Obesity is on the rise, so is insomnia. The prevalence of both these modern scourges in adult American population falls in the range of 30-35%. It may be a coincidence, or there may actually be some connection between the two.
There’s very good reason to believe that they’re interconnected because sleep deprivation is known to cause weight gain. Insufficient sleep at night is associated with poor blood glucose regulation and increased daytime cortisol levels. Elevated blood sugar levels lead to insulin overproduction and subsequent insulin resistance; the starting point of obesity in a majority of cases. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol increases visceral fat.
Obesity, on the other hand, precipitates many health problems that prevent you from getting sufficient sleep. While sleep apnea and neuropathy resulting from diabetes may drastically decrease the quality of sleep, insomnia is a common side effect of medications taken for obesity-related disorders like high blood pressure and cholesterol.
It’s a vicious cycle.
How about some natural remedies that can tackle both these problems in one stroke?
These sleepy time drinks do just that.
They help you get sound sleep. And while you sleep, they fire up your metabolism to burn fat. They have only a few ingredients, so you can quickly prepare them and drink up. Last, but not the least, they taste good so you’d want to drink them every night, and maybe during the day too.
1. Psyllium and Apple juice drink
Psyllium is the seed husk of a type of plantain related to the common garden plantain. It is more commonly used as a natural laxative but can aid weight loss in a number of ways. The husk is nearly inert and has no discernible taste or smell; what makes it special is that it quickly absorbs large amounts of water and swells up to form a slimy gel. Apple juice makes the drink naturally sweet and tasty, and, with a sprinkling of cinnamon, you get the feeling of drinking an apple pie, but without all the calories and other bad stuff in it.
The drink is very easy to prepare.
- 1 Apple
- 1 cup cold water
- 2 tsp pure, 100% psyllium husk/powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
Cut up the apple and blend it with water, preferably with the skin on, until smooth. Pour into a large cup and stir in psyllium husk and cinnamon powder. Drink immediately, otherwise, the husk will thicken the drink too much. Follow it up with a glass of plain water.
What it does:
Psyllium – The mucilage in the husk acts as a lubricator, helping the food in the digestive tract move forward faster and effortlessly. It reduces fat absorption from the intestine. The bulking up of stomach contents provides a feeling of fullness that discourages snacking.
Apple – Apple juice in a bedtime drink may go against the weight loss recommendation to avoid fruits in the latter part of the day, but taken with psyllium which reduces absorption of nutrients, it shouldn’t do any harm. The pectin in the apple can further limit the absorption of fat from the guts, while the antioxidants in the fruit, especially quercetin, can help reduce oxidative damage and associated inflammation.
Cinnamon – This spice is well known for its blood sugar-regulating effect. This helps reduce the conversion of sugar into fat and its storage in the adipose tissue. The nighttime dose spices up your metabolic activity and increases fat burn when the body is otherwise at its lowest energy requirement.
Variation: Fresh apple juice with all the goodness of the soluble fiber is the perfect ingredient, but if you don’t have an apple at hand or cannot bother to juice it, use canned apple juice to mix into the drink. Make sure that it’s 100% juice with no added sugar.
Caution: Psyllium husk may reduce the absorption of medications and nutrients in foods, so avoid the drink within 2 hours of taking drugs and meals.
2. Aloe vera – Cherry drink
Aloe vera needs no introduction; the clear gel obtained from the fleshy leaves of this plant is widely used externally for treating burns and general skin care. It has now become popular as a food supplement too, thanks to its varied health benefits, including weight loss. Fresh gel scraped off from the inner portion of the leaves is colorless, odorless, and tastes quite bland with just a tinge of sour and bitter effects.
It is the ideal thing to use, but not everyone has access to fresh leaves. Commercial products, even those claiming to be ‘fresh, frozen, 100% Aloe vera’ often have unpleasant taste and smell, making it difficult to enjoy as a bedtime drink. Cherry juice comes to the rescue here. But we’re using tart cherry juice, which itself has a number of benefits to offer as well.
You will need:
- 2-4 oz. Tart cherry juice
- 1 oz. Aloe vera juice
- Cold water
Mix the cherry juice and Aloe vera juice in an 8 oz. glass and top it up with cold water. Mix well and drink.
What it does:
Tart cherry juice – It improves the quality and duration of nighttime sleep while reducing daytime napping. An increase in melatonin, the hormone regulating sleep-wake cycle, is observed in people who drink the juice, which explains why it is an effective sleep aid. Tart cherry juice is anti-inflammatory too, so it helps reduce water retention.
