Will drinking alcohol or warm milk help me to fall asleep?

Alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep, but it should not be used as a sleep aid because it has a rebound effect. It can disturb your sleep later on in the night and can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.

Milk contains a substance called tryptophan. The body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a chemical in the brain. Serotonin helps control sleep patterns, appetite, pain, and other functions. Milk does not contain enough tryptophan to change sleep patterns, but drinking a glass of milk before bed may help you relax.

Over-the-counter tryptophan supplements are not recommended because of a rare condition associated with the supplements called "eosinophilia myalgia syndrome." This is a very painful inflammation of the muscles.

How is insomnia treated?

There are many steps you can take to get yourself sleeping soundly through the night. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid naps during the day, as naps can prevent you from sleeping well at night.
  • Exercise daily. However, try to avoid vigorous exercise 3 hours before bedtime (only if that energizes you).
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine throughout the entire day.
  • Keep your bedroom cool to prevent night sweats.
  • Do not go to bed until you are tired.
  • Take a warm bath or shower at bedtime.
  • Do not watch television, eat, or read in bed. Do these activities in another room until you feel sleepy .
  • Follow the same bedtime routine each night.
  • Avoid using sleeping pills.
  • Wear socks to bed to help control core body temperature.

If hot flashes are keeping you up, you can try:

  • Staying cool during hot flashes by wearing loose clothing to bed
  • Keeping your bedroom well-ventilated to prevent night sweats and disturbed sleep
  • Avoiding certain foods that might cause sweating (such as spicy foods), especially right before bedtime

When the lifestyle changes above fail to remedy insomnia, talk to your doctor. He or she can rule out other conditions that may be causing your sleep problem. For example, if depression is causing your sleep problems, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant. Treatment of depression can help to improve the quality of sleep.

There may be other options that can help. Your doctor may be able to prescribe temporary medicine to help you sleep and get you sleeping regularly. However, certain sleep meds are not recommended long-term, as they're associated with serious side effects. If your insomnia is a result of menopausal symptoms, you may also want to talk to your doctor about taking hormone therapy (HT). HT may help alleviate symptoms that are causing your sleep problem. Often, very low doses for short periods is all that is needed to help.

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