Honey has been widely used to induce sleep for centuries. Ever since the Middle Ages, European folk healers have recommended drinking a teaspoon of honey with a cup of warm milk before bed.
Another old sleep remedy that originates from Europe is to take 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of honey in a glass of warm water before sleeping. In Mexico, the practitioners of traditional medicine have long prescribed a teaspoon of raw honey in a cup of warm chamomile tea before bedtime. Other popular variations that have been used to make people fall asleep include a teaspoon of honey in a cup of hot water and a teaspoon of honey in a cup of passionflower tea.
Honey and Sleep (The HYMN Cycle)
According to Mike McInnis, Scottish pharmacist, researcher, and author, honey remedies have the ability to improve and lengthen restorative sleep with at least 3 different mechanisms.
When consumed before sleeping, honey:
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels.
- Ensures adequate liver glycogen stores during sleep. This is of very important for you overall health and wellbeing because it prevents (or limits) the early morning release of 2 stress hormones – Cortisol and Adrenaline.
- Contributes to the release of melatonin, the hormone that is needed for both the recovery and rebuilding of body tissues during sleep.
McInnis describes these processes as a honey-insulin-melatonin cycle (or HYMN cycle). It begins with the taking of 1-2 tablespoons of honey before bed, as follows:
- The glucose portion of honey passes from the gut, through the liver circulation, and into the general circulation, causing a mild spike of blood sugar levels.
- The mild increase in blood glucose stimulates a controlled release of insulin from the pancreas.
- The presence of insulin in the general circulation drives tryptophan towards the brain.
- Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, a hormone known to promote feelings of relaxation and well-being.
- In darkness, serotonin is converted to melatonin in the pineal gland.
- Melatonin helps you fall asleep by reducing body temperature and other mechanisms. In addition to this, it also prevents the release of more insulin from the pancreas, which prevents a rapid drop in blood glucose levels.
- Another benefit of melatonin is that it stimulates the release of growth hormone, which is the key first step in recovery (restorative physiology) that occurs overnight.
- A cascade of recovery hormones initiates the repair, maintenance and rebuilding of bone, muscle and other tissues in the body.
- Melatonin affects memory consolidation by its requirement for the formation of neural cell adhesion molecules during REM sleep. These molecules are needed for the processing of short-term memory from the hippocampus into long-term memory in the brain cortex.
- At the same time, the fructose moiety of honey performs the important role it has. The liver takes up fructose where some is converted into glucose and then to liver glycogen, which provides the brain with a sustained supply of glucose for the duration of the sleep.
- Moreover, fructose also regulates glucose uptake into the liver by encouraging the release of glucokinase from the hepatocyte nuclei. In this way, fructose provides good liver glycogen supply during sleep and prevents a huge insulin spike.
- Having an adequate liver glycogen supply means that stress hormones won’t be released.
Honey Remedies for Insomnia
Honey is natural, safe, cheap, and highly effective sleep aid. You can use it in the following ways:
- Add a teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, or linden flower tea, and drink before bedtime.
- Add a teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm milk, and drink before sleep.
- Prepare one-half glass of freshly squeezed orange juice diluted with an equal amount of lukewarm water. Add 2 teaspoons of honey, mix well, and drink before going to bed.
- Mix together two ounces of honey and 5 drops of lavender oil. Add 1-2 tablespoons of this simple mixture to a warm tub of water and enjoy a relaxing soak for 15 minutes before bedtime.