Aloe vera gel – It’s full of mucopolysaccharides like acemannan and other compounds with healing and nourishing properties. Plant sterols in Aloe vera have the potential to reduce fat deposits in the body, especially abdominal fat. Laboratory studies on obese rats and small clinical studies in obese diabetic and prediabetic patients support this observation.
Variation: If tart cherry juice is not to your liking, use apple cider or fresh lemon water instead. Stevia may be used as a sweetener if required.
Caution: If the drink gives you abdominal cramps, it could be due to too much aloin in the Aloe vera product. The outer skin of the Aloe leaves contains aloin, which imparts bitterness to the gel. It is a crude laxative and has undesirable side effects. If you find an Aloe vera gel product too repulsive, try different brands of until you find one that suits you, or grow your own. The plant grows well with minimal care in warm regions; elsewhere you can try growing it in large containers with ample fall and winter protection.
3. Ginger – Lemon drink
This is everybody’s favorite weight loss drink gauging from its popularity. The drink is light and refreshing. Have a generous stock of all the ingredients; it is a great drink to have in the morning and later in the day too.
- 5-10 slices of cucumber with skin (or a full cucumber if you like a thick drink)
- 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 6 oz. water
- Juice of 1 lemon
- A pinch of Himalayan pink salt (optional)
Blend cucumber and grated ginger with water until smooth. Stir in the juice of one lemon and the salt, if using.
How it works:
Cucumber- It is a low-calorie vegetable with very high fiber content. The soluble fiber in cucumber binds with the fatty acids resulting from the digestion of the fats in our food and quickly carries them away. This reduces the total fat intake from the digestive tract.
Ginger – Ginger is a digestive aid. It goes without saying that the discomforts associated with indigestion would disrupt sleep. Being a carminative, ginger reduces gas formation, relieving heartburn and stomach discomfort. Ginger also increases metabolic rate, directly aiding fat burn. It is anti-inflammatory as well and helps reduce water retention.
Lemon juice – It is an excellent detoxifier. Although the juice contains high amounts of citric acid, it has an alkalizing effect on the body when fully digested and assimilated.
Variation: Adding a fistful of coriander leaves (cilantro) can enhance the fat burning effect of this drink. If you can’t stand cilantro, use parsley or mint leaves. Using mint may make it a little too refreshing for a nightcap, so use it when you want to drink this during the day.
4. Warm milk and nutmeg drink
A glass of warm milk at night used to be the number one sleep aid at one time, but now all dairy products are viewed with suspicion. While many people hold the view that milk is fattening, a comprehensive review published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2013 reports that 11 out of 16 studies on the subject have found the opposite to be true.
Regular consumption of milk, even the full-fat version, does not cause weight gain, but may actually help prevent weight gain. Honey does more than just add some sweetness to milk, and nutmeg provides just the right amount of spiciness.
You will need:
- 1 cup milk – preferably full-fat organic milk from pastured cows
- 1-2 tsp honey
- A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (not more than 1/8 of a teaspoon)
Heat the milk and then cool it to the temperature you can handle. Mix in the honey and grated nutmeg, and drink it immediately.
What it does:
Milk – The amino acid tryptophan in milk is credited with inducing sleep. This essential amino acid is required in the formation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of relaxation and sleep. Calcium in the milk and Vitamin D in the milk fat could be contributing to weight loss as well since deficiency of these nutrients is known to cause weight gain.
Honey – Tryptophan requires the indirect assistance of carbohydrates to enter the brain, and honey comes to its aid. This essential amino acid normally has to compete with other amino acids in the food to get an entry into the brain. But when carbohydrates are present, insulin gets released. This hormone then diverts the other amino acids to muscles, giving tryptophan-free to access to the brain. Unlike simple sugars that cause an insulin spike that results in a crash later on, the complex sugars in honey ensures a sustained supply.
Nutmeg – It has a mild sedative effect that puts you in the mood for sleep. At the same time, this hot spice has a thermogenic effect that helps fire up your metabolism for burning extra fat during your sleep.
Variation: If using skimmed milk, mix in 1 tsp of coconut oil after taking the milk off the heat. Some amount of fat is required for maximizing the bioavailability of phytochemicals in nutmeg.
Caution: Nutmeg, as well as other spices, should be used in very small quantities to derive their beneficial effects. Don’t assume that if a little is good, a lot will be better.