The malty aroma of Assam can bring to mind images of early morning fog floating over the green grass and slowly burning off as the sun warms the chilly air. The seaweedy scent of a fresh Japanese Shincha (a special green tea that should be used within a month of purchase) carries with it images of the sea: gulls riding the air currents while keeping a sharp eye looking out for their next meal, waves tipped with white foam as they are blown inland by winds that have traveled great distances across the oceans, and atoms of sea salt mixed in the air.

The scent of the tea pillow conveyed a plethora of images. It was earthy, woodsy, and reminiscent of a day spent mushroom-picking years ago, ferreting on the ground for those tasty fungi among the fallen tree leaves in various states of decomposition. You can well imagine the dreams that scent inspired. Let’s just say that a Freudian psychiatrist would probably have a field day interpreting them.

Will the scent fade over time (like a lot of scented things tend to do)? When not in use, maybe this tea pillow should be kept in a plastic, airtight bag. The shocking pink fabric is not very restful either, but if your eyes are closed sleeping, you won’t see it.

All in all, as pleasant as this pillow smells, one whiff might make you thirsty, not sleepy. The aroma is a bit distracting, at least so my humans say. You might think differently, especially if you like strong scents.

Cozy Settings

Tea is the essence of coziness. Cozy isn’t difficult. Tea isn’t difficult. But there are still folks who need some assistance in achieving the state of existence where both are appropriately combined. To that end, I present you with five ways to get cozy with tea. My humans claim these really work. TOOOT!

Some ways to get cozy (click on each photo for details):

L-Theanine Is the Secret to Tea

Tea contains both caffeine and L-Theanine. The caffeine is a low amount that stimulates but not overly so, heightens mental focus, gives your memory a bit of a boost, and stimulates your metabolism which is good for weight loss. The counterpoint is the L-theanine, which relaxes you.

Simply put, L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves. It was isolated and identified by Japanese scientists in 1949. Since then it has been added to a variety of products, including GABA teas (more on that below). But a nice warm cup of green tea is a preferred option. Fortunately, unless you drink inhuman amounts of tea, this ingredient is safe. Some humans have reported that L-Theanine in true tea helps with postpartum anxiety.

The best teas for L-Theanine are “shade grown” such as gyokuro and matcha (best overall since you consume the whole leaf). The shade causes the tea leaves to build up chlorophyll to produce enough energy despite the shade. On the other hand, this reduces the amount of antioxidants in the overall tea.

Prepare you green tea properly to avoid bitterness. The water should be not hotter than 160°F, not boiling! Otherwise you end up stewing, not infusing. The cooler water temperature will create a sweeter tea. Steeping a PROPER cup of gyokuro or matcha in the Japanese style is EXTREMELY difficult. Be prepared to ruin your first few cups or just steep it as you would other green teas (there are no added benefits to the tea by steeping it in these traditional methods).

Click on each photo for details:

GABA Tea

Among the health claims being made about tea is a special kind called GABA tea. And that tea, very popular and Japan and other Asian countries, is becoming increasingly known in other parts of the world, partly due to various health claims and partly due to its devotees who swear that the flavor is very different and more pleasant. While in Japan most GABA tea has a green tea base, GABA teas based on oolongs and black teas are more typical elsewhere, especially in the nation of Taiwan. We thought it fitting, therefore, to share a few things to know about GABA tea.

A GABA tea we tried recently (click on each photo for details):

What GABA is

GABA is short for “gamma-Aminobutyric acid.” It’s the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in mammals. That means that it calms the adult nervous system. However, it also stimulates the younger nervous system and regulates muscle tone. It affects the flow of certain ions in the brain and has beneficial effects on other organs such as the digestive system and pancreas. (More health claims listed in #4.)

Some GABA in tea is natural

GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is one of three bioactive compounds in tea (the other two are caffeine and L-Theanine). While caffeine is a stimulant, GABA and L-Theanine both have properties that calm and mentally relax you. Thus the phrase that tea calms and invigorates. A yin and yang relationship, something coffee doesn’t have.

Some GABA in tea is enhanced/manufactured

About 20+ years ago, researchers in Japan were looking for a different method to preserve food using nitrogen (a well-known stabilizer versus oxygen which destabilizes). The process involves oxidizing the tea leaves in a nitrogen-rich environment after harvest. Producers usually start with a high grade tea that has been shaded for about 10 days before harvest to increase glutamic acid. The leaves are then harvested and placed in large drums where the oxygen is pumped out and nitrogen is pumped in. They are left in the drums for about eight hours and kept at an average temperature of 40°C to assure the highest concentrations of natural GABA. Standards for GABA tea set by the Japanese government have to be met to sell the tea there.

Health claims list for GABA Tea is long

Green and oolong teas marked as “GABA green tea” and “GABA oolong tea” are fairly common these days. And the health claims for GABA tea are many, including the ones named in item #1 above. Helping keep down high blood pressure is another one. The main thing is the enhancement of your natural levels of GABA. Antioxidants that help prevent cancer are a key benefit. The reduced levels of anxiety and stress can help you avoid overeating (which people often do to induce a more relaxed state). Alzheimer’s disease, deafness from senility, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and other conditions common in aging populations are also relieved.

GABA improves brain functions, mental clarity and neurotransmitter functions. It is said to improve REM sleep and reduce pain from arthritis, lower back pain, and similar chronic conditions. GABA levels in the brain decrease with age, and GABA tea is said to counter this. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should take caution, though, since the effects have not been fully studied. There are non-life-threatening side effects usually caused by overconsumption. [As always, we present this information just as something you might find useful and encourage you to consult your physician to learn more and see if GABA tea is right for you.]

The flavor is not quite up to the hype

Taiwanese tea expert Huang Tien Ming claims that the flavor of a GABA tea is similar to black tea but quite different from other teas and surprises many people with the pleasing and refreshing taste. But this claim is not supported by many others who said in blind taste tests that there was no difference and more often than not selected the non-GABA tea as the one they preferred. Most people, especially in Japan, seem to drink the tea for the GABA benefits, though.

Blending with Other Substances

Tea is the perfect base to blend with other herbs, etc., that help you sleep.

Some items (click on each photo for details):

See also: Sleep Time “Teas” That Are Not Teas

© 2017-2021 World Is a Tea Party photos and text

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tea_blog_lyt-solo005bHi, humans, this site is under my editorial excellence. I, your lovable and sassy Little Yellow Teapot, authors articles on tea, etc., and edit the occasional guest article. All in the interest of helping you humans have a better tea experience. TOOOT!

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