Tea, Alertness and Sleep

One of the great attractions of tea is that it’s good for a pick me up, thanks to its caffeine content. In this respect it’s much like coffee, but with tea there are additional factors that make the boost it offers a bit more gentle. The first point to consider is that the average cup of tea typically contains less caffeine than the average cup of coffee. In addition, tea also contains a compound called theanine, which has been found — paradoxically enough — to promote relaxation even at the same time that the caffeine in tea gives you a jolt.

Can tea help you sleep like a baby?
Can tea help you sleep like a baby?

Which is all well and good, but have you ever wondered what effect an entire day’s worth of tea drinking might have on your state of alertness or your ability to sleep? A group of British researchers from Unilever Research and the University of Surrey wondered the same thing and took steps to find out. Their study, which also looked took a look at coffee and water, was titled “A Naturalistic Investigation of the Effects of Day-Long Consumption of Tea, Coffee and Water on Alertness, Sleep Onset and Sleep Quality.”

The study was carried out with the help of thirty healthy volunteers. Tea drinkers were given an amount equivalent to one or two cups of tea four times a day between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. Caffeine content in the tea was equivalent to 37.5 mg or 75 mg, which was about half the amount of caffeine ingested by coffee drinkers.

The researchers concluded that “ingestion of caffeinated beverages may maintain aspects of cognitive and psychomotor performance throughout the day and evening when caffeinated beverages are administered repeatedly.” It should probably come as no surprise, given its lower caffeine content, that tea was found to be “less likely to disrupt sleep.” Interestingly enough, though, researchers also found “that day-long tea consumption produces similar alerting effects to coffee, despite lower caffeine levels.”

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