Many old wives’ tales have it that if you drink a cup of warm milk before bedtime, you’ll dive into a restful and heavenly slumber. But, does the myth sholds true, or is it just that, an old wives’ tale? According to scientists, feeling sleepy after drinking milk is just a myth, but there are some other reasons behind which milk and dairy products in particular can make you sleepy.
Has your grandmother or mother ever given you a cup of warm milk before bedtime? Add a bit of cocoa or Nesquik and you’ll undoubtedly sleep easier after drinking it. Scientists say that currently, there is no evidence on why milk makes us sleepy, but there is undeniable evidence that milk affects our bodies in different ways.
Some scientific studies and anecdotal evidence has presented themselves that drinking chocolate milk can increase our alertness and focus, which is why some students ditch coffee and energy drinks for the sake of refreshing and sweet chocolate milk.
But, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Chocolate and cocoa, the plant chocolate is made of, if full of caffeine, which can easily explain why some people feel more alert. After all, caffeine is the most popular legal drug which allows us to increase our blood pressure and trigger chemicals in the brain that make us more focused, conscious, and alert.
For people with lactose intolerance, milk can be the cause of various discomforts. Some people may experience nausea and stomach cramps, followed by diarrhea. For some other people, lactose can cause drowsiness and lack of will to do anything. Some people can feel extremely sleepy, too.
With that being said, there can be various reasons why milk makes us sleepy. Some reasons can have psychological reasoning, while others are purely physical.
Milk Makes Me Sleepy: Causes
As we said above, there are several reasons why someone can get sleepy after drinking a cup of warm milk. One of the reasons why we may be sleepy after milk is hidden in an amino acid that naturally occurs in the milk.
This amino acid, known as tryptophan is naturally occurring in milk, and can theoretically make you sleepy. That’s because tryptophan binds to our body in a way that triggers certain neurotransmitters in our brain. Serotonin, the hormone of happiness and relaxation is one of them.
You may know that lack of this hormone can cause us to feel sad and depressed, so drinking warm milk at night may relax us and sweep the negative thoughts away. Many people can’t fall asleep easily and suffer acute and chronic insomnia due to depressing and overthinking thoughts. Drinking a glass of warm milk before sleep can put such thoughts on the bay because of the serotonin rush.
However, that’s not all. Serotonin is not the only neurotransmitter that is active after ingesting tryptophan-rich foods. Another neurotransmitter is then triggered by serotonin, especially if it’s nighttime. It’s called melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone that can tell our brain that it’s time to sleep. Our circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock, controls when such things occur. Usually, melatonin is released after we’ve been awake for a long time, and the natural light is slowly fading.
In other words, when there’s no natural light and it’s nice, our brain slowly receives signals that it’s time to sleep. If you drink a glass of warm milk, you should theoretically feel sleepier because these chemicals are acting on you.
However, this works only theoretically and not in practice. Although scientists know that tryptophan, which can also be found in chicken, turkey, and other dairy products is supposed to make someone feel sleepy, there’s no evidence that the amount of tryptophan in these foods will truly make you sleepy.
Scientists believe that there are other reasons as to why one feels sleepy after drinking a glass of milk. Scientists found that milk collected at night has a more calming and sedating effect than that collected during the day.
Even though the day milk had the same amount of tryptophan as during the night, it’s still not explained as to why this happens. They also found that warm milk has more sedating effects than cold milk.
Given that tryptophan is (likely) not the reason as to why you feel sleepy after drinking milk, let’s look at other causes.
It’s no secret that being in a warm and cozy place can relax and sedate us. Think about a cold day at work or traveling when it was snowing, on sub-freezing temperatures. Do you feel better when you get home? Do you enjoy being snuggled and hugged by your favorite blanket, drinking tea, and enjoying your favorite shows? If the answer is yes, you may now know why warm milk has such sedating effect.
Scientists know that we may feel easiness falling asleep after drinking something warm. Tea that has caffeine inside of it can still help people relax and feel sleepy after drinking it, especially if it’s warm.
Once the warm food and beverages enter our system, the warmth may be enough to make us sleepy, which is why warm milk can make you sleepy.
Drinking warm milk can have placebo effect-like symptoms on you. Ever since people are born they drink milk. Babies suckle on breast milk to get the necessary ingredients and nutrients to grow and develop. Milk is naturally tied to our lives. Even after breastfeeding stops, babies, toddlers, and children enjoy milk.
For some people, drinking milk can make them feel sleepy psychologically because they remember the memories taking them back to their childhood when drinking milk. Babies usually fall asleep after being fed with milk, so the relaxing and sedating experience remains through being fed milk before bedtime.
This may not apply to everyone, but some people indeed feel sleepier after drinking milk, as it’s a comforting memory of childhood.
Allergy to Dairy
Some people who are allergic to dairy products feel fatigued and sleepy. However, one of the main symptoms is that not only do you feel tired after drinking milk, but also after ingesting other dairy products like cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and others.
Other symptoms can include nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, skin rash, and redness. If you suspect dairy allergy withdraw from the dairy products and visit your doctor who will refer you to allergy testing to get more comprehensive and conclusive results.
How To Not Feel Sleepy After Drinking Milk?
Many people wonder how to drink milk and not get sleepy. After all, a study from 2019 gave an insight into nutritional values and the benefits of milk. It stated that milk is more hydrating than water, which was normally considered the most hydrating drink there is.
No wonder why so many people like drinking milk but what to do if this beverage makes you tired. A lot of milk makes various coffee recipes using milk and coffee. Even though coffee is rich in caffeine, it is not enough to make some people feel less tired and sleepy after ingesting milk, so what to do?
Swap Warm Milk With Cold Milk
If warm milk makes you sleepy, then you should swap it with cooler milk, especially if you drink coffee. Not everyone is a fan of cold and ice coffee frappes, but they can significantly help you avoid those sleepy episodes that you experience after drinking milk.
Another good thing to do is avoid drinking coffee with milk in the late afternoon hours if you have to work. It may not work for everyone immediately, but gradually the effects should ease off.
Avoid Drinking Milk If You Have to Work
Although a glass of milk sounds refreshing to you, if you have a work to do in the office or at home, avoid drinking milk. Milk is a refreshing drink to have at night when you’re getting ready for bed, but if you’re hustling and have errands to run, avoid drinking milk altogether to avoid getting sleepy later.
Try Plant-Based Milk
If you suffer from IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) or dairy allergy and dairy products don’t work well for your digestive tract, you can also have a go at vegan kinds of drinks. Vegans drink plant-based milk such as Soy milk, Almond milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, and many others.
The problem with these milk is that they’re more expensive than regular milk and they’re often flavorless so the coffee or whatever you might be making with this milk won’t be as delicious as it would be with the regular milk. One of the solutions to this is to buy milk with flavor.
Usually, there are barista plant milk editions that come with cocoa, vanilla, or some other flavor. One of the popular mixtures are almond vanilla milk, but you can also find coconut and almond blend too.