Milk Blanket and Nutmeg Dreams

I know it sounds so smarmy, but the bed is too big when my sweetie (Dom) is out-of-town. So after tossing and turning, I am warming some milk and wondering whether there is a scientific reason it makes me sleepy…

Most of us have heard of tryptophan, the essential amino acid responsible for that unavoidable nap after a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving day. As it turns out, there are traces of tryptophan in milk too. The human body converts tryptophan to the sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin. However, the amount of tryptophan in any food, turkey and milk included, is not great enough to boost hormone levels to a level that would induce sleep.

So, am I wasting my time waiting to see the little bubbles that mean the milk is perfectly heated and not on its way to being scorched, making the pan impossible to clean? Maybe it is the psychological association with warm milk and infancy; reminiscent of the times "I slept like a baby." Obviously, we associate milk with our mothers and their love and care. These comforting feelings and remembrances can produce serotonin in the brain that actually create a sensation of well-being and relaxation which promotes drowsiness.

Milk also coats and soothes the stomach. Most people sleep best when their tummies are full.  Milk can also calm heartburn or digestive pangs caused by stress and may provide sense of relief for these symptoms.

Or perhaps, it is because a nice glass of warm milk warms the body. People sleep better when they are warm because their muscles tend to relax more. The few degrees that the drink might raise your body temperature are often enough to trigger the slowdown response. This slowing of bodily responses normally precedes sleep.

It is quite possible that it is not the milk at all, but the fresh nutmeg grated on top. Nutmeg is known to calm anxiety and muscles spasms. It can eliminate nausea (unless taken in large amounts in which case it can actually cause nausea.) Nutmeg can also lower blood pressure, reduce diarrhea, and has even been cited as an effective anti-inflammatory for joint pain and gout.

No, it definitely has something to do with the way the hot mug feels in my palms, the way the light aroma of nutmeg wafts past my cheek, and the way the warmth wraps around me like a toasty blanket. Not quite like a snuggly hubby, but it will do for tonight.

1 cup milk (I used 2%, but I like whole best!)
1 dash freshly grated nutmeg

Scald milk in a saucepan by heating over medium heat. Watch for tiny bubbles to form on along the sides of the pan and stir while simmering another minute or two. Do not let the milk scortch or it will taste weird and the "skin" will be very difficult to remove from the pot.

Pour the magical elixir into your favorite mug and grate (or sprinkle) nutmeg over the top. Sweet dreams!