Catch more shut-eye with ‘moon milk’
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After turmeric lattes, ghee and clove oil, “moon milk” is the latest traditional drink having its big global moment. The name may conjure up images of interstellar travel, but it’s simply a warm cup of milk to improve your sleep. Holistic health enthusiasts, wary of sleep medication and alcoholic nightcaps, have been quick to jump on the milk wagon and pretty up their social media feeds by adding colourful ingredients to their nightly concoctions.
Of course, there’s more to moon milk’s popularity than it being Insta-perfect. We’re in the midst of a global sleep crisis—data collected between 2014-15 by popular alarm app Sleep Cycle reveals that people across the world are not managing to achieve 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis (7-9 hours a night is the recommended range). India ranks among the worst countries for average hours of sleep, clocking 6 hours and 20 minutes a night. Given that lack of sleep affects productivity and has been linked to ailments such as diabetes, heart problems and obesity, as well as compromised immunity, the importance of being well rested cannot be overstated today.
The world may be waking up to the importance of sleep now, but, in India, the benefits of warm milk before bed date back to the Vedas. “The ancient Ayurveda text Charaka Samhita mentions that milk is beneficial,” says Sarita Davare, a Mumbai-based health and wellness practitioner with a master’s in Ayurveda. According to Ayurvedic principles, there are three doshas or energies that make up every individual. For good health, these doshas—vata, pitta and kapha, or air, fire and water—must be balanced. “The majja dhatu, or nervous system, needs to be in doshic balance for a person to get good sleep,” explains Partap Chauhan, director of Jiva Ayurveda, a chain of Ayurvedic treatment centres. “The stresses we face throughout the day agitate the mind and increase vata or pitta in the body. Cow’s milk, which is sattvic (pure) in nature, counters the adverse effects caused by the vitiated doshas, helps balance the nervous system and induce good sleep,” he says.
Allopathy has found a basis for this too. “Milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan which increases the levels of serotonin—the happy hormone—in the body, which helps us relax,” says Bhuvaneshwari Shankar, chief dietitian, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai. It also contains melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycles.
Milk mixes that help you sleep
Experts say skimmed cow’s milk, which is rich in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A and proteins and contains a moderate amount of fat, is your best bet. Monica Goel, consultant and physician at the PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai, says, “It should be taken an hour after eating a light dinner so that it doesn’t leave you with a heavy feeling.”
While plain milk itself can help improve sleep, adding adaptogens, or herbs that counteract stress, magnifies the impact. Plan your milk pairings around the seasons. “For example, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are warm in nature, and can be taken in winters,” says Chauhan. Nutmeg is especially beneficial as it contains a natural chemical called trimyristin, which induces sleep. “During summers, rose petals or saffron will keep the body cool and help you sleep better,” he says.
Ayurvedic rejuvenator ashwagandha is also being marketed heavily by hippie wellness brands in the US. “Ashwagandha is not a sedative, but when consumed with milk, can help the body regulate hormones, reduce stress, and supports the natural sleep cycle of the body,” says Chauhan.
It’s important to note that milk may not work its magic on everyone’s sleep cycle. But Davare remains a champion of its benefits. “Milk comforts us and gives the body adequate nutrition for 8 hours of sleep, so I’d recommend having a glass before bed,” she says.
Ashwagandha-infused moon milk
Ingredients: 1 cup warm milk, 2g ‘ashwagandha’ powder, 1 tsp ‘ghee’
Benefits: ‘Ashwagandha’ pacifies the ‘vata’ ‘dosha’, strengthens the nerves and reduces stress.
Golden moon milk
Ingredients: 1 cup warm milk,N tsp turmeric and a pinch of cinnamon powder
Benefits: Turmeric has antibacterial properties, is a detoxifier, and boosts the immune and digestive system. Cinnamon is a great antioxidant and also helps with weight loss.