Do you want to fall asleep faster, cure insomnia, or sleep better? There are several drinks that can help you do so. Read on to find out what drinks you should drink before bed and why.
1. Hot Milk with Honey and Spices
Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin by the body. Good sleep has been linked to healthy serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is what can only be described as a “happy chemical.” People who are depressed usually have lower levels of serotonin.
Serotonin is also the precursor of melatonin. Melatonin, in turn, will help you fall asleep. Therefore, it makes sense to ingest something containing tryptophan before bed, and cow’s milk is an excellent source of tryptophan.
However, studies have found that it’s difficult for tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier. To help matters along, insulin is needed.
Insulin is released by the body when you eat carbs. This means that if you want to reap the benefits of tryptophan in milk, you will want to add some carbs. Either eat a small night-time snack an hour or so before bedtime or add a dollop of honey to your milk.
An old recipe for a night-time drink is hot milk with honey and ground spices. You can choose from (and mix) spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and turmeric, or simply use a dash of pumpkin spice/mixed spice.
Some researchers believe that having a cup of hot milk at night, more so than anything else, comforts you and, therefore, helps you become sleepy.
Didn’t get enough sleep the night before? The aforementioned spice turmeric might help protect you from the side effects of sleep deprivation, in addition to reducing inflammation in the body at large. There is also speculation it can reduce depression and anxiety–both of which can cause sleeping problems.
Read More: Does Honey Help You Sleep?
2. Tart Cherry Juice
Cherry juice is touted as a miracle cure for sleeping problems. This is likely thanks to the high tryptophan levels found in tart cherries (it’s found in other kinds of cherries too, but the tarter varieties come with a lot more).
Various studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice can increase melatonin levels in the body and greatly improve sleep. So if a cup of hot milk with honey doesn’t do it for you, try cherry juice instead.
Note that it might take a while for your melatonin levels to become better, so don’t expect overnight results (though you may very well get them!).
While consuming tryptophan at night might not immediately make you sleepy, healthy serotonin and melatonin levels, as mentioned, are needed for good sleep. And as tryptophan is required for that, be sure to eat foods high in tryptophan throughout the day.
3. Horlicks or Malted Milk
Some evidence suggests that while you might not fall asleep faster, you will sleep better after drinking Horlicks at night. Horlicks is simply a store brand name, such as Ovaltine, for malted milk.
Malted milk (or rather the powder you use to make it) consists of evaporated milk, malted barley, and wheat flour.
Like hot milk with honey, this drink is made with milk containing tryptophan (which transforms into serotonin and melatonin), and sugars (carbs) from the malted barley and wheat flour that will help spike your insulin levels.
Melatonin is released in our body when darkness falls, and that’s why it’s so important to turn down your lights to fall asleep. It’s also connected to the Circadian rhythm–our natural sleep rhythm, which is why you want to go to bed at around the same hour every night. Otherwise, your body is constantly jet-lagged.
4. Almond Drinks
Not a fan of cow’s milk? Try using almond milk instead.
Studies have shown that taking just three drops of almond oil or violet oil (an extract made from almonds and/or sesame seeds) taken intranasally can help improve insomnia–especially violet oil. Consuming almonds also seems to help.
Therefore, at night, have a hot cup of almond milk with honey and spices, or make yourself a banana smoothie using almond milk and almond butter. You can add a dash of turmeric for good measure. And remember to put a cherry on top!
Bananas are actually another good sleeping aid. They are reasonably high in magnesium (containing about 8% of your daily value per 100 g), potassium, and tryptophan. Magnesium and potassium can act as muscle relaxants and have been linked to better sleep. What’s more, bananas are naturally high in sugar, which will lead to the release of insulin.
Want to improve the odds of getting sleepy even more? Add a dash of cacao powder to your almond milk or almond-banana smoothie. Theobromine, which is found in cacao, has been linked to sleepiness.
5. Herbal Teas for Sleep
Many herbal teas have proven beneficial for reducing stress, improving sleep quality, and inducing calm. These include the herbs listed below. Note that some of these herbs work better (or only work) after a couple of weeks of regular use.
It’s also important to note that you should contact your doctor before using herbs if you have any underlying conditions or are taking medication.
Once you’ve established it’s safe for you to use the below herbs, you can make your own tea blends.
Lemon balm may increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter that can induce sleepiness when you have an abundance of it. Beyond that, it’s not clear why lemon balm is useful, but several studies seem to have found it effective in improving sleep, as well as combating stress and anxiety.
Valerian has long been used in traditional medicine to help induce sleep and improve insomnia. It appears to improve overall sleep quality. In one study, 89% reported improved sleep due to extracts from valerian root. This, just as with lemon balm, may be due to the increase of GABA levels.
Chamomile has been used as a “tea for relaxation” for centuries. One study suggests that it might be good to help with falling asleep–at least for post-natal women. Other studies have been done as well, and chamomile has generally become known to have sedative effects. This may be due to its ability to bind GABA and benzodiazepine (BDZ) receptors.
Lavender is used for improving overall sleep quality and reducing anxiety (including in cancer patients). More so than anything, lavender appears to be effective when its scent is inhaled. Therefore, inhaling the scent of tea may be as important as drinking it.
Passionflower is another herb that’s been widely used to treat insomnia and sleeping difficulties. One study found that it significantly improved sleep quality in people.
Passionflower has proven as useful as some over the counter drugs in combating insomnia when paired with valerian and hops. However, hops alone appears to have little effect.
While there are no conclusive studies, cannabidiol (CBD) may help reduce anxiety and improve sleep. For best effect, use full-spectrum CBD oil as it contains various cannabidiols that may have important properties where sleep is concerned. Note that THC–the component in hemp that makes you high–has been removed from CBD oil.
To use, buy CBD infused tea, or put a drop or two in your favorite herbal tea blend for sleep.
A tea, or tisane, made from linden, or lime tree (not to be confused by the citrus tree that produces the lime fruit), has long been used for sleep and relaxation, and newer studies seem to be backing this up.
Peppermint acts as a muscle relaxant, which in turn can help you relax and fall asleep.
This herb has been used traditionally to reduce stress and anxiety–both of which can cause sleeping problems.
Don’t feel like having a drink? Use a diffuser or have a bath infused with lavender, lemon balm, and mint essential oils, and you might just find yourself relaxing due to the scent they omit! Inhaling lavender essential oil has been proven to promote healthy sleep cycles and help people relax. Lemon balm has also shown promise to reduce anxiety.
Other Tips for Falling Asleep Fast
If you’re looking for general tips for falling asleep fast and sleeping well, here are some:
- go to bed around about the same time every night
- turn down or turn off the lights (you can use candlelights that aren’t in danger of setting the house on fire if you forget them on) an hour or so before bedtime
- exercise during the day, so your body is tired
- meditate during the evening to remove stressful thoughts from your mind before bedtime
- try taking a long breath through your nose, holding your breath for a couple of seconds, and then breathing out through your mouth quite forcefully, before holding your breath for a few seconds again–repeat for a few times while trying to fall asleep
- try falling asleep listening to a sleep meditation