Does honey help you sleep?
Isn’t that the same as eating a sweetener before you go to bed?
Surely, your insulin levels will spike and then crash, making the actual ritual of falling asleep extremely difficult.
Well, it appears not all sweeteners were created equal.
I’ll admit that both honey and sugar contain fructose and glucose, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Sugar is a man made, refined product, whereas honey is a completely natural food.
The enzymes in your stomach are unable to break down sugar until it reaches the small intestine. Therefore, table sugar is sent directly into the bloodstream causing your blood sugar levels to spike.
However, honey on the other hand, is richer in carbohydrates, which your body uses as fuel and will break down into glucose. This also explains why you don’t get the same sugar rush from honey as you will with sugar.
It really is a Nectar From the Gods!
Did you know:
- European folk healers have recommended milk with honey before bedtime ever since the Middle Ages.
- Traditional Mexican healers prescribed “warm te de manzilla” or chamomile tea with a teaspoon of honey.
- That an ancient Chinese saying calls for “eating honey every night”.
The Role of the Brain and the Liver During Sleep
It may seem unlikely, but the brain uses a lot of energy throughout the night.
You may think that the mind and the body is completely at rest, but the brain is anything but.
How else would you explain those freaky, vivid dreams you have at night?
For your brain to function during the night it needs sugar for energy and its first port of call is your liver’s glycogen stores.
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night feeling strangely hungry or not quite right? More-often-than-not this is your brain asking the body for more energy.
The liver holds around 75mg-100mg of glycogen at any one time and the body consumes approximately 10mg of glycogen per hour.
So, let’s say that you have your evening meal at around 6pm-7pm and you go to bed between 10pm-11pm – during this time your body has already depleted a fair amount of the glycogen stored in your liver, and all this before you’ve even hit the sack.
This may leave insufficient fuel for the brain to get a good 8 hours of sleep without the need to wake you up and tell you that it needs more energy.
By having a teaspoon of honey before bed you can restock the glycogen stores in your liver. This, in turn, can stop your brain from rudely awakening you for “more food” in the middle of the night.
More Science Stuff – Get Your Geek On Honey
Honey contains the ideal ratio of fructose to glucose to support your liver.
Honey contains magnesium and a deficiency in magnesium can cause insomnia.
Honey will also help the brain by spiking insulin levels (without the terrible crash bang down to earth), which in turn releases tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is turned into the B vitamin, niacin.
Niacin is the key component in producing serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter required to produce melatonin.
Are you still with me? The science bit is nearly over… I promise.
The 2 main hormones that govern your sleep-wake cycle are cortisol and melatonin.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is secreted just before you wake up typically leaving you feeling alert and energized.
Melatonin is produced as natural light fades and leaves you feeling relaxed and sleepy.
So, the production of melatonin is extremely important when you want to get a good night’s sleep.
Phew. We’re done, no more geek for today (okay, maybe a little more).
Raw Honey vs. Processed Honey
Raw honey is made by extracting honeycombs directly from the beehive. This is then sieved through a mesh cloth in order to remove any impurities, such as dead bees and beeswax.
It is then simply poured into jars ready for consumption. Raw honey doesn’t undergo any chemical treatments. It is rich in nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and beneficial enzymes.
Regular honey (the kind you generally buy at the supermarket or the general store) goes through a pasteurization and filtration process. It is heated to an extremely high temperature in order to kill the yeast.
Due to the heating process the honey does not become granulated and is therefore more pleasing to the eye. So, you could say, perfect for consumer sales (but unfortunately much of the goodness has been removed).
In fact, many manufacturers will remove the essential pollen contained in honey thereby giving it a far clearer texture (once again, good for sales).
There are even certain manufacturers that may add additional sugar or sweeteners to further reduce their costs.
It is estimated that raw honey is 22% better at producing liver glycogen than pasteurized honey.
So, which type of honey should you be consuming before bedtime?
No contest really, is it?
How Do You Take Your Honey?
There are various ways to eat that little drop of honey before bedtime to ensure you get a great night’s sleep. The easiest way would of course be to consume a teaspoon of raw honey before you head off to sleep.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous you could try mixing honey and pink Himalayan sea salt. For every 2 teaspoons of raw honey add half a teaspoon of pink Himalayan sea salt.
You could make it in larger portions, just stick to the 2 teaspoons to half a teaspoon ratio and store it in a glass jar. Simply place a small amount of the mixture under your tongue before you head off to bed and let it dissolve naturally.
You want to get even more adventurous:
How about the honey, cinnamon and warm milk bedtime drink?
You can use cow’s milk, but I prefer almond, coconut, or (my current favorite) oat milk. You can also use a cinnamon stick, but I prefer the easy method of a pinch of cinnamon powder.
Warm the milk until almost boiling. Then add the cinnamon and a teaspoon of raw honey and mix well.
Let it rest for amount 5 minutes, mix again, and pour into a cup and enjoy.
Just so you know, cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar levels, improves blood circulation, which can stop you from waking up suddenly in the middle of the night.
You can actually spice this up a little more by adding a pinch of turmeric powder. It will probably make your milky drink look a mustard-like color, which may not seem very appetizing, but it still tastes great. Turmeric can again regulate blood sugar levels and can keep your serotonin levels even.
Okay, this is the most adventurous I’m willing to get.
If you’re anything like me you love the odd sweet-treat or dessert. So, how about combining the sleep-inducing qualities of raw honey and cinnamon, with a couple of other great “sleep foods”, namely bananas and nutmeg?
It’s easy when you know how.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Slice the ends of an unpeeled (yes unpeeled, but don’t worry you’re not going to have to eat the skin), and then cut them longways.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, and add a drizzle of honey and place on a baking tray in the oven for around 10-15 minutes.
I’ll be completely honest with you, I’ll often eat this as a daytime snack (with a smear of peanut butter as well), but that’s another story.
Taking Everything Into Account
Will honey help you sleep at night?
Well I think the evidence is clear for all to see.
If you’ve been craving a solution for those long, endless, sleepless nights it’s possibly about time you gave honey a go.
Do you have any night-time honey recipes you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Enjoy and have a great night’s sleep.