CAN HONEY HELP YOU TO GET A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP?

Guest post by

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

A professional physiologist and sleep expert for 25 years. She is the bestselling author of several books about sleep, including The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep (Gaia, 2018). As a former insomniac, Nerina combines her professional experience with academic and personal insights, and believes sleep problems are not simply about sleep, but rather about how we deal with life and its inevitable challenges.

Author views are not our own.

CAN HONEY HELP YOU TO GET A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP?

Guest post by

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

A professional physiologist and sleep expert for 25 years. She is the bestselling author of several books about sleep, including The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep (Gaia, 2018). As a former insomniac, Nerina combines her professional experience with academic and personal insights, and believes sleep problems are not simply about sleep, but rather about how we deal with life and its inevitable challenges.

Author views are not our own.

One of the most important aspects to getting good, restorative sleep is to ensure that your blood sugar levels are balanced throughout the day and particularly before you go to bed.   

If you go to bed with poorly balanced blood sugar levels, you can find yourself waking up feeling restless and hungry and then find it hard to get back to sleep.  Some people even need to get up and eat during the night before they can go back to sleep. 

Many people mismanage their nutrition either by following poor eating patterns throughout the day, skipping meals and then comfort eating before bedtime, drinking caffeinated drinks too late in the day and then consuming alcohol to help them wind down and relax. During the pandemic, too many have also been going to bed late as they haven’t had to conform to a corporate timetable or commute.  Netflix and box sets replace healthy wind down routines, and this is also when comfort eating can kick in.

So how do you manage your blood sugar balance for optimal sleep?  The key is to eat healthy, well-balanced meals throughout the day, avoiding skipping breakfast or other meals or substituting with sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks especially if you are already carrying stress and anxiety.  Having a spoonful of good honey before you hit the sack can also help to optimise your sleep and rest.

And why?

Recently, honey has received a lot of attention in the well-being space, and this is well deserved as we are now learning so much about honey’s healing potential as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and as a moisturising agent.

But now experts are also encouraging a spoonful of honey before bed to keep you satiated throughout the night.  Honey has a lower glycaemic index than sugar and therefore produces less of a blood sugar spike.  Manuka honey has an even lower glycaemic index which gives it an even greater capacity for balancing blood sugar before bedtime. According to clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus PhD, a teaspoon of raw honey about 30 minutes before bed can keep you full, thereby enhancing your snooze. ‘It can actually keep blood sugar somewhat stable.’

Professional biohacker Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and author of Fast This Way says, ‘Even if I'm fasting, a teaspoon or two of raw honey before bed can make me sleep all night long’.

So how exactly does honey work its magic at night?

While you sleep at night, the body goes into a fasted state and the brain draws on liver glycogen - the glucose storage tank - in order to keep vital functions ticking over efficiently as you sleep.  Honey—with its equal amounts of fructose and glucose—can help restore liver glycogen levels so your brain doesn't use up all that storage.  So it also stops hunger pangs waking you up at odd hours.

Emerging scientific research supports claims that honey can help you sleep:

  • Studies have found that honey activates hormones that suppress appetite and it delays the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.
  • A further study has also shown that a milk-honey mixture before bed can even enhance sleep quality*
  • Another study found that children with upper-respiratory-tract infections who supplemented with honey 30 minutes before bed were able to sleep through the night easier.**

So, my recommendation is that while honey has its fair share of documented health benefits, you might also consider using it as an essential part of your sleep routine.  Create a wind down routine that includes swirling a spoonful of the wonderful bee sap straight into your night-time tea or milk.  Or, if all else fails, simply gulp a straight spoonful just before bed – and you might just get the deep, velvety sleep you truly deserve.

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Article References

*Effect of milk-honey mixture on the sleep quality of coronary patients: A clinical trial study - PubMed (nih.gov)

**Effect of honey on nocturnal cough and sleep quality: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study - PubMed (nih.gov)

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