Sleep Tight Tonight With Moon Milk

Moon milk is good old-fashioned warm milk with a few additions to make it photo-worthy. (Photo: s_karau/Shutterstock)

Pinterest and Instagram have a way of making old things new (and prettier) again, while often giving them catchier names that make for good hashtags. Take warm milk, for instance. It's been used for a very long time as a supposed sleep aid, but now it's known as moon milk, and it's rarely ever plain white cow's milk.

The addition of natural ingredients to give moon milk pretty hues and added nutrition — plus increased options for milk such as soy, almond, coconut or hemp — make #moonmilk not your grandma's warm milk.

Moon milk recipes

adaptogens including Aswagadha and ginseng
Adaptogens include traditional medical herbs from Asia that have been used for centuries in healing practices. (Photo: Eskymaks/Shutterstock)

Many moon milk recipes contain adaptogenic herbs or powders such as ashwagandha or astragalus. These herbs are supposed to relieve stress, which may help calm your mind to help you sleep. Other common ingredients include cinnamon, turmeric and natural sweeteners.

Want to give it shot? Try one of these recipes:

  • Blue Moon Milk: This recipes lets you choose your own milk, either cow or an alternative and uses the herb butterfly pea powder to create its blue hue, cinnamon, nutmeg and ashwagandha.
  • Pink Moon Milk: Tart cherry juice makes this warm milk drink pink and it calls for almond milk, preferably homemade.
  • Golden Moon Milk: This recipe is basically a version of Golden Milk with the word moon inserted in the title. Turmeric gives the beverage a deep golden color, and ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg pack this drink with flavor.

Does it really work?

The type of milk or milk alternative used in moon milk may not matter. (Photo: Fascinadora/Shutterstock)

Milk contains tryptophan, the same amino acid in turkey that makes everyone blame the bird for their after-dinner lethargy. One cup of whole milk contains 208 milligrams of tryptophan. Not all moon milk recipes call for cow's milk, though. Many of them call for a milk alternative such as soy, almond, cashew, coconut or hemp. Soy milk contains about the same amount of tryptophan as cow's milk, but the amount of the amino acid in the other alternatives vary depending on how they're made. Many store-bought nut-based milks actually contain very few nuts so the amount of tryptophan in them is very low.

Does it really matter which type of milk is used in moon milk? Probably not. When clinically tested, milk did not help induce sleep. Insomnia expert Art Spielman, M.D. told Eating Well, "Tryptophan-containg foods don't produce the hypnotic effects pure tryptophan does, because other amino acids in those foods compete to get into the brain."

So why do so many people sing moon milk's praises, aside from the fact that it's pretty? It may be that it's a placebo, and it works because people think it's going to work. But a better explanation is that the ritual of making and drinking moon milk helps to put you in a relaxed mood. When you regularly practice nightly rituals that help prepare you for bed, the brain begins to realize it's time for sleep, and when your head hits the pillow, sleep comes easier.