Is Warm Milk for Sleep Just a Big Con?

By: Bel Marra Health | Brain Function | Friday, August 17, 2012 - 01:01 AM

insomnia sleep problemApproximately 40 million Americans have difficulty sleeping every night. Sleep problems can ruin people’s lives. When someone has insomnia for example, it can lead to accidents, trouble concentrating, depression, and health problems. Sleep problems are nothing new and for years sufferers have been told to turn to warm milk as a way to help them drift off, but now scientists say the age-old remedy doesn’t hold a lot of weight.

For centuries people around the world have sworn that drinking a warm cup of milk has helped them fall asleep on a restless night. This health trend lead to many variations of hot drinks to deal with sleep problems, yet it seems that those who suffer from the occasional sleepless night and even those with full-blown insomnia keep coming back to warm milk. Science says if it is working for them then it is more psychological than medical related.

Science of Warm Milk for Insomnia

Researchers say there is no denying when people and animals are warm they can be lulled into sleep. This is why many people fall asleep after a warm bath or once they wrap themselves in soft, warm blankets. According to the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience, sleep is induced quicker when our skin temperature rises. Drinking a warm glass of milk will not help our temperature rise enough to induce slumber. You would be better off bathing in warm milk.

Some research has revealed that milk and other food items like turkey have an essential amino acid called “tryptophan” which has been linked to sleepiness. When you consume tryptophan it converts into the sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin. A lot of scientists in both Europe and the United States agree that the level of tryptophan in milk is not high enough to induce sleep.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest that tryptophan in milk could be effective in creating a calming effect if it weren’t for a barrier created by other amino acids in the brain. They say eating foods that are high in carbohydrates can stimulate the release of insulin which makes it easier for tryptophan to enter the brain.

Scientists believe that there is a strong emotional connection for those who believe that warm milk is the answer for their sleepless nights. They say milk is associated with “happy time” with their mothers. It reminds them of their infancy, a safe place, a warm place. There is also a connection to family. It is likely that grandma suggested warm milk for sleeplessness, and if grandma says it works, people want to believe it does.

Researchers aren’t suggesting anyone stop using warm milk if they are drifting off to sleep on those rough evenings. Since it is a health trend that is not harmful, there is no reason you should stop; they simply don’t want people to be frustrated when it doesn’t work.

For those who are suffering and can’t seem to find a solution to their insomnia, there is plenty of help out there. Don’t suffer in silence; talk to your physician and nutritionist. They can offer healthy suggestions to get rid of your sleep problems and make sure your life is in balance.


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