Drinking warm milk before bed has long been considered a go-to sleep-inducing remedy that will lull you off into dreamland with ease. But does warm milk help you sleep better? The jury is out on this milky myth, and for once, science is taking a humble back seat.
From the outset, it’s important to note there is no conclusive science-backed evidence that proves warm milk and better sleep go hand-in-hand.
With research (there’s been a lot) conducted around the topic of milk's sleepy benefits, a few things are now clear. We know that milk is nutrient-rich and contains amino acids that benefit the sleep cycle.
We also know that humans have been drinking warm milk before bed for centuries, and over time, we’ve developed a deep ritual-like bond with the drink. This association is beneficial to how we feel when it's time to fall asleep.
The most important link between a glass of milk and sleep relates to a powerful amino acid called tryptophan. This is the key focal point of research on the topic of drinking milk before bed.
Tryptophan is unique in a number of ways. It plays a vital role in regulating mood, cognition, learning and memory. Even more impressive is that the body is unable to produce tryptophan naturally. Particular plant and animal-based proteins contain tryptophan. By eating and drinking these proteins, we up our tryptophan levels.
Milk contains one of the highest levels of tryptophan (732 milligrams per quart). But how does all this help you fall asleep?
The magic of tryptophan extends further than regulating mood and memory. Tryptophan helps build the hormone serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin. Serotonin helps regulate the sleep and wake cycle, and melatonin can induce sleep.
As you can see, drinking a glass of warm milk before bed can be loosely linked to sleep using science. But the fact is, there is not enough tryptophan in milk to factually state that drinking milk before bed will magically improve sleep quality, or solve all your sleep problems.
In place of hard science, psychologists and sleep specialists have come up with another reason to answer the question: Does warm milk improve sleep quality?
No matter where you’re from, there’s a common childhood memory we all share - drinking a steamy cup of warm milk while falling asleep wrapped in a favorite blanket.
It’s widely accepted that drinking milk before bed acts almost like a placebo by combining a positive association of this childhood memory with feelings of warmth, relaxation, and safety to induce a sleepy state of mind.
Some like it warm, others like it cold. Again, there’s no science that backs if drinking milk before bedtime is better warm or cold.
It comes down to preference. A study has been conducted on how a warm beverage can help reduce anxiety. Researchers concluded warm drinks such as tea can have a calming effect on the brain, making it beneficial for overall health.
While there is no specific study that analyzes any variance between drinking warm or cold milk before bed, it’s generally accepted that warm milk can be more calming than cold milk.
Does warm milk help you sleep? Yes. But apart from drinking milk, other drinks make you feel sleepy and fall asleep faster. But we’re not talking about a nightcap.
Try whipping up the following health and sleep-promoting drinks next time you need a little help to snooze:
If drinking a glass of warm milk before bed is your thing, there are a few trending milk-based recipes you should try. The best thing is they can help you sleep better, too.
Warm turmeric milk offers an ample supply of antioxidants due to the robust benefits of turmeric. Turmeric has long been used to reduce inflammation and lower stress. Combine one teaspoon of turmeric with your favorite milk and warm it on a stovetop with a little honey and cinnamon for extra flavor.
For a metabolism boost, you might enjoy a steaming glass of milk with matcha. Matcha milk is often incorporated in weight-loss plans and is also thought to improve immunity. However, if you are sensitive to caffeine, this may not be the best milk to drink before bed. Matcha contains caffeine, so matcha milk may keep you too alert for bedtime.
Knowing what to drink to sleep faster is excellent. But you should also be aware of what drinks to avoid before bed. When you avoid these drinks, you give yourself the best chance to experience deep and undisturbed sleep.
The following list of drinks are more likely to make you stay awake rather than feel sleepy:
Drinks that are high in sugar or caffeine stimulate the mind, and can disrupt melatonin production, which is precisely the opposite of what you should do before bedtime.
And as much as you might love indulging in a nightcap or two, drinking alcohol before bed is proven to be detrimental to quality sleep. One study reveals that consistently drinking before bed can reduce quality REM sleep and increase sleep latency.
Our sleep cycles have a way of changing with our health and different stages of life. You probably find that you sleep better at home, compared to when you travel. Or maybe you sleep better alone because you’re easily disturbed by your partner.
Whatever the case, it’s crucial to have a sound understanding of what actually makes you sleepy. Some may love drinking milk before bed; others prefer using a weighted blanket or listening to sleep sounds when it’s bedtime.
It’s good to know your unique sleep triggers. For most people, one of the most significant factors that create restlessness is an uncomfortable bed. As well as drinking milk, if you’re on a journey towards better sleep, ensure you have the most comfortable mattress.
A memory foam mattress, or a hybrid mattress, can transform your sleep cycle and ultimately elevate your entire sleep routine.
So instead of just asking, does warm milk help you sleep, take a look at your sleep setup too. The fact is, no matter how many good habits you introduce to feel sleepy and sleep better, you spend one-third of your life in bed. Investing in a quality mattress will deliver real long-term benefits to your sleep.
The exact amount of time it takes for warm milk to take effect can vary from person to person. Many experts agree that the sleep-promoting properties of milk are psychosomatic, and are most effective when combined with other healthy sleep hygiene practices.
The benefits of a warm glass of milk reach far beyond just helping you sleep. Milk is also packed with important nutrients and proteins for the body that promote bone health.
It’s best to experiment when it comes to finding sleep-inducing drinks that work for you. Some effective bedtime beverages include cherry juice, herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint, almond milk, and even turmeric milk.
Drinking milk before bed can make you feel sleepy. The warm and cozy feeling likely creates a sensation of sleepiness due to childhood memories instead of the specific ingredients in the milk. Despite this, it’s healthy, and that can only be a good thing.
So next time you're counting sheep, allow yourself to indulge in some warm milk, wrap yourself in a blanket, and enjoy feeling completely relaxed.
What Makes You Sleepy? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.