More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
The Claim: A Glass of Warm Milk Will Help You Get to Sleep at Night
September 4, 2007
By ANAHAD O?CONNOR, New York Times

Few foods have a reputation for curing insomnia quite like warm milk.

According to age-old wisdom, milk is chock full of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid that is also well known for its presence in another food thought to have sedative effects, turkey.

But whether milk can induce sleep is debatable, and studies suggest that if it does, the effect has little to do with tryptophan.

To have any soporific effect, tryptophan has to cross the blood-brain barrier. And in the presence of other amino acids, it ends up fighting ? largely unsuccessfully ? to move across.

One study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrated this in 2003. The study, which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that eating protein-rich foods ? like milk ? decreased the ability of tryptophan to enter the brain.

The trick, the study showed, is to eat foods high in carbohydrates, which stimulate the release of insulin. Insulin, in turn, makes it easier for tryptophan to enter the brain.

But surveys have found that many people swear by milk as a sleep aid, and that may have something to do with psychology.

Scientists say the routine of drinking a glass of milk before bed can be as soothing as a favorite old blanket.

A glass of warm milk may make you drowsy, but not because of tryptophan.
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