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Night milk to aid sleep

Angela Campbell

“Night milk” to aid sleep

WellSleep, the University of Otago sleep investigation centre based in Wellington, is undertaking a unique clinical trial for a new natural milk product aimed at beating sleeplessness.

The trial is being conducted in association with a Canterbury dairy company, Synlait Ltd.

Cows produce the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin at night and, as with breast-feeding mothers, this hormone is expressed in their milk. With the feasibility of production and the change of routine having little effect on cows already established, Wellsleep is now finding out how well the product works when taken by people with insomnia.

"Melatonin plays a key role in helping humans regulate sleep-wake cycles and, by collecting milk at night from cows, we can create a natural product with increased levels of melatonin," says WellSleep researcher Dr Angela Campbell.

Participants in the trial are required to drink a glass of “night milk” 30 minutes before going to bed; sleep quality will be compared to sleep following the consumption of conventional milk.

Most adults have experienced sleeplessness at some point in their lives with an estimated 30-50 per cent of the population affected by insomnia and 10 per cent having chronic insomnia. It takes a huge toll on people’s energy, mood, health and ability to function during the day.

“Many insomniacs rely on sleeping tablets, but these may only mask the problem,” says Campbell. “Conventional sedatives are known to be addictive and often cause fatigue and memory impairment so a natural product which helps people sleep is likely to be very popular.”