Drinking Milk Before Bed: Benefits vs. Drawbacks

A tall glass of milk with dinner was a must growing up. Mom said it would help us become strong and healthy. In fact, I remember being served up a warm glass of milk if I had gotten up out of bed (maybe for the second time that night), complaining to my parents that I just couldn’t fall asleep.

It’s funny how we fall into patterns, doing the same thing our parents did when we were kids. When I am feeling tired but my body can’t seem to calm down, I rely on my mom’s old trick to solve the problem. I still pour myself a glass of milk to help me fall asleep.

It’s a well-known fact that milk is rich in calcium and supports our bodies well being in so many ways. Many people swear by warm milk as a tried and true food for better sleep. As far as I knew a glass of milk could only ever do you good, so I was surprised to learn that there may, in fact, be drawbacks to my nightcap ritual.

Before you pour yourself a glass of milk before bed tonight, consult these health benefits and drawbacks. Learn what milk does to your body as it sleeps through the night, and decide if the benefits ultimately outweigh the drawbacks.

Benefits of Milk Before Bed

Let’s be honest, when you sip a glass of warm milk before bed it just feels so good. The warmth seems to slowly spread it’s way through your whole body, creating a cozy and drowsy sensation. It turns out there’s a science behind those warm and fuzzy feelings!

Tryptophan

Does tryptophan ring a bell? Best known for causing the after-turkey-feast snooze session on Thanksgiving, this essential amino acid has a sleep-inducing effect. According to the National sleep foundation, tryptophan plays a key role in helping your body produce seratonin, which can reduce anxiety. If your mind is racing when it’s on your pillow instead of dreaming, the tryptophan in milk can help your body release serotonin, allowing your mind to relax and slip into sleep.

Melatonin

So what else is in that warm glass of milk that working its magic on your body to get it to sleep faster? A hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, called melatonin, is also found in milk. Everyone’s melatonin hormone levels are different and they’re regulated by your internal clock.

Normally, melatonin levels rise in the body later in the evening when the sun has set, signaling our brain that it’s time for sleep. If your brain is not as tired as your body at bedtime, a glass of milk before bed could help boost your seratonin hormone levels and get your mind in sync with your body.

Protein

Do you ever go to bed feeling hungry? Maybe you ate dinner but then stayed up so late that you started to get late night cravings? Pangs of hunger can keep anyone up at night! A glass of milk is packed with protein and drinking one before going to sleep will help you feel full all night long, resulting in a better night’s sleep.

Enjoying your milk, but not seeing the desired results? Still can’t sleep? An interesting  Korean study suggests trying “night milk”. It may sound superstitious, but the study suggests that the time of day milk is taken from cows matters. Milk taken from cows in the evening (hence the name “night milk”) supposedly should have the most positive affects as a sleep aid.

The major benefits of drinking milk before bed include healthy proteins and amino acids that assist your body in getting a completely uninterrupted satisfying night’s sleep. So what could be the downside?

This is a picture of a woman who is tired because she couldn't sleep at night from drinking milk before bed.

Drawbacks of Drinking Milk before Going to Bed

If you have ever topped off with a glass of milk before bed and subsequently experienced disrupted sleep because of an upset stomach, then you may have run into one of the major drawbacks of milk at night- lactose.

Lactose

Lactose is simply a sugar in milk. it’s what makes it taste just slightly sweet, and so satisfying, Unfortunately, According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, about 30 million to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant! If you fall into this category, drinking a glass of milk before bed will only your body discomfort. Digestive issues like gas, bloating, cramps and diarrhea are just a list of things caused by lactose intolerance that could keep you up at night.

Glucose

Maybe you’re sure you aren’t lactose intolerant, but you’re still struggling. So what’s the deal? Because lactose is a sugar, large amounts of it before bed has other implications. If you are glucose intolerant, a warm glass of milk before bed could lead to a blood sugar crash.  Basically, your body startling awake in the middle of the night, to an energy-deprived brain, sending the “Eat!” signal. Wait… didn’t we discuss milk helping you helping you feel full through the night?? Yes, but, someone with a glucose intolerance will actually have the opposite experience.

Bottom line, you’ve got to know your body. If you are aware of your intolerance, you should be able to predict if the lactose in milk will be a set-back for you. Never fear! If you don’t want to give up your nightly warm cup of milk, there are tasty (lactose free) alternatives. Almond milk, coconut milk, and nut milk are steadily gaining popularity.

They are delicious and nutritious! Best of all, they provide the same positive sleep-inducing effects of cow milk, without the negative lactose effects.

Weight Gain

On a diet or counting calories? A glass of milk before bed is going to set you back. Milk is actually known in the fitness community circles as an agent for healthy weight gain. An 8 oz glass of milk has about 120 calories. Your metabolism slows down a bit as you sleep, so calories consumed right before bed are slightly tougher to burn. If weight loss is your ultimate goal, you’ll want to rethink any milk before bed routines.

Liver functioning

One last caution about having a warm glass of milk before bed is that it can interfere with the liver. According to nutritionist Anju Sood, at night your liver is hard at work detoxing junk from your body. Turns out milk can actually interfere with that process. Steer clear to allow your liver to execute its nightly task uninterrupted.

In Conclusion

There’s your list of major benefits and drawbacks to drinking a warm cup of milk before bed. There’s no doubt that milk offers so many positive health benefits, whether it’s consumed in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

It really comes down to knowing your body and paying attention to its signals. If you have a racing, restless mind at night, a glass of milk before bed could be a healthy, preferable alternative to downing Z-quill. But if lactose or glucose isn’t your friend, beware of the digestive issues that come with a glass of milk at night.

When in search of truly restful night’s sleep, it doesn’t hurt to pursue all available options. A calming warm glass of milk before bed is an easy, inexpensive trick to try. Cheers to a good night’s sleep!

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