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Does a glass of warm milk before bedtime really contain enough of the amino acid tryptophan to help you fall asleep? Yes.
A number of studies suggest that drinking warm milk before retiring for the night not only can shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep but also make the sleep more restful.
Not only the warm milk, but the act of warming the milk, of taking care of yourself, in a quiet setting also helps. It could be an "auto-suggestive technique" akin to "low-level hypnotherapy" that proves calming enough to bring on sleep.
Whatever the mechanism, for the estimated 10 to 17 percent of the adult U.S. population with insomnia, warm milk may be worth considering. Add in the millions of Americans who choose to burn the candle at both ends by averaging no more than seven hours of sleep a night when they should be getting at least eight, and you've got the majority of the population in a sleep-deprivation epidemic.
It's serious. Some $100 billion is lost yearly in productivity, sick leave, medical expenses, and property damage due to lack of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 100,000 crashes a year are caused by drivers nodding off behind the wheel. Thousands die in these accidents.
Admittedly, a glass of warm milk isn't going to solve the nation's sleep problem. But paying attention to what you consume—and when—can benefit the quality and quantity of your slumber. Here are several other food-related "sleep hygiene" steps to consider.
Ingredients in cold medicines such as ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, also act as stimulants—which is why some drugs taken to get a better night's sleep during a cold or flu contribute to sleeplessness after a few nights
Prescription drugs can take their toll on sleep, too.
If you are taking a drug on a regular basis and have difficulty sleeping, ask your physician if the drug could be at least partly responsible—and whether the dosage or the timing of the drug taking could be modified.