There's lots of drinks that interfere with our sleep. Coffee, for example, has been found to have a half-life (opens in new tab) of about five hours. If you have a cup at 6pm, it will still be in your system until 11pm at night. Likewise, caffeinated drinks such as cola affect us in the same way, as we're more likely to have those in the evening.
Alcohol, which often is thought to help us fall asleep, interferes with our natural sleep cycles. It's also a diuretic, encouraging us to expel more water during the night – which is why we often have to get up to pee in the early hours.
However, there are drinks that can help us drift off to sleep, rather than cause harm to our sleeping patterns. Firstly, it's worth knowing there's a kernel of truth to the old wives' tales about warm milk before bed. If you've not done that since childhood, now is a great time to rediscover the drink.
A study conducted by researchers at Semnan University (opens in new tab) mixed milk and honey and gave it to participants twice a day, during a study spanning multiple days. The results were interesting: while the participants reported no change in sleep patterns after the first day, by the third day, they experienced a cumulative effect.
By night four, the study found "the mixture of milk and honey improves the sleep status of patients. So, it can be considered as an effective and affordable intervention to enhance the sleep quality of patients with the acute coronary syndrome in coronary care units."
While the study recommends milk and honey to be administered in hospitals, it's not the only drink that can soothe you to sleep. Chamomile can help you drift off: in one study (opens in new tab), ten cardiac patients were reported to have "immediately fallen into a deep sleep lasting for 90 minutes" after drinking chamomile tea at night.
Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer, with some compounds in the tea thought to have a very mild sedative effect on the brain. Chamomile tea has long been used to soothe, combined with other herbs and roots like ashwagandha to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
While you wait for the cumulative benefits of milk and honey to take effect, use chamomile to send you off to sleep tonight. Avoiding caffeinated drinks and alcohol in the hours before bed are also good ways to ensure you get a sound night's sleep.
We've got plenty of other sleep tips in our bonanza of Wellness Week information, from examining how sleep trackers can improve your bedrest.
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Wellness Week on Fit&Well
Wellness Week is brought to you in association with Wiggle (opens in new tab). Each day this week, we'll help you accelerate your wellness journey by making improvements across areas including fitness, diet and nutrition, mindfulness and more.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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