Whether it was nerves caused by the thought of a tough final the next day or a nightmare that kept you from getting some shut-eye: do you remember what always helped put you to sleep?
That’s right. A nice, warm glass of milk. Sometimes with chocolate or a spoonful of honey.
Now here’s an interesting question: was it the warm milk that helped put you to sleep? Is there a credible science behind it? Or are there simpler forces at work here that help you relax and does off.
Let’s look at a list of some of the foods that aid sleep and some that hinder it.
|Top Five Foods that Help Sleep||Top Five Foods that Hinder Sleep|
|1. Almonds2. Fish|
4. Raw oats
5. Tart cherries
|1. Potato chips2. Sugar|
3. Coffee or tea
4. Dark chocolate
Let’s kick off our search by addressing the most commonly associated word with milk other than sleep: tryptophan.
What is tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps synthesize proteins. Now, why is this amino acid relevant to our milk and sleep discussion? Well, tryptophan also helps to make serotonin: the neurotransmitter responsible for causing relaxation and of course melatonin: the hormone which regulates our sleep schedule.
Taken in this light, tryptophan is very important when it comes to sleep. But one of the most important things to remember about tryptophan: your body cannot manufacture it naturally. No, you need to consume foods which have tryptophan to access it. Here is a list of foods rich in tryptophan:
- Dried dates
And this is essentially where we circle back to our original question because milk is a good source of tryptophan. And tryptophan helps simulate chemical substances that trigger sleep. So does this mean all you need to fall asleep is a glass of milk?
What’s the scientific basis here?
Basic chemistry would suggest that since milk has tryptophan and tryptophan helps produce sleep-promoting agents then milk would be the answer to our lack of sleep. There is a catch, however, for the tryptophan to help release the required neurotransmitters, it would have to reach the brain. But when we ingest milk or any other food it does not immediately reach our brain, rather it just circulates in your bloodstream being distributed amongst different parts of your body.
Now for the tryptophan to reach your brain, you might want to combine it with a carbohydrate like cereal. But even then tryptophan is still just the substance that helps trigger the initial phase of falling asleep. Not only that, but medical experts have commented that for milk to be effective you would need more than a single glass to get a large amount of tryptophan required to induce deep sleep.
So where does the myth connecting sleep and milk come from?
What works: The Science or Psychology?
Since we’ve already discovered that the tryptophan in milk can only help trigger the initial phase of sleep, and not even that if we don’t manage to combine it with a carbohydrate then why do we offer warm milk as a solution to someone who is having trouble falling asleep?
Astonishingly, studies have shown that it may be your intention behind the offer that helps the milk work! Or more specifically your act of caring and concern that helps an anxious person relax and ultimately fall asleep.
Psychologists’ explain how the milk acts as a reminder of when your parents put you to sleep at night. So that milk acts both as a reminder of happier times but also as a signal. As after years of falling asleep after having a glass of milk your brain associates milk with falling asleep.
It could also be that at the end of a hard day you might find relaxation in a nice, warm beverage. And this ease could also help keep your anxiety at bay and help you rest.
What type of milk is best: Whole or skim?
Whether you’re interested in testing the psychology or if you just like the taste of milk and have decided to try it as a sleep remedy here is something to consider: what’s better for your sleep? Skimmed milk or whole?
The answer surprisingly is whole. Whole milk is rich in fat and thus that much better for your sleep needs. As studies have shown that the more fat there is in the milk so is there likely to be more tryptophan. You might end up putting on some additional weight but at least you will be well-rested.
The Effect of a Full Stomach:
Have you ever experienced a feeling of drowsiness after a good meal? If so, you’re not alone. Because it is the natural reaction your body gives to a full stomach. Basically, a full stomach triggers satisfaction and relaxation. This level of relaxation actually helps put you to sleep! Because your body has met it’s food intake and is indulging in a moment of happiness.
It could also be that your body is trying to put you asleep so it can go about digesting all that food. That’s right! Your body continues digesting food even after you’ve fallen asleep. Which is why insufficient sleep can also cause unintentional weight gain.
You maybe interested in Is it Bad to Sleep after Eating?
Is there a difference between drinking hot and warm milk?
It turns out that the heat in a glass of milk can help your body break the lactose down faster and digest it easier. So there’s one benefit to warm milk. Not to mention the fact that a warm beverage at the end of a trying day can help you unwind.
On the other hand, cold milk can relieve acid reflux. And of course, it has been said that drinking a glass of cold milk first thing in the morning will prevent dehydration the whole day through.
Does adding honey help?
Research has shown that adding honey to milk is beneficial to you in several ways. First off, it helps relieve constipation and other intestinal disorders. Honey in milk eases breathing problems and especially helpful for coughs. And of course, adding a little honey in warm milk is conducive to winding down and falling asleep.
Other foods that are helpful in Sleeping:
If you don’t like the taste of milk maybe you can give some of these other foods a try that also promote sleep:
Almonds are a great source of magnesium, and magnesium, of course, helps to relax your muscles. And this allows you to sleep better.
bananas are delicious to eat and full of protein: perfect for a small, healthy snack. Additionally, bananas also have tryptophan which as we know, helps trigger serotonin and melanin.
Tart cherry juice
studies have shown that tart cherry juice is a good source of melatonin: the sleep-regulating hormone.
Raw oats contain abundant fiber. And fiber helps regulate blood sugar which helps you relax and fall asleep.
See our How many Calories do You Burn while Sleeping? review to learn more.
Perhaps you would rather try some of the other foods mentioned in the list that help promote sleep. But milk is still a rich source of calcium which is much needed by your body. Add that to the additional benefits we have learned of taking milk in combination with other foods to promote sleep. Or taking milk with honey to boost health and immunity. All in all, milk is an important source of energy if you want to thrive and be healthy. And we suggest that you make it a part of your diet.