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Is Drinking Milk Before Bed Good? Yes, For A Surprising Reason

Is Drinking Milk Before Bed Good? Yes, For A Surprising Reason

Drinking 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 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 bedtime.

The science 

The most important link between 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 is considered to contain one of the highest levels of tryptophan (732 milligrams per quart). But what does this all have to do with sleep?

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 makes you sleepy.

As you can see, milk 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 solve all your sleep problems.

The psychology

In place of hard-science, psychologists and sleep specialists have come up with another reason to answer the question: Does warm milk help you sleep?

No matter where you’re from, there’s a common childhood memory we all share - drinking a steamy cup of warm milk while being 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.

Warm milk vs cold milk

Some like it warm, others like it cold. Again, there’s no science that backs if drinking milk before bed 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.

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.

What to drink to sleep faster

what to drink to sleep faster

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:

  • Chamomile tea is considered a mild sleep tranquilizer. Camomile contains the antioxidant apigenin, which does wonders to relax the mind and body, so you feel sleepy.
  • Green tea has an abundance of an amino acid called theanine, which is linked to relieving mental stress. Always opt for decaf green tea before bed to avoid any adverse effects of caffeine.
  • Almond milk is the perfect sleep-inducing alternative to cow’s milk. One cup of almond milk contains up to 17 mg of magnesium, helping troubled sleepers feel sleepy.
  • Banana smoothies are a delicious late-night drink that can satiate hunger pangs and prepare you for rest. Full of potassium, bananas have a way of relaxing muscles, helping you unwind after a long day.
  • Coconut water is high in vitamin B, which is known to help you distress. If you find it challenging to drink water at night, coconut water is a good alternative.

If drinking 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 cup of matcha milk. 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 low levels of caffeine.

What drinks to avoid before bed

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:

  • Alcohol
  • Soda
  • Coffee
  • Energy drinks

Drinks that are high in sugar or caffeine stimulate the mind, which is precisely the opposite of what you should do before bed.

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.

What makes you sleepy?

what makes you sleepy, most comfortable mattress

Our sleep cycles have a way of changing with 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 before bed.

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.

Summary: Is drinking milk before bed good?

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.

Your Turn...

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.

Certified Sleep Science Coach

Written by Monica Chinsami, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Monica is a writer who is passionate about the connection between wellness and sleep. She believes sleep has the power to unlock our greatest potential for health and happiness. Topics she's covered range from well-being, to the latest trends in sleep health and bedroom aesthetics. Monica holds a BA in Journalism from Monash University and is a Certified Sleep Science Coach.

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