If you’re someone who feels like they need something to drink before bedtime, you’re not alone! Maybe you prefer warm milk or hot tea when you’re thirsty at night or even sleep with a glass of water on the nightstand to stave off that dreaded nighttime thirst that seems to hit out of the blue. Studies have shown that there is a reason for nighttime thirst by studying lab rats. The rats intuitively drank more water naturally before going to sleep, causing them to wake up hydrated, whereas rats that were prevented from taking in their nightly drink woke up dehydrated. Even though there are many differences between rats and humans, some of the same underlying instincts are true for both species. Your body is used to your nightly routine and knows that it will not be taking in any fluids for an extended amount of time, so your thirst kicks in as your body’s way of telling you to replenish your fluids so that you do not wake up dehydrated like the rats did. Even if you don’t feel thirsty before bed, it may be a good idea to drink a little something to help your body aid in digestion and tissue repair while you slumber.
Danger of Dehydration
What’s the big deal with dehydration, anyway? You don’t have to feel physically dehydrated to be dehydrated. Dehydration happens when more fluids are coming out of our bodies than are coming in over a period of time. Many individuals experience chronic dehydration and may not even know it. Symptoms of chronic dehydration include dry skin, fatigue, constipation, muscle weakness, and headaches. Many of us do not take in enough fluids during the day, and this dehydration can be amplified at night, when we are going 7 hours or more without fluids. Tracking your fluid intake throughout the day may help you overcome chronic dehydration. Consider adding in a drink before bed to increase your body’s fluids overnight and aid in getting a more restful and restorative sleep. But what is the best bedtime drink to make you sleep?
What to Drink Before Bed
Some individuals are hesitant to consume a beverage before bed because they worry that they will have to be up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. While that is a valid concern, using the bathroom at night helps ensure that the body is continuing to process and digest even during sleep. It’s better to have to get up to use the bathroom than to suffer from chronic dehydration, which can wreak havoc on the body over time. Drinking key beverages before bed can help stimulate sleep and prevent the need for sleep aids, which can have harmful effects.
Many prefer warm drinks such as hot cocoa, tea, or warm milk. Milk is helpful in aiding sleep because it contains tryptophan, which the body converts to melatonin, a key stimulant of the circadian sleep-wake cycle. For those opting for milk or hot cocoa, try to choose skim milk and cocoa without a lot of sugar, as processing sugar can inhibit the sleep process. Individuals that opt for tea should ideally choose an herbal tea without caffeine. Chamomile, lavender, and peppermint teas help soothe the body and mind to sleep while promoting health digestion, boosting the immune system, and helping the body relax.
If you prefer cold drinks, water, coconut water, cherry juice, and a banana smoothie are your best bets for getting to and staying asleep. Plain water may not have some of the added benefits that milk or tea does, but it hydrates the body nonetheless. Try to aim for room temperature water rather than ice cold water. Coconut water is a good choice because it contains magnesium, which helps relax the muscles in the body to promote sleep. Cherry juice contains melatonin and can help regulate your sleep cycle. A banana smoothie (with minimal sugar) contains magnesium and potassium to help relax the muscles as you drift off to sleep.
Just as there are many beverages to drink to encourage sleep, drinks containing alcohol and caffeine should be avoided at least a few hours before bed for optimal sleep. While alcohol is a depressant and can sometimes make people feel sleepy, once the alcohol is metabolized in the middle of the night, many individuals report waking up and being unable to fall back asleep or not sleeping deeply for the majority of the night.
Next time you feel that thirst before bed or wake up feeling dehydrated, consider adding drinking something to your bedtime routine. Your body will thank you for aiding in even better sleep and overall well-being.