For the sleep deprived among us, honey isn’t just a tasty folk remedy — it’s a potent cure for insomnia. Honey’s unique nutritional profile allows it to stabilize blood sugar and improve glycogen storage in the liver for better sleep. It contains the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan. Its omega-3 fatty acids support brain health and cellular function throughout the body. And raw local honey contains pollens unique to the area as well as antioxidants. These boost immunity and help prevent local allergies, which can interfere with sleep. So honey, what are you waiting for? Eat some today.
1. Eating dinner early depletes overnight glycogen. Your body converts carbohydrates to glucose for immediate energy. Any surplus is stored as glycogen in your liver and muscle cells for use over the next 8 hours. If you eat dinner early, your glycogen supply is likely to tap out before morning. That’s a problem, because depletion signals your adrenals to release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline into your bloodstream, waking you in a panic and robbing glycogen stores from your muscles for emergency use. Over the long term, this has serious repercussions on your health, including impaired glucose metabolism, insulin resistance, diabetes and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity.
2. Honey improves glycogen storage for overnight rest. Eating honey in the evening before you go to bed helps with glycogen storage. The 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose in honey promotes the storage of glycogen in the liver. Fructose “unlocks” the enzyme from the liver cell’s nucleus that is necessary for the incorporation of glucose into glycogen. Speakers at the First International Symposium on Honey and Human Health in Sacramento, California in 2008 presented research papers attesting to honey’s natural stores of fructose to glucose ratio, and the “one-two punch” they provide in order to fuel your liver slowly throughout the night.
3. Tryptophan in honey improves length and quality of sleep. Pure sugar causes spikes and crashes and is a no-no if you have chronic health problems, including insomnia. But although honey is a sugar, its unique profile actually helps stabilize blood sugar.
According to research at MIT, honey promotes a controlled rise in insulin. This propels the amino acid tryptophan found in honey into your brain, where it converts to the neurotransmitter serotonin for calm mood. Triggered by darkness, tryptophan is then used by the pineal gland to make the hormone melatonin, the regulator of slow-wave sleep. Having just a little glucose also signals to the brain that it should quit making orexin, a chemical that helps keep you alert during the day.
In a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, researchers gave a group of severely chronic insomniacs 2 grams of tryptophan daily for 4 weeks. At the end of that period, an impressive 76% of participants exhibited a marked improvement in both duration and quality of sleep.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids support fatigued adrenals. Honey is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Scandanavian researchers found, in a double-blind, placebo controlled study that essential fatty acids, including omega-3 EPA and DHA, reduced fatigue for 85% of their post-viral fatigue patients within 3 months. When plagued by chronic insomnia, your tired and overwhelmed adrenal glands will welcome the rest that omega-3 oils, with their anti-inflammatory nature, will supply.
5. Honey contains antioxidants. Honey, especially dark varieties, rivals fresh fruit for its high levels of antioxidants. People who eat honey regularly reduce free radical damage that leads to chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases and accompanying sleep problems.
Try a spoonful or two of honey just before you hit the hay. To double the tryptophan, dissolve it in a cup of warm milk. But be careful — you don’t want to drink too much or your bladder will wake you before dawn, defeating honey’s whole purpose!
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