Milk and cookies still a good sleepytime snack

November 11, 1997

By Lynn F. Little

The warm milk and cookies our mothers gave us may have been more than an affectionate bedtime ritual. The combination of nutrients in these two foods may help us go to sleep.

While milk is a "comfort food" that can help you relax, it also contains tryptophan, which comes from protein. Scientific research suggests that tryptophan may trigger drowsiness.

The relaxing effect of tryptophan seems to be enhanced when it is eaten with carbohydrate-rich foods, such as breads and cereals. Even the carbohydrates in cookies may help transport tryptophan from the blood stream to the brain, where it may induce sleepiness.


Not surprisingly, beverages and foods that contain caffeine, including coffee, cola, tea and chocolate, should be avoided before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause a temporary state of alertness. In addition, caffeine may cause trembling, headaches, nervousness, muscle tension, irritability and depression.

To sleep better every night, try to exercise regularly. If you enjoy an evening snack, make it a planned part of your balanced diet. Finish the day with a small bowl of cereal or a glass of skim milk and a few low-fat cookies, such as gingersnaps or vanilla wafers, or try a slice of Crunch Cake. The cake is a great, fat-free way to satisfy a late-night craving.

Crunch Cake

q 1 1/2 cups of whole grain flake cereal, crushed (about 3/4 cup when crushed)

q 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

q 1 package one-step white angel food cake mix

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cereal and cinnamon. Prepare cake mix as directed on package, except fold cereal mixture into batter. Pour into ungreased tube pan. Bake and cool as directed on the package. Serve with fresh fruit and whipped topping if desired. Serves 12.

Nutrition information per serving: 1/12 of recipe, 150 calories, 3 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 310 milligrams sodium, 0 grams dietary fiber. Does not include fresh fruit and whipped topping.

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

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