Hot milk? Maybe. Glass of red wine? Don’t think so…
In an effort to study what foods and/or drinks may help induce slumber, Michael Grandner, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology, tracked the diets and sleep habits of 459 women enrolled in the federal government’s 15-year Women’s Health Initiative.
The findings of Grandner’s recent research, recently published in the journal Sleep Medicine, found that fat was the main nutrient (out of dozens tracked) associated with getting less sleep. “The more fat you ate, the less you slept,” he says.
“The bad news for people trying to talk about food and sleep is that . . . generally it’s hard to find foods that help with sleep,” says Grandner. “The easier question is what are the things to avoid?”
Among the things on the don’t-drink (or eat) list—along with caffeine and spicy foods—was alcohol. Although a nightcap might help you fall asleep, Christine Gerbstadt, a medical doctor, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, explains that “Alcohol does disrupt the sleep cycle. It delays the onset of and shortens REM sleep, which is the restful sleep you need every night.”
Both red and white wine contain melatonin, Gerbstadt says, but that hormone’s sleep-inducing properties are offset by the alcohol’s interference with REM sleep. Still, She says, you might benefit from eating red grapes with the skin on to get a little boost of melatonin.
Milk, herbal tea and other comforting remedies help “not by making you sleepy, but by making you more relaxed,” wrote Grandner. “When it comes to calming foods, there are a number that may have calming effects, but honestly the evidence suggests that it is mostly placebo.”