We could all do with not just more sleep but better-quality sleep, which can be challenging in our fast-paced world filled with distractions. Many people are choosing to avoid using prescription medications in favor of natural, more sustainable methods such as relaxing in a steam sauna to reduce stress, eating healthy, getting enough exercise, and establishing routines.
These are all excellent methods to help with sleeping. However, there's a little-known secret ingredient not often talked about for its ability to promote healthy sleep, and that is kefir. In this article, you will learn what Kefir is and how it can help you sleep better.
Health Benefits of Kefir
The benefits you will receive from just a half-cup of kefir every night before bed go beyond improving sleep. Other health benefits kefir can provide include:
- Reduced liver fat
- Fewer allergies
- Less constipation
- Improved blood pressure because it's an ACE (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) inhibitor
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels
- Fewer pathogens
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a product like yogurt but with properties that make it a much better alternative.
People have been making kefir for centuries. Traditionally, it's made from cow's milk and kefir grain, which contains a live bacteria population and yeast to promote the fermentation that results in the rich, creamy texture and tangy flavor.
Kefir does not have as thick a consistency as yogurt, so you can think of it as drinkable yogurt.
Yogurt is well-known for supplying your body with healthy microbes, but Kefir has even more potent. While yogurt has between 1 to 5 strains of microbes, a half cup of kefir contains between 12 and 50 different types.
It's not just the microbe variety, kefir also contains as many as five times more microbes than yogurt, and many of them can survive your stomach acids. Most yogurt microbes will succumb to the stomach's hostile environment before they can impart any health benefits.
Kefir contains healthy yeast, which is a powerful combination when you combine it with its friendly bacteria population. This combination reduces problems with lactose intolerances because kefir microbes consume lactose sugars before they can have an adverse effect. Fewer milk sugars mean fewer symptoms, including gas.
Microbes produce ninety percent of the serotonin in your body. Serotonin is a hormone responsible for transmitting messages between nerve cells in your brain. It's necessary for mood regulation, digestion, bone health, wound healing, blood clotting, and sleep. It also makes you feel good and less stressed.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep cycles and helps you stay asleep.
All of your cells can produce melatonin directly, but it's most often associated with coming from the pineal gland. Gut microbes can also produce melatonin.
Another interesting cell associated with melatonin production is called an enterochromaffin cell, which can be described as a cross between a neurological cell and a hormone that produces melatonin, but it also has roles in controlling inflammation and acids.
Kefir contains microbes that make the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is then converted into melatonin. Tryptophan has multiple roles in the body, including:
- Depression and anxiety relief
- Better mood regulation
- Pain tolerance
- Improved sleep quality
Calcium is a compound that is rarely associated with sleep quality because most people know it as an essential ingredient for strong bones and healthy teeth.
However, calcium is critical to many different processes in the body. In terms of getting better sleep, calcium helps the amino acid tryptophan create melatonin, which we know is vital for regulating the sleep cycle and creating more restful sleep.
While kefir does not naturally contain a lot of b-vitamins, its microbes can make quite a few of them, many of which will help you get better quality sleep.
Thiamine (B1) is so well known for reducing stress levels that it's often referred to as the anti-stress vitamin. This essential vitamin helps the body resist the effects of stress by strengthening the immune system as well as playing roles in several metabolic reactions. Thiamine is required to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source for every cell in the body.
If you regularly lay awake at night, unable to switch your brain off, it may be because you are overly stressed and have too much cortisol in your system. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can make it impossible to fall asleep despite you feeling exhausted.
Thiamine can help to reduce your cortisol and quiet your racing mind so you can get some quality shut eye.
So, half a cup of kefir combined with a 20 to 30-minute session in a portable steam sauna or sauna blanket could make for a perfect sleep remedy.
The Best Types of Kefir
Kefir is available from supermarkets everywhere, but it's easy to make at home. You will need some kefir crystals to get started, but make sure you use a high-quality source. You can use cow's milk, but many people prefer to use goat's milk.
Take one cup of your preferred type of milk and mix in one tablespoon of kefir crystals. Seal the container with a paper towel held in place with rubber bands. Wait a day (24 hours) and you will have a cup of healthy, delicious kefir to drink before bed for a great night's sleep.
Remember, kefir is not as thick as yogurt and is more like a thick shake in consistency, but a lot healthier. You can drink it cold, but some people prefer kefir at room temperature or even a little warmer. Experiment with your kefir to find a temperature you like.
One of the great things about kefir (and it's the same with yogurt), is that you can take the grains out of your current batch and store them in some milk in the fridge. The cold environment halts the fermentation process, but it will start up when you take it out of refrigeration.
More Ways to Get a Good Night's Sleep
Half a cup of kefir before bed is an excellent strategy for improving sleep quality, but there are many more methods you can use, such as:
- Create a routine of going to bed and waking at the same time every night
- Don't eat a couple of hours before bedtime
- Avoid alcohol and quit smoking
- Get plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine
- Portable saunas and sauna blankets for stress relief and other health benefits
Getting a solid 8 or 9 hours of sleep every night will provide a range of health benefits. Try the above tips, but if your lack of sleep impacts your health, check in with your doctor.