Drinking a cup of warm milk before bed is a home remedy for troubled sleepers for decades. It seems to be an idea that gets passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation, thanks to our grandparents.
What is it about milk that helps us sleep better? Is there a special ingredient in milk that we can maybe find in other foods? Where did the idea of drinking milk before bed come from?
Where Did This Idea Come From?
We all know about drinking milk before bedtime can help with falling asleep. It seems to be a home remedy our grandmas always gave us to lull us to sleep.
We might not ever be able to find out where the idea originated from as it seems to go back decades and generations of families, but one thing is for sure: it seems to work!
This home remedy is also becoming a medically recommended way to aid in falling asleep. It seems to be a tried and tested truth, promoting deeper sleep, reducing sleep-inhibiting anxiety and stress, and inducing a relaxation a person needs to doze off truly.
What is it exactly about milk that helps us drift into the dream world?
What’s The Deal With Milk?
Scientists haven’t come to a consensus on what it is inside milk that helps. However, we do have some ideas.
Our upbringing with milk and its psychology
One seems to be a psychological benefit. Some psychologists believe this practice is tied to our early childhood years and brings us back to simpler times when we were safe and loved.
Some scientists also believe some ingredients in milk can influence our mood and the sleepy centers inside our brain. One important ingredient consistently cited to help is the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan.
The sleep-aiding amino acid tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is essential for humans but is not produced. We need to ingest it from other food sources.
What is an amino acid? Think of them as Lego pieces to proteins, and proteins are better known as the building blocks of life.
We can find tryptophan in other foods, such as chocolate, oats, dried dates, yoghurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, and poultry.
So what does tryptophan do? The effects of tryptophan are achieved by the effects of another hormone called serotonin.
The two, among other substances essential to our body, work together to regulate the activities in our body, including our mood, cognitive abilities, emotional processing, and sleep regulation.
Tryptophan is also a precursor for melatonin, another vital hormone in our body.
The sleep-inducing hormone melatonin
Our body naturally produces a hormone called melatonin, a sleep-inducing signal our brain sends out that causes drowsiness. Melatonin can be purchased online or over-the-counter. It is used as a common sleep aid.
Your brain naturally produces a sufficient amount of the hormone when night falls. However, a common problem with sleep is the blue light emitted by devices such as smartphones screens and computer screens. You can read more about how electronic devices affect our melatonin production (thus our sleep) in this article.
As melatonin flood our body, a sense of tiredness overcomes our senses. This is how our body tells us it’s time for sleep.
Other Factors Behind Milk
There are a few different reasons for milk helping us fall asleep.
According to HowStuffWorks.com, milk in its most unadulterated form is 87% water. It also contains vitamins, minerals, sugars, and proteins that our body can love.
We often forget to stay hydrated and drink water throughout the day. Even worse is if we climb into bed and remain dehydrated for the next 7 to 9 hours.
Quenching our thirst and keeping our body hydrated especially with a small cup of warm milk can prevent problems such as dry mouth, dry nasal passages, parched throat, and even snoring from unsuspectingly and periodically waking us up throughout the night.
But what about waking up to use the washroom? Sure, drinking too much liquid can interrupt your sleep as you stumble in the dark to find the toilet. Dehydration, however, has an impact on the quality of our rest throughout the entire 7 to 9 hours.
Protein and fatty content
If hunger has been a challenge, the proteins and fat content in milk can help stave off the feeling, desires, and cravings to eat at night.
The fat content in milk might not help with your weight loss but be able to sleep well at night can help your body better regulate its metabolic processes, stress build up, and day-time impulses and cravings. This, in turn, can help you avoid gaining more weight and help you avoid impulsive behaviors that work against your weight loss plans.
Sleep well enough and ensures our body won’t make up for the lack of sleep and energy with that extra donut, croissant, or cream and sugar in that fifth cup of coffee for the day.
Should You Try Drinking Milk Before Bedtime?
Absolutely. It’s worth giving it a shot, especially if you are going through some tough times and haven’t found a solution to falling asleep easily. One cup of warm milk, maybe two tops, can help the mind ease into sleep mode.
Whether it has to do with the placebo effect of telling your brain that it’s time to sleep, the ingredients within milk that induce drowsiness, or the act of practicing mindfulness to alleviate stress and anxiety, one thing is for sure: drinking warm milk is tried and tested for generations.
Everybody is different, so do try and test it for yourself. We hope it helps!