Kitchen cures for insomnia
For years, families have passed down home remedies and recipes to help folks fall asleep. Here are a few time-honored classics:
BY LISSA COFFEY
Editor’s note: Savvy mattress retailers want to do everything they can to help their customers sleep better, including offering them sound advice and tips. Feel free to share this great guidance from Better Sleep Council spokeswoman Lissa Coffey with your shoppers (with credit given, of course). The BSC is the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.
When it’s late at night and you can’t get to sleep, what do you do? Many of us head for the kitchen, open the cupboard and try to remember what Grandma would have advised us to do. Thankfully, grandmothers everywhere have passed down recipes for drinks that can help us settle into slumber. Note the ingredients so you can have them on hand the next time you’re trolling the pantry at midnight.
Recipe: Cherry juice chaser
Tart cherry juice is loaded with an amino acid that helps the brain’s pineal gland produce melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles. You don’t need a lot of it, just a half to a cup will do. As an option, add one or two drops of vanilla extract for a sweeter flavor and a little extra boost in relaxation benefits.
Recipe: Chamomile tea
Herbal teas like chamomile are not really “tea” because they don’t come from the leaves of the tea plant, so they have no caffeine. Chamomile tea comes from a plant with small daisy-like flowers. This herbal tea has many healing properties and is famous for its reputation as a sleep aid. Its sedative effect comes from a flavonoid called apigenin that helps create a calming response in the brain so that we feel sleepy.
Recipe: Variations on the tea theme
If you are using ready-made tea bags, you can put a few different flavors in your cup or teapot. If you’re using loose tea, you can mix the flavors dry and put the blend in an infuser. You also might add one or any combination of the following ingredients to your chamomile or mix them up to make your own unique sleep brew.
- Lavender is another flower that has been used for centuries to induce drowsiness. It pairs beautifully with chamomile.
- Turmeric, also known as curcumin, is well-known to help ease inflammation. Turmeric root is delicious with chamomile tea. Simply add a few thin slices to your cup for extra sleep benefits.
- Lemon Balm reduces stress and helps to relieve both indigestion and anxiety.
- Valerian is a muscle relaxant and a strong sleep aid. Valerian root on its own, however, tastes kind of earthy and is not enjoyable to drink. Blending it with chamomile or any of these other ingredients makes it a lot more palatable.
- Ginger root is great for digestion and has anti-viral and antibiotic properties. If you can’t sleep because you have an upset stomach or a cold, adding a few slices of ginger to your tea can be soothing.
- Cinnamon is high in cinnamaldehyde, which is responsible for many of the spice’s health benefits. Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar levels and fight infections. Stir your tea with a cinnamon stick to get the small amount you need, while not overpowering the other flavors.
- Rose helps calm and bring bliss to the mind. Rose tea can be made from rose hips, rose petals or both.
- Honey contributes to the release of melatonin in the brain and gives a natural sweetness to the tea. Honey also supplies the liver with glycogen storage, giving it fuel to recover during rest so it doesn’t have to produce stress hormones. This way the body can rejuvenate more easily, helping us sleep more soundly.
- Himalayan salt contains minerals, such as magnesium, essential for relaxation and stress reduction. You just need a little bit—a pinch will do.
- Coconut oil is a healthy fat that helps in the production of sleep hormones. Half a teaspoon melts easily in the hot water of tea and helps herbs to assimilate in the body more quickly.
- Milk or plant-based milks are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan helps boost melatonin.
Recipe: Banana tea
Banana peels are rich in potassium and magnesium, but can you imagine eating a banana peel? Making a tea from a whole banana is a remarkable way to get all the benefits of these nutrients deliciously. Drinking banana tea helps the blood vessels, as well as the muscles, relax and helps you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. After drinking the tea, try eating the banana, peel and all— it’s surprisingly yummy.
- Simply boil water in a pot.
- Cut off the ends of one banana
and place it in the water.
- Boil the banana for 10 minutes or so, until the peel is soft.
- Pour the water through a strainer into a mug and serve with a cinnamon stick, if you want to make it look a bit fancy.
Recipe: Warm milk
Warm milk has a long tradition as a sleep remedy—and for good reason. Plant-based milk, such as almond or cashew, works the same way because it’s high in protein. When heated, the milk helps raise internal body temperature, which can calm and relax us. The calcium in milk has a soothing effect on the nervous system. Plus, there’s the positive psychological effect it brings, maybe because milk was a comfort food for us when we were babies.
As a variation, dunk a bag of chamomile tea in your mug of warm milk or sprinkle in a pinch of nutmeg. Nutmeg is a powerful spice and acts as a sedative so be careful not to overdo it—1/8 of a teaspoon is plenty. Saffron has mild sedative properties and is delicious with milk. Simply steep two strands of saffron in a cup of warm milk.
Sip warm milk slowly while winding down for the night, preferably curled up on a cozy sofa with a soft blanket wrapped around you.
Cheers to a wonderful night’s sleep!
Warning: Alcohol impairs sleep
One drink to avoid is alcohol. While it’s true that alcohol makes you relax, it disrupts your normal sleep cycle and causes you to wake up in the middle of the night. Instead, opt for some of the beverages with natural ingredients listed here to help you get the deep sleep you need. It’s best to have these drinks 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime so you avoid waking up to go to the bathroom.
Remember: A quality mattress = a good night’s sleep
There’s no special potion that can help you sleep if your mattress is in bad shape. The mattress is the foundation of a good night’s rest. If you’ve had yours for longer than five to seven years, evaluate the mattress for lumps and bumps and signs of wear. It’s probably time to get a new one.
Lissa Coffey is a relationship expert, author and broadcast journalist. She writes for eight websites, including CoffeyTalk.com, WhatsYourDosha.com and the Better Sleep Council’s site, BetterSleep.org. A BSC spokeswoman, she stars in several videos that offer sleep and mattress-shopping tips for consumers.