This article convinces us that matcha is healthier for you than coffee. With a similar caffeine content, the kick is less intense and the night sleep is intact when you drink matcha, any tea for that matter. The substance responsible for this theanine, which balances the stimulant effect of caffeine. The problem in my case, is that I don’t drink the coffee for the caffeine, I just love to drink coffee as a ritual. Or so I like to think. Decaf is not an option, because the taste is horrible.
Matcha has a pretty exciting combination of benefits and protections…
I know a lot of you love your coffee—in the morning and all throughout the day. But that’s part of the problem. Caffeine is the most abused stimulant across the world. Consuming too much caffeine and consuming it at the wrong times wreaks havoc with our sleep.
If you’re reluctant to consider scaling back your coffee or switching to another daily pick-me up drink, hear me out. Matcha has a pretty exciting combination of benefits and protections you’ll want to understand.
The big sleep-related advantage that matcha has over coffee is L-theanine. Tea is a potent source of L-theanine, and matcha has a substantially higher concentration of L-theanine than regular green or black tea.
I’ve written before about the benefits of L-theanine for sleep. L-theanine promotes both alertness and calm at the same time. It can put you in a state of wakeful relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety while at the same time improving focus and concentration.
How does L-theanine accomplish all this?
To be clear: consuming caffeine and drinking coffee aren’t exclusively bad for you. To the contrary. Coffee consumption is linked to a number of health benefits, from lowering diabetes risk to reducing risks for some cancers, to improving liver function and protecting brain health. Coffee is rich in antioxidants, including the same polyphenols found in matcha and other kinds of tea.
But the benefits of coffee tend to come from very moderate consumption, about 1 or 2 cups a day. (Those are regular size 8-ounce cups, not the jumbo kind.) Going beyond this moderate coffee intake often brings about the side effects I’ve described above, along with a rising tolerance for caffeine—meaning, the body needs more caffeine to get the daily alertness and energy producing effects.
Some quick tips for keeping matcha sleep friendly
There’s a lot to like about the benefits and protections that matcha may offer. But it’s important to remember: matcha contains a stimulant in the form of caffeine. Although its stimulant effects seem to be reduced in matcha, thanks to the presence of L-theanine, they don’t disappear. It’s a smart, sleep-friendly strategy to use matcha thoughtfully, in moderation, and at the right times.
When is the best times to drink matcha? To take advantage of its alerting, focusing effects, don’t drink your cup of matcha right when you get up. When you first rise, your body’s own cortisol is already kicked into high gear, helping make you alert and energized. Wait a couple of hours, when your cortisol levels are making the first of a series of dips throughout the day.
I also recommend sticking to a mid-afternoon cut off time for any caffeine, including the caffeine in matcha. The same rules apply to coffee!
Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM
The Sleep Doctor™
Matcha is a form of green tea that has been ground into a fine powder. You might recognize matcha from its intensely bright green color. The word matcha comes from the Japanese words for “ground” and “tea.” Matcha is derived from the plant Camellia sinesis, which is the source of many green teas and other teas. But matcha is grown and processed differently.
The practice of cultivating and preparing matcha is nearly 1000 years old. Unlike plants grown for other types of tea, the Camellia sinesis plants grown to make matcha are covered for several weeks of their growth cycle. Growing the tea leaves in shade, rather than under sun, causes the plants to step up their production of chlorophyll. This overproduction of chlorophyll contributes to higher concentrations of bio-chemical compounds in matcha, including polyphenols. Polyphenols are powerful, disease-fighting agents found in plants. In the human body, polyphenols appear to serve many functions that protect health and may diminish the risk of disease.
When the plants are ready for harvest, its leaves are picked and ground into the powder that becomes matcha. Unlike regular tea, which is steeped with hot water and strained, matcha is combined with water (or milks) and added to food in cooking. Matcha delivers a higher dose of nutrients and beneficial compounds for a couple of reasons: