The idea that warm milk can help induce sleep isn’t new. In fact, the assumption is quite old. And although the remark, “drink warm milk before bed to get better sleep,” is something many caregivers have uttered over the years, it doesn’t necessarily mean science supports it.
To separate the fact from lore, we’ll into the research to find out if milk (and specifically warm milk) does help a person sleep better.
Research supports milk’s sleep inducing abilities
According to a handful of studies, milk, including warm milk, but not limited to warm milk, can help a person sleep. The following studies show milk’s ability to help induce sleep.
Milk has sleep-rich ingredients
Milk, in general, contains ingredients that are known to help people sleep.
For example, milk contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can help the human body produce serotonin, a brain chemical that can induce deeper and more restful sleep by creating melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for a person’s sleep-wake cycle. Milk also contains calcium; maintaining calcium levels can help a person stay asleep.
Night milk is, indeed, different than standard milk. A 2015 article in the Journal of Medicinal Food discovered that night milk—milk harvested at night—contains high amounts of tryptophan and melatonin.
The study discovered that after mice drank night milk, they experienced decreased spontaneous locomotion and impaired motor balance. The mice also experienced shortened sleep onset and prolonged sleep duration. The study’s findings mean that night milk may be an effective natural sleep aid for people. Night milk also may help anxiety-related disturbances, too.
Milk can help you sleep
A study that appeared in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry discovered that melatonin-rich milk could help elderly people sleep better.
Milk also may cause sleepiness if you associate it with having a good night’s sleep. According to the 2015 article in the Journal of Medicinal Food we referenced earlier, people who have memories of caregivers giving them milk to induce sleep benefit from that psychological association.
And another 2009 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 29 healthy elderly research subjects who were aged 60 through 81 benefited from drinking fermented milk. According to the study, the fermented milk improved sleep efficiency and wakening episodes.
Warm milk can help you sleep, too
A study that appeared in the British Medicine Journal in 1972 examined how people slept after drinking Horlicks, a hot milk drink. The study discovered that the people who drank Horlicks made less movements during sleep. Study participants’ sleep movements were compared to people who drank warm water.
Milk combined with other sleep-inducing activities
Engaging in multiple sleep inducing activities could help improve sleep quality. The following study examined how milk and other sleep bettering activities helped study participants sleep.
A 2014 study that appeared in the journal BMC Geriatrics examined if older adults who engaged in leisure-time physical activity and also drank milk slept well. The study found that the older adult participants who engaged in both activities—physical activity and drinking milk—had less difficulty initiating sleep (DIS) than people who did just one of those sleep enhancing activities.
So, in conclusion, milk, including warm milk, may be able to help you sleep. And if you pair that nightly, calming beverage with other helpful sleep-inducing activities, your sleep quality may improve, too.