Is 'Night Milk' the Secret to a Better Night's Sleep? Researchers Think So

If you've tried a warm glass of milk to help ease you into sleep at night and it hasn't worked, perhaps it was just milked at the wrong time.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a somewhat whimsical sounding potential treatment for anxiety and insomnia: "night milk." That would be milk taken from cows at night; it's been found to be naturally higher in sleep-promoting compounds.

South Korean researchers recently put the theory to the test in a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. In this case, the subjects were lab mice that were fed milk in powdered form that had been collected either during the day or at night. The latter contained notably higher levels of tryptophan (24 percent more) and melatonin (almost 10 times more), and the researchers found night-milk "shortened the sleep onset and prolonged the sleep duration" of drug-induced sleep.

On the anxiety front, the Journal reports that those mice who received night milk were more likely to explore open spaces, "an indication of reduced anxiety"; further, their behavior was similar to that of mice who had been administered the anti-anxiety drug diazepam.

The big "but" in this study is that the subjects were, again, mice, not humans. But that doesn't mean humans haven't tried night milk. The New Zealand Herald reports on a night-milk powder called iNdream3 that's produced by Synlait. A sleep trial partly funded by Synlait at Otago University found that the product "reduced the time to onset sleep [and] increased the deepest phase of sleep" in humans. It's apparently only available in South Korea right now; Sleep Review Magazine reports that a German company also makes its own version, a crystallized product called Nachtmilchkristalle.

(In related news, it also apparently pays to sleep naked.)