by Melissa Jaramillo
A cup of warm milk isn't necessarily the magic sleep potion, but it's probably the most common drink associated with the ritual of bedtime.
Milk happens to include two substances that are known to be related to sleep and relaxation: the hormone melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan.
The amount of melatonin in a glass of milk is very small, much less than what would be taken in a supplement. The amount of tryptophan in milk is also minimal. Add to the mix that our digestive process is very complex.
So, it's unlikely that a glass of warm or cold milk would actually shorten how long it takes to fall blissfully asleep.
However, the idea of warm milk does carry a psychological significance. Having a mug of warm milk could trigger memories of mom, home and the coziness of childhood -- which in turn, helps us to relax.
But to really help you fall asleep better -- and faster -- most recommendations center around practicing stress-reduction techniques, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedroom environment, and avoiding caffeine or heavy meals close to bedtime.
For some individuals, particularly those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies, a glass of milk can be followed by uncomfortable digestive consequences. Lactose reduced, soy, almond, and rice milk are options that are more likely to be tolerated.
If you have no allergy or intolerance, and warm milk simply grosses you out, you could try flavoring it with a bit of honey, vanilla, or cinnamon, but there is no reason that you need to continue attempting to use it as a sleep aid. Keep drinking your cold milk, to meet your daily calcium needs, and try other sleep improvement techniques.
Try this age old remedy if you are suffering a bout of insomnia. It's calming effects will have you sleeping like a baby in no time.
• 6 oz milk
• 1 drop vanilla extract
• 1 tsp honey
In a small saucepan heat the milk to warm, but not boiling.
Remove from heat and pour into glass. Add vanilla and honey.
Stir well and sip slowly before bed.
For those who are lactose intolerant, follow the recipe exactly as above, simply replace the milk with a lactose free substitute like soy, rice or almond milk.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.