Making sure you get enough rest is so important to leading a balanced lifestyle – but it’s often a case of ‘easier said than done’. Everyone’s got their own little trick to help them get their 8 hours; counting sheep (cows work too!), reading a good book, putting their phone out of sight… But have you ever heard about drinking a glass of milk before you go to bed as a way to help you get a sound night’s sleep? It’s been the subject of some debate over the years, so we’re going to settle the issue once and for all.
How’s your sleep health?
Getting enough good quality sleep is absolutely crucial to your overall health. We all know that horrible feeling of what it’s like going to work after a patchy sleep. Irritability, compromised ability to focus, fatigue – these are just a few of the downsides to poor sleeping patterns. On a more serious note, it’s also thought to be connected to the slowing of your metabolism and even chronic diseases such as strokes, diabetes and various cardiovascular issues.
Tryptophan and melatonin
...Your two best friends for a restful night. Milk (and other dairy products) are a really good source of tryptophan. It’s an amino acid that can help promote sleep, so it can come in particularly handy especially if you’re used to tossing and turning before finally getting off to sleep. Tryptophan is not naturally produced by our bodies so needs to be ingested in order to get the benefits. It’s also a precursor to melatonin, which is sometimes known as the ‘hormone of darkness’. It might sound a bit creepy but its sleep-promoting abilities mean that there’s a good reason for such an odd name. After all, it’s the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Here’s the science bit for those interested; tryptophan promotes production of the neurotransmitter serotonin (the 'feel good hormone'), and in turn, as the day draws to a close, can be converted into melatonin.
So if you find yourself struggling to nod off and it’s affecting your day to day – consider making the short walk to the fridge and pouring yourself a glass of the white stuff just before you hit the hay. It might just be the difference between a sweet dream and a nightmare.