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Effect of Milk on Sleep

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Can drinking milk before bed help you sleep? Maybe. While a glass of milk alone is unlikely to induce sleep, research suggests that pairing a protein food, such as milk, with a carbohydrate-rich food may be helpful as a sleep aid.

Protein foods such as milk and milk products contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid (or building block of protein) that promotes sleep and is found in small amounts in all protein foods. Tryptophan needs to enter the brain to have an effect, and research shows that eating carbohydrates and protein in the same meal makes tryptophan more available to the brain. Eating protein foods, such as milk or milk products, together with a carbohydrate-rich food may therefore promote relaxation.

Consuming milk or milk products alone will likely not induce drowsiness, because milk in itself does not contain a sufficient amount of tryptophan. This means that milk and milk products can be consumed at any time of the day. Nonetheless, drinking milk with a carbohydrate-rich food at bedtime not only can be a soothing way to end the day but can also help you get your 2 to 4 recommended daily servings of Milk and Alternatives, depending on your age. According to Statistics Canada, 2 out of 3 Canadians are not getting enough milk products every day—a good reason to reach for an evening snack that includes milk. Here are a few suggestions for healthy snacks that contain both protein and carbohydrates:

  • Whole grain crackers and some cheese
  • A glass of chocolate milk and apple slices
  • Yogurt with fruit and granola topping
  • A banana with peanut butter
  • Whole grain cereal with fruit and milk
  • A small muffin with warm cocoa made with milk
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