Danielle writes in-depth articles about sleep solutions and holds a psychology degree from the University of British Columbia.
If you struggle to obtain the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night, you are not alone. One-third of American adults report not receiving the recommended amount of sleep. Sleep is essential to good health and development, so it is imperative that we get enough each night.
There are a multitude of home remedies people may try to help themselves fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly. Drinking warm milk at night to feel tired is one such strategy that has been shared for years. Learn what the research says about this habit, and if it helps promote sleep.
Scientific evidence suggests that warm milk before bed may help you sleep. In a study of people staying in a hospital’s heart unit, those who drank warm milk and honey for three days noticed improvements in sleep. A study of adults over age 60 found that drinking fermented milk over the course of three weeks reduced nighttime wakings.
If you struggle with initiating sleep, milk might be able to help. In a study of people over 65, those who drank more milk and engaged in physical activity reported falling asleep more easily than those who did not.
Tryptophan plays an important role in the production of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that impacts mood, cognitive reasoning, and memory. Melatonin is a hormone released by your body in response to darkness, in order to help you feel like sleeping at night.
Milk collected from cows milked at night contains ample amounts of melatonin in addition to tryptophan. Although only animal studies have been conducted with this night milk so far, it could make humans sleepier than regular milk does.
Drinking milk before bed does not appear to have documented negative side effects in most people. Some people, however, might want to avoid milk. For example, people who have a dairy allergy, are lactose intolerant, or have irritable bowel syndrome with symptoms that are worsened by dairy probably should not use milk to promote sleep. If you are avoiding milk, you may want to opt for non-dairy sleep-inducing foods instead.
Some may worry that drinking milk before bed could promote weight gain. However, research suggests a glass of milk at night could help promote fitness. One study found that drinking milk after a workout and before bed helps with muscle recovery. Another study found that drinking milk before bed increases a person’s resting metabolic rate, or how quickly they burn calories, the next morning.
Some sleepers may be concerned that drinking milk before bed could lead to snoring. However, contrary to popular belief, growing evidence suggests that drinking milk does not produce more mucus.
For better sleep, it may help to try other foods high in tryptophan, such as:
If you have tried drinking milk or consuming other tryptophan-rich foods before bed and still struggle to fall asleep, you may want to take measures to improve your sleep hygiene.
Consider talking to your doctor if you still are not getting enough sleep after improving your sleep hygiene. It may be due to an underlying sleep disorder, such as insomnia. Your doctor can help you reach a diagnosis, schedule a sleep study, or prescribe medications.