The long light of summer leaves my little boy anxious. When you’re six, no matter how tired you might be from summer days spent playing, shooting arrows, finding treasure and counting bugs, heading to bed before the sun sinks below the mountains will always feel deeply and fundamentally unfair.
So when 8:00 rolls around each evening, my son and I snuggle together in his bed. I read a story. He reads a story. Sometime we share poetry (he’s partial to William Blake, while I’m a fan of Langston Hughes’ Sweet and Sour Animal Book). We sing songs. We talk about the day: what we loved, what we learned, how we gave, what we could have done differently.
In winter, this routine is usually enough and he says to me, “I’m ready to sleep now.” Then I head to bed where I lay with my husband and finish a bit of work before nodding off. In summer, though, my little boy struggles. He’s wild and unwieldy, and just can’t settle in.
So I make him this tea – and serve it in a little demitasse with a generous spoonful of honey and a bit of cream or milk. He calls it “that tea that calms me.” Perhaps it’s the herbs and spices working their magic, or perhaps it’s the sense of love that comes from having your mother make you something special just before bed, but he drinks a few sips and drifts into a soft, sweet sleep.
Sleepy Herbs to Calm Overtired Children
Lemon balm is a sedative, calming herb, traditionally used to treat sleep problems, nervousness and anxiety. A 2004 study conducted at the University of North Umbria in the UK found that adults who consumed capsules of lemon balm reported feeling calmer and less alert.
rose and lavender
Rose and lavender offer a clean, sweet, floral flavor and – like many flowers – offer sedative properties with rose traditionally held to support sleep and induce sweet dreams.
peppermint, fennel and licorice
Peppermint, fennel and licorice provide a soothing, pleasant flavor to the tea. Both are generally used to support digestion, and ease upset stomachs.
other herbs you might include (that I didn’t)
Known for its sedative, calming properties, herbalists often include chamomile in sleep aids and calming teas, so you might consider adding it to your blend, too. I generally avoid it due to a cross-sensitivity with ragweed. Valerian and kava kava are both popular sleep aids, too, but I feel they’re too strong for small children.
Where to buy organic herbs
Many herbs can be grown in your own garden or in pots on your balcony. I grow lemon balm, peppermint and lavender; however, I purchase most of my herbs online through companies who source organic and sustainably wild-crafted culinary and medicinal herbs (check them out here).
- 1 tablespoon dried lemon balm
- 2 teaspoons dried peppermint
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried rose petals
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
- 2 slices dried licorice root
- honey (as needed)
- heavy cream or milk (as needed)
- Place a kettle of filtered water onto the stove and bring to a boil.
- While the water comes to a boil, place herbs and spices into a mortar and crush with a pestle until roughly combined. Transfer to a teapot, pour boiling water over the herbs and steep for three to five minutes.
- Strain and serve with honey and cream, as you like it.