by Carole Jackson Bottom Line Health
My friend likes to have a drink before bedâaÂ realÂ drink.
Itâs usually a beer.
He likes the fact that the alcohol seems to help him get to sleep.
What he doesnât like is that he tends to wake up a few hours later and then has trouble falling back to sleep, leaving him groggy the next morning!
In fact, most experts agree that alcoholic beverages (along with caffeinated beverages and energy drinks) are among the worst drinks to have before bed. So whatÂ shouldÂ we all be sipping on instead that might help us get to sleep and stay asleep??
A new study points to an unusual choiceânonalcoholicÂ beer.
Before reading this study, I never thought that nonalcoholic beer might convey health benefits, but these findings are making me reconsider.
For the study, Spanish researchers evaluated subjectsâ sleep amount and quality usingÂ actigraphy, a wrist sensor that detects motion during sleep/wake cycles. During the first week of the study (the control week), subjects drank whatever they normally drank at dinner (but keep in mind, in Spain, dinner is around 10:00 pm or 10:30 pm). These subjects usually drank a glass of milk because they were all teetotalers (and none drank nonalcoholic beer). During the next two weeks, subjects stopped drinking whatever they normally drank at dinner and instead each drank one 12-ounce bottle of nonalcoholic beer (San Miguel, a Spanish brand).
Results:Â The subjects slept better during the weeks that they drank alcohol-free beer. Not only did they fall asleep an average of 12 minutes faster, but they experienced 27% fewer movements while sleepingâmeaning less tossing and turning. As a bonus, they also reported feeling less anxious during those weeksâprobably because they were sleeping better.
THE SLEEPY-TIME SECRET
Researchers believe that itâs the bitter resins inÂ hop compounds, botanical ingredients (theyâre from a flower, actually) used in brewing for their aroma, that do the trick. Hop compounds have sedative properties, soothing the central nervous system by raising levels of the neurotransmitterÂ gamma-aminobutyric acidÂ (GABA). This helps explain why nonalcoholic beer may help you not only get to sleep but sleep soundly and stay asleepâit has the hop compounds that make you drowsy, but not the alcohol that wakes you up later. (Technically speaking, nonalcoholic beers do have a tiny bit of alcohol in themâa bottle of OâDouls, for example, has 0.4%âbut since a bottle of regular beer, such as Budweiser, has about 5%, itâs not much.)
Lead author and graduate researcher Lourdes Franco said that Americans would be best off drinking a nonalcoholic beer roughly an hour before bed to get the most effect, though she noted that hop compounds remain in your system all night.
She was surprised that it took only one nonalcoholic beer per night to impact sleepâand sheâd recommend this habit to almost anyone needing help falling and/or staying asleep.
WHO SHOULD AVOID NONALCOHOLIC BEER?
There are a few groups of people that may want to stay away from nonalcoholic beer, Franco noted.
People with celiac diseaseâthose who canât properly digest gluten (the protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye)âshould keep their distance, since most nonalcoholic (and alcoholic) beers contain gluten. Until Spainâs Ambar Green beer becomes widely available in the US, celiacs will have trouble finding a beer thatâs both nonalcoholic and almost entirely gluten-free, unfortunately.
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and youâre limiting carbs to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range, be aware that nonalcoholic beer has roughly 13 grams of carbs, which is about the same amount that youâd get in a regular (nonlight) beer. (For comparison, a 12-ounce can of Coke has about 41 grams of carbs and an eight-ounce glass of apple juice has about 29 grams of carbs.)
For people who can safely drink nonalcoholic beer, there are lots of choices. Since itâs the hop compounds in the beer that youâre after, youâll want to know which brands have the mostâbut when I called Keith Lemcke, vice president of Siebel Institute of Technology and marketing director of World Brewing Academy in Chicago, a school for the brewing sciences thatâs been around for 130 years, he said that all nonalcoholic beers have approximately the same level of hop compounds. In other words, it doesnât matter which brand you chooseâany is likely to help you get to dreamland!
Sources:Â Lourdes Franco, graduate researcher, laboratory of chrononutrition, department of physiology, University of Extremadura, Badajoz, Spain. Her study was published inÂ PLoS ONE.
Keith Lemcke, vice president, Siebel Institute of Technology, and marketing director, World Brewing Academy, both in Chicago.