Mind Over Meal: Is It Really Possible to Eat or Drink Away Insomnia?

Contributor
Does a glass of warm milk really put you to sleep?

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

For many, a good night's rest can be difficult to come by. 

Every night, millions of people lie awake in bed hoping to finally overcome their insomnia and get some sleep. Some turn to the ever-growing market of prescription and non-prescription sleep aids, praying that they can stay asleep while avoiding the dreaded aftermath of Trazadone hangovers and Ambien-induced misadventures.  Others opt for the latest “natural” sleep aid, whether it’s a “reverse Red Bull” drink with sleep-inducing chemicals or melatonin-infused gummy bears. Many more rely on old wives’ tales, expecting warm milk, herbal tea, or a glass of red wine to whisk them away to the Land of Nod without a pill.  While high-functioning insomniacs everywhere consume various things that claim to help them sleep, the question remains: Is there anything you can eat or drink to really defeat insomnia?

Current psychological research and treatment on insomnia and sleeplessness suggest that the answer to this question is a likely no. While many swear that their trusted glass of warm milk helps them sleep, consuming anything at all before bed requires the body to engage in digestion, a process that does not allow your brain and organs to fully enter sleep mode. The same process occurs when taking a supplement (like melatonin), which also requires some level of digestion. While these things may initially knock you out, they will quickly shift your brain back from “sleep mode” to “wake mode” once digestion gets underway.

So what can you do to get to sleep? Most psychologists suggest changing your behaviors and habits around sleep. These include limiting caffeine consumption after 1 p.m., only using the bed for sleep and sex, not eating late at night, and most importantly, avoiding naps during the day. This last point may be hard for those whose Thanksgiving traditions include a post-turkey coma, but according to psychology, there’s really no way to eat or drink yourself to sleep.            

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