Honey and Insomnia
Cure Sleep Disorders?

Two benefits of honey on insomnia explain why this gourmet food has traditionally been used to cure sleeping disorders.

According to a recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, children of all ages in America are getting 1 to 2 hours less sleep per night than they need.

This has serious consequences. While insomnia has generally been associated with elderly people, the demands of our modern lifestyle is causing our young people to lose sleep. A 2005 study conducted by Dr. Joseph Bass has linked sleeping disorders to obesity and other problems.

So, what is the relationship between honey and insomnia? Can eating honey cure insomnia? Would eating honey before bedtime cause weight gain?

According to Michael McInnes of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, eating a tablespoon or two of honey at bedtime can improve sleep quality without causing weight gain. Using prior studies, he postulated why eating honey may promote restorative sleep.

Honey and Insomia Benefit #1:
Promotes Melatonin Production

Ever wonder eating carbohydrates can make you feel good? Eating honey has the same effect and is even more beneficial.

Unlike other sugary food, eating honey raises your blood sugar level slightly. It causes a controlled increase of insulin, which causes the amino acid trytophan (which honey also contains) to enter your brain.

In your brain, trytophan is converted into the hormone serotonin, which promotes relaxation. In darkness, serotonin is converted into melatonin in the pineal gland.

Now, melatonin is a well-known cure for sleeping disorders. It is widely used for treating insomnia symptoms for elderly and depressive patients. It also enhances the quality of restorative sleep.

Honey and Insomnia Benefit #2:
Reduces Stress Hormone

Another pathway by which eating honey may promote sleep is via glycogen storage. This is slightly controversial. So let me explain.

According to a 2005 study conducted by Sullivan, eating at night is not associated with weight gain.

The researchers fed 16 female monkeys with a high fat diet. They examined whether monkeys who ate more at night gained more weight compared to those who ate more during the day. To their surprise, monkeys that consumed most calories at night did not gain more weight.

Another 2006 study conducted by Vatallie suggested that our bodies has evolved in such a way that we are more wakeful when our stomachs are empty. That is, eating small portions of food at bedtime may actually promote quality sleep. Remarkably, this has been practiced for decades by those on the Mediterranean Diet.

Our body stores ready-to-use energy as glycogen in the liver. Because honey contains the ideal 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose, it is the best food available for glycogen storage.

Sufficient glycogen storage is necessary for restful sleep. When your liver runs out of glycogen at night, your brain starts to trigger stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin to convert protein muscle into glucose.

Eating one or two tablespoonfuls of honey at bedtime promotes higher quality sleep by providing you with that liver fuel.


Even though there is no direct study linking honey and insomnia, plausible pathways exist that may explain why this traditional remedy has been found to work in the past.

There are so many health benefits of eating raw, unprocessed honey. Why not start with a couple of teaspoons at bedtime to see whether it works?

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Joseph Bass, Fred Turek (2005). Sleepness in America, A Pathway to Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol 165, January 10, 2005.

Vantallie, Theodore B (2006). Sleep and energy balance: interactive homeostatic systems. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, 55 (supplement 2), 2006 s30-s35.

Mike McInnes is a pharmacist and a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. He has written extensively in several unpublished position papers and short articles about honey and restorative sleep. He is the author of the book, The Hibernation Diet, along with his son, Stuart McInnes. The U.S. Edition of the book was published by WorldClassEmprise in March of this 2007.

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