Does Milk Help You Sleep?

A warm glass of milk is something that many of us associate with bed-time and it’s commonly said that drinking one can help us to fall to sleep more quickly and more deeply. While this is a popular concept, it’s hard for many people to see how this might work. Here then we will look at whether there is any truth behind the concept or whether it is indeed just an old wives’ tale, while at the same time examining just how it works and how you can get the most from it.

How Milk Is Said to Help Us Sleep

Milk contains an amino acid called L-Tryptophan which helps the body to produce melatonin and serotonin and these are two chemicals which tell the body to sleep. Thus drinking milk can cause the body to produce this chemical and thereby start to feel drowsy.

At the same time many people will opt to drink their milk warm and this then is very comforting and helps them to relax more. We all sleep better when we are warm and so by drinking warm milk we can help ourselves to feel ready for bed. This is further improved by the fact that milk is very smooth and quite sweet which means it soothes our throat and makes perfect ‘comfort food’.

Finally some experts believe that warm milk can remind us of breast feeding as this milk would have been warm too. This then reminds us of being children at a time when we were highly relaxed and taken care of and this helps us to relax. Even if this isn’t the case, the fact that many of us believe warm milk to work will mean that we will have used the technique before (or been given it as children) and so associate warm milk with bed time. Then of course there’s the slight placebo effect of feeling like we’ve done something to make ourselves more likely to sleep.

Does It Work?

Unfortunately the amount of L-Tryptophan in milk is very small so it’s not certain that it will have a huge impact on our melatonin production though of course a little is better than nothing. At the same time though there is talk that it may be unable to pass the blood-brain barrier meaning it would have no impact on our brain or hormone production, and there is concern that it may in fact damage the deeper sleep states. There is no conclusive evidence to say whether it has a significant effect or not, however the fact that you are drinking something warm, and that you associate it with sleep means you are likely to find it at least makes you somewhat more relaxed and prone to sleeping.

How to Make It Work

Milk will work best as a sleeping aid when you are relaxed then. At the same time it will also work better if it is full fat as this will line the stomach and make you feel fuller for longer – and we all sleep better on a full stomach. You can also add to this by eating some cheese which will help fill you up and also contains tryptophan (and which does not cause strange dreams despite common conception). This is also creamier and sweeter to taste which will help you to relax more. You should also take the opportunity to help yourself feel relaxed and calm in other ways too by dimming the lights, sitting in a comfortable chair and generally relaxing.

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