Drinking tea improves gut health AND helps combat sleep deprivation effects, new study says

Pop the kettle on: science says tea has some big health benefits

Cup of tea
(Image credit: Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash)

The restorative powers of a cup of tea are often spoken of, but we'd always assumed it was mainly cultural rather than necessarily science based. However, a new study confirms that drinking tea can in fact have some real, provable health benefits: improving gut health, as well as helping to regulate your circadian rhythms (the body clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle).

An out-of-whack circadian rhythm, the kind that can result from irregular shift work or jet lag, can alter your metabolism, disrupt your blood sugar levels and lead to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. 

These negative effects are, at least in part, due to the status of the bacteria in your gut, says Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Tea Advisory Panel (who knew such a thing existed?). "Trillions of bacteria live in our gut – called the microbiota – and these can influence not only obesity levels and blood sugar control, but signals in the brain that make us feel sleepy or awake," explains Carrie. 

A study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that simulated jet-lag caused changes in study subjects' gut microbiota, leading to weight gain and disrupted blood glucose levels. When a sample of gut microbiota from those jet-lagged study subjects was transplanted into non-jet-lagged study subjects, the new group's metabolism was similarly affected.

So here's the good part: "Studies show that plant compounds found naturally in tea – called polyphenols – have a striking effect on the gut microbiota, and encourage growth and activity of ‘friendly’ lactobacillus species,” says Carrie. These polyphenols can be found in a range of teas, including black tea, green tea, oolong and pu-erh. 

That means that if you're struggling with the impact of sleep deprivation, drinking team can influence your body clock, and also help you avoid the longer-term negative impacts.

Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).