Benefitting Bedtime Beverages
Sleep has been elusive for me of late. I have been dragging through the last couple weeks because of it. When it came to this week’s column, I figured why not help myself out a little. There are all kinds of old fashioned remedies that are supposed to help you get a good night’s sleep. This week, I am going to try a few out. There is actual evidence to support these non-medicinal methods.
Warm milk is the first thing that comes to mind when you think Grandma’s solution to sleeping aids. It turns out milk has plenty of tryptophan. Tryptophan, once consumed, increases the serotonin levels in your system, which in turn increases melatonin in the body. Melatonin has long been known to help regulate our natural sleep state. Instead of just regular milk though, reach for almond milk. In addition to the tryptophan, almond milk is high in magnesium which is another nutrient important for a good night’s rest. To boost the benefits of milk even further, add turmeric to your warm milk. Turmeric is rich in the compound curcumin, which studies have shown helps with sleep deprivation.
If warm milk is not your cup of tea, try cherry juice. Cherries are naturally high in both melatonin and tryptophan. Studies have shown 16oz of cherry juice drunk anytime during the day can significantly reduce the occurrence of insomnia. Tart cherries seem to work better than sweet cherries, but they will both help. If you can’t stomach the cherry juice on its own, try adding coconut water or aloe vera juice. Coconut water, while often used for energy, is known to reduce stress levels and relax muscles, two important keys to getting to sleep. Aloe is known for its wide range of healing properties and will calm the nervous system and settle the muscles.
Chamomile tea is widely recommended as a bedtime tea to help you drift off to dream. Chamomile is infused with an antioxidant called apigenin, which binds to certain receptors in your brain to help decrease anxiety and initiate sleep. Chamomile is also know to help ease depression which is another key for getting a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown those suffering from depression don’t sleep restfully and often wake up feeling more tired than when they went to bed. Add lavender for an extra boost. It is known to help calm the nerves and relax the muscles, both necessary for sleep.
Bananas are another food high in magnesium, melatonin and tryptophan. As an added boost, bananas also pack a parcel of potassium which is known to help relax the muscles which will surely further help you sleep. Blend up the banana into a smoothie or boil the peel with cinnamon and honey to make a delicious banana tea! Try it, you just might like it.
Ashwagandha is known for being a powerful medicinal plant. According to studies published in Pub Med Central, Ashwagandha leaves contain triethylene glycol which has been shown to produce a significant amount of non-rapid eye movement (or deep regenerative) sleep with slight to no change in rapid eye movement sleep. It is believed Ashwagandha can be used to help with insomnia. That being said, you will have to order it online or try a health food store. While I did find two teas at Walmart that included Ashwagandha as an ingredient, they were both touted as energy teas and not really what I was looking for so I skipped over those.
Another lesser known plant is Valeria. This is a plant in the honeysuckle family. The root of this plant is known to promote sleep and relieve insomnia, much like Ashwagandha. It is widely considered safe as it doesn’t change the body’s circadian rhythm-how your body knows when it’s time to get up and when to go to bed. Studies have shown it reduces the time it takes you to get to sleep while also improving the quality of sleep. It’s also known to calm the nervous system and help you relax and stay that way.
All that being said, stay away from alcohol. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it is widely proven your sleep is often interrupted in the night if this is what you used to help you drift off. Taste as you make these recipes and adjust the flavors as you desire. Not everyone likes the flavor of tart cherry juice. If you need to add more water to tame it or even honey to sweeten it, go for it. Maybe you don’t want to add honey to your warm milk. Feel free to leave it out. I played around and made these recipes based on how I and my family liked them. One more thing to mention, you have to try out the recipe for a couple weeks to get the full benefits. You may not get much out of just a night or two, but make it a routine and you will reap the rewards of naturally helping yourself fall asleep. Hold onto this column and try them all out one at a time until you find what works best for you! Make your grocery list and meet me in the kitchen for quick recipes that take little effort and will help you get some sleep!
Warm Vanilla Milk
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp. honey, add more or less to taste
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch cinnamon or nutmeg
Place milk in small saucepan over medium heat and heat just until hot (don't bring it to simmer or boil). Turn off heat and add honey and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Pour into mug and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg. Sip on the drink for 30 minutes before bedtime.
Honey Chamomile Latte
2 chamomile tea bags
¼ cup almond milk
2 tsps. honey
Boil water and pour over tea bags. Let steep for 10-15 minutes. While the tea is steeping, stir together milk and honey and heat until hot but not boiling. Use frothing tool to froth milk. Remove from heat. Once tea is ready, pour in milk and honey. Stir until well combined and shake ground cinnamon over top. A top layer of foam on this latte is a special treat, but if you don't have a frothing tool handy, heat the milk on the stove until it's just barely bubbling around the perimeter (keep a close eye because this will happen fast and you don’t want it to boil). Remove from heat and vigorously whisk. Viola! Froth!
Recipe adapted from mysequinedlife.com.
Cherry Aloe Vera Nightcap
3oz cherry juice
2oz cold water
3oz Aloe Vera Juice
Combine all ingredients and mix well to combine. Feel free to heat it on the stove or even serve it over ice if you prefer.
Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 frozen banana
1 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp. almond butter
2 tsps. honey, more or less to taste
1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
Nutmeg or cinnamon, for garnish if desired
Combine banana, almond milk, almond butter, honey and chocolate syrup in blender and puree until smooth. Pour into glass and sprinkle with nutmeg if desired. Enjoy!