My Midlife Insomniac's Sleep Lab Review: Tart Cherry Juice, Rooibos Tea or Warm Milk?

I've never had any trouble falling asleep. It's staying asleep once I awaken hours later. I've had a sleep disorder for most of my life, so not getting enough sleep is nothing new, yet I've never taken an actual sleeping pill. I always aim for the most natural methods. Over the years I've tried things like Valerian (gives me a migraine), chamomile (makes a lovely tea but doesn't make me sleepy) and made a sachet with dried lavender in a vintage hanky that I kept at my bedside (made me sneeze). Melatonin, which is actually NOT natural but a synthetic cow hormone isn't an option for me since it has been found to cause nightmares and vivid dreams in some people, something from which I already suffer. 

Perimenopause has brought on a new kind of sleeplessness, but fortunately it's not every night. Sometimes it feels like restless leg syndrome and I want to run in circles! Other times I'm just wide awake. I can handle a night or two like that but when I have a bunch in a row like this past week it's not cool. The good news is that some of my favorite shows are on the the middle of the night, like Twilight Zone, Perry Mason and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. 

I decided to give three different beverages a try before bedtime: A cup of warm milk, a couple of shots of tart cherry juice (wicked sour stuff!) and Rooibos tea.


Drinking warm milk before bed feels folksy and tastes good, but it didn't do anything for my sleep quality. I had never tried it before because despite my penchant for "old wives tales" that have merit, I haven't drank a straight glass of milk in decades (I occasionally consume it in a recipe) since it is unkind to my stomach. I'm happy to say that the lactose-free milk I tried really did make a difference in that there weren't any negative after-effects! But again better sleep still eluded me.


Tart cherry juice, reported by multiple, legit websites can add 90 minutes of sleep to your night! It's got natural melatonin (so maybe wouldn't have same side-effects as the synthetic bovine version)! Wowee! Except that the study of seven participants was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute. There's another "promising" study of fifteen people by "CherryPharma." Despite the obvious conflicts of interest I was willing to try it anyway. The results? I got even less sleep that night. In no way do I think the cherry juice made it worse, but it certainly didn't do anything to enhance my sleep quality or duration.

Finally, Roobios red tea has been anecdotally attributed to helping with insomnia. I couldn't find any official studies. This was the least promising.

The tea has a pleasant, woodsy taste to it. I noticed after about twenty minutes that I felt more relaxed than usual. I might even call it semi-drowsy. I still woke up that night but had an easier time falling asleep. Last night I had a strong cup before bed and then made a cold glass to keep by my bedside. When I woke up I drank some more. I was able to fall back asleep rather quickly!

In summary, all three drinks offer health benefits and I don't see any of them detracting from sleep, but only the Rooibos Red Tea helped me in a meaningful and positive way. These are obviously only my results but they are definitely unbiased. 

Do you have any successful natural sleep aids, elixirs or secrets? Have you tried warm milk?

Comments

  1. Thanks, this was very interesting. I used to have no sleep issues, but now with age (sigh), I seem to be wide awake every second or third night. The good news for me is that, unlike you, I don't have them in a row, so I try not to fret and amuse myself instead, often also with vintage shows by the way. I'll have to try rooibos tea and will skip the juice. I'll let you know once we return home from Europe.

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    1. I look forward to hearing your results! Have a safe trip home. :)

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  2. I've heard that blue light - tv screens, iPhones, etc. make it even harder to fall asleep. Maybe you should read instead. The only thing that works for me is hypnosis relaxation recordings. Or when I'm desperate, Benadryl. :)

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    1. Mark! :) Yeah, I know, but I watch them when I have given up on falling asleep. Also, the old black and white TV shows have sometimes helped me fall asleep in the past. It's like (black and) white noise. :D

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  3. This is my first time commenting on a blog, and when I saw your pudding entry, that was my first time visiting a blog. Seriously. I must be outdating you! Anyhoo, I love red rooibis tea though I didn't know it helped with sleep! And I did not know melatonin was from cows. Damn. I wondered about its origin, but did not know. My extra sleepy time tea is not good for you bc of your valerian reaction. I agree that staying asleep is at least half the problem. See you on Instagram!

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    1. What? Really?! My blog is special, now! :) Thanks for commenting!

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  4. I do empathize, Averyl! You will find your "balance" with this, though there are always those "off" nights! I was surprised to learn about the benefits of roobios tea, also! I find getting up (don't just lie there!) and going to a recliner with a soft blanket and reading material (or, I play Scrabble on my e-reader...z-z-z!), and if need be, make Sleepy-time tea (all herbal, no Velerian), with a little almond milk added. Usually I nod off within 20 mins., then end up finding my way back to my bed an hour or two later. When needed, a regular-strength acitaphenamin helps. I've noticed too that the more outdoor exercise I get during the day, the better I sleep at night...at least most nights. Good luck! Lois

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    1. Ah, outdoor exercise isn't always possible in Maine this time of year and I'm sure it makes a difference. In fact today I was doing some rounds in the free local indoor track- the mall! ha. I like the way you put it-- that I will work out some balance with my unbalanced hormones. Thank you!

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  5. You may also find that you become more sensitive to caffeine as you get older. Not sure if you use caffeine, but I know I've had to cut way back, and sometimes even chocolate late in the day will wake me up at 2 a.m.! I really miss my afternoon iced tea in the summer. :(

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    1. Other than a cup of black coffee in the morning I don't have any other sources for the rest of the day. I've never been a fan of too much of it. I rarely eat chocolate opting for carob instead. I feel naturally caffeinated. ha

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    2. P.s. like you, sometimes when I can't sleep I turn on the old late-night black and white shows. My favorite is Burns and Allen, but then I'm laughing too much to fall asleep!

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  6. I have tried warm milk with a little honey, (and even a cold glass of milk), yogourt, herbal tea, lavender fragrance. As well, listening to nature sounds and music from the 1930's and 1940's help. (I love vintage). Just staying quiet and keeping my eyes closed an hour before I go to bed helps as well. I don't like sleeping pills, either, I always use natural remedies. Happy New Year and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

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    1. Hi, Linda. Thank you! I also like to "spin down" before bedtime. :) For me that's sometimes reading, talking with Wayne or watching something wholesome on TV.

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  7. I take Benadryl because of my constant allergies. If I don't I sometimes wake up during the night because my nose is running. So annoying! A few months ago I quit taking it but I was waking up around 2:30 or 3:30 each night wide awake for several hours. Once I started back on the Benadryl I didn't have that problem anymore. I know it's not natural but I take it mainly to keep my nose from dripping. I thought it was interesting, however, that when I stopped I had those episodes of sleeplessness so I guess it's helping me stay asleep, too.

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