Honey and Sleep: Get Your ZZZ’s

An unmade bed with white sheets

A good night’s sleep is something that we all need. It’s all too elusive in today’s stress-filled, hurry-up, schedule-crammed routines. When contemplating life’s priorities, quality sleep is too often not factored into the equation.

That’s a shame.

Getting enough sleep is crucial for your health-eight hours is the average that you need to function your best. Too little sleep, and you’ll be more than tired: memory problems, irritability, and a whole plethora of unpleasantries come with missing out on sleep. On the same hand, if you sleep too much, you can experience dizziness, grogginess, and even anxiety. So put down your phone and go to bed (but make sure you set an alarm)!

Having trouble getting to sleep? Balancing your diet, exercising, and limiting screen time and caffeine consumption can all help. Above all else, getting into a routine will help the most. Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up on time every day (even if you don’t have to be up for work or class). But, like with every other problem in the world, something sweet can help this situation. Honey may actually help you get a better night’s sleep…who knew?

What amazed me in my research on honey and sleep is that there are equal parts lore and science on the topic.

According to Dr. Ron Fessenden, author of The Honey Revolution, real, raw honey is the ideal combination of fructose and glucose that does not lead to insulin spikes in the blood. “The fructose in honey facilitates the uptake of glucose into the liver: glucose is converted to glycogen and stored for later use.”

Lore and Science on Honey and Sleep

  • Traditional Chinese medicine frequently uses honey as a treatment for a list of maladies, including a lack of sleep.
  • European folk healers have recommended drinking a cup of warm milk and honey before bedtime since the Middle Ages.
  • Another old-fashioned remedy is to blend honey, vinegar, and water into a bedtime drink. Traditional Mexican healers have long prescribed a teaspoon of raw honey in a cup of warm té de manzanilla, or chamomile tea. Variations that are said to induce sleep include a teaspoon of honey in a cup of hot water, or honey and passionflower tea.

Over the Moon for Melatonin (and Glycogen!)

Scottish pharmacist, researcher and author Mike McInnis of The Hibernation Diet believes that honey improves and lengthens restorative sleep by at least three mechanisms. When taken before bedtime, honey: a) ensures adequate liver glycogen stores for eight hours of sleep (this prevents or limits the early morning release of two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline); b) stabilizes blood sugar levels; and c) contributes to the release of melatonin, the hormone required for both recovery and rebuilding of body tissues during rest. Melatonin promotes the release of growth hormone, which governs all of recovery physiology. This is the key first step in recovery or restorative physiology that occurs overnight which fully supports the theory that honey and sleep are linked.

Melatonin impacts memory consolidation by its requirement for the formation of neural cell adhesion molecules during REM sleep. These molecules are necessary for the processing of short-term memory from the hippocampus into long-term memory in the brain cortex.

Simultaneously, the fructose in honey carries out its critical role. The liver takes up fructose where some is converted to glucose and then to liver glycogen, thus providing the brain with a sustained supply of glucose for the night fast.

Additionally, fructose regulates glucose uptake into the liver by prompting release of glucokinase. Thus, fructose ensures good liver glycogen supply overnight and prevents a major glucose/insulin spike and release of stress hormones.

Kudos to the heroic honeybee for playing such a critical role in good health!

Get wonderful raw artisanal and varietal Eastern Shore Honey from Waxing Kara and sweeten the benefits of a good night sleep, just by adding a little honey.

About the Author

Kara Brook

Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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