Fact or Fiction: Warm Milk Helps You Fall Asleep

Friday, May 8, 2015

Fact or Fiction Warm Milk Helps You Fall Asleep

Your mom probably gave you warm milk as a kid when you were having trouble falling asleep. Her mom probably did the same for her. And so on and so on, going back generations. So does a warm mug of fresh, delicious Hiland Dairy Milk really help you go to sleep?

Well, no…and yes.

(Warning: science ahead!)

It’s true that milk does contain tryptophan, which helps the brain produce serotonin, which promotes relaxation and can be converted into melatonin—a hormone that helps the body regulate its sleep pattern.

But here’s the thing…in order to make you sleepy, tryptophan needs to cross the blood-brain barrier—something that the protein in milk actually makes more difficult. In fact, it turns out that carbohydrate-rich foods actually stimulate the release of insulin, which helps tryptophan enter your system (this might be a good excuse for a bedtime snack of milk and cookies).

This also explains the whole turkey-tryptophan-drowsiness myth: it’s not the turkey itself that makes you drowsy; its all the carbohydrates in the potatoes you ate along with the turkey that help its tryptophan get into your brain. And incidentally, turkey contains about the same amount of tryptophan as most other meats.

So, anyway…back to milk.

It turns out that if warm milk promotes sleepiness at all, it does so for a completely different and altogether delightful reason. Warm milk may actually act more like a favorite teddy bear or blanket than a sleeping pill, giving you comfort by transporting you back to your childhood—a time when you were safe and protected by your parents and had few cares in the world. This may relax you, allowing you to drift off to sleep, leaving the day’s tribulations on the distant shore.

Whatever the reason, there’s one thing for sure—a mug of warm milk before bed certainly won’t hurt. And besides, as the saying goes, milk does a body good. So why not do your body good right before bedtime tonight?

Does it work for you?

We’d love to hear from you! Does drinking warm milk before bed help you get to sleep? Is this a tradition your family has passed on for generations? Tell us in the comments below!

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