More About Sleep and Honey: One Teaspoon

One of the comments on my honey-improves-sleep post deserves emphasis:

I tried the honey last night for the first time – just 1 tsp. I’ve been eating very low-carb lately, so no sugar throughout the day at all. . . . When I woke up for the day . . . I felt an incredible sense of well-being. Normally, I wake up with aching hip joints and feeling pretty ugh, but not this morning. My sense is that the sleep was “richer” . . . in the way that heavy cream is different from skim milk.

I asked the commenter for an update. She replied:

I’m still seeing improved sleep. Last night, I think I slept for 8 hours straight, or darn near, which has only been possible with an Advil-PM over the past 6 months or so. One of the notable changes in my sleep is vivid dreams. I recalled them pretty clearly the first night, less so since then; I just know that I’ve been dreaming. I am using approximately 1 teaspoon of honey, taken on the way to bed. Since starting it, I have taken extra care to avoid sugar and starch during the day, as well. I plan to continue it indefinitely.

I too found that one teaspoon of honey made a clear difference, as did Stuart King, who described the effect. I’ve been taking one tablespoon to be sure to get the greatest possible benefit; eventually I will test smaller amounts.

I don’t know of another case where one teaspoon of an ordinary food produces a big improvement. One teaspoon (5 ml) of orange juice has about 2.5 mg of Vitamin C. The daily requirement of Vitamin C is about 80 mg/day. (Whether you should take much more, as some say, is quite unclear.) If you get less than 10 mg/day for a long time, you’ll get scurvy. According to this table, the common foods highest in Vitamin C, such as orange peel, have about 1 mg/g. One teaspoon of honey is 7 g, so from 7 g of a common food high in Vitamin C you’d get 7 mg of Vitamin C. And keep in mind that scurvy is very rare, but bad sleep is common. Which makes the effect of one teaspoon of honey even more striking.

38 Replies to “More About Sleep and Honey: One Teaspoon”

  1. One practical question (I don’t know if it’s been asked before, I haven’t read the comments to earlier related posts yet): when do you brush your teeth? Before or after taking the honey?

    Seth: I brush my teeth in the morning.

  2. In the morning!? With a self-quantified reason? Because I figure in the evening would be a better moment: you brush away the stuff you accumulated during the day so the bacteria won’t do you harm at night.

    Seth: I haven’t compared evening versus morning tooth-brushing. Maybe I should, you’re right. I have noticed that tooth brushing wakes me up, but the effect doesn’t last long.

  3. Having said that (feel free to merge my multiple comments into one) I have read that sugar (and therefore honey as well) is not the main culprit of caries, because it is actually a preservative (that’s why marmalade lasts so long) so it would be illogical to assume that it causes caries. It might even protect your teeth! Mind you, I’m not volunteering to try this at home.

  4. Do you plan on testing comparable amounts of white table sugar? It would be interesting if there was something about the honey that was better for sleep than sugar. But it seems almost inconceivable that’s the case.

    Also, I’ve always wanted you to test an equal amount of beef tallow in place of butter to see if it has any effect on your arithmetic speed. The fats composition should be mostly the same, except that butter will have significantly more butyrate and 6 and 8 carbon fatty acids. The micronutrient content would be different as well, with butter having a significant amounts of some vitamins like A and D.

    Seth: Testing sugar is a good idea. Beef tallow is hard to get, not so clear why I should test it. Pork fat was worse than butter.

  5. Seth, have you tried the honey with a nose-clamp? I’m wondering whether the taste buds are an important indicator to the brain, or whether just the presence of glucose/fructose is enough without the taste effect.

    Seth: No, I haven’t tried that. Good idea.

  6. Why should Seth do all the testing? Come on guys (and gals), let’s get to it. Matt, you take the sugar, GB, good luck with the nose-clamp. Me, I’ll do my first (dark and raw) honey experiment tonight. Results first thing in the morning please, right after a solid tooth brushing session 🙂

  7. I often eat raw local honey, often mixed with some sunflower seed butter, before bed. If I try to read a novel after this, I often find myself nodding off very quickly.

    Seth: Maybe I fall asleep faster now that I eat honey before bedtime…but maybe not. It isn’t obvious, whereas the improvements in how rested I feel in the morning and strength are obvious. I am trying to figure out if honey affects how fast I fall asleep.

  8. A possible explanation is that people on lowish carb sometimes have disrupted sleep related to ketosis, and the carbs remove the underlying stress caused by slight ketosis to enable the body to rest. This is from Dr Eades in 2009:

    “Sometimes for some people being in mild ketosis interferes with sleep, especially falling asleep. For those people (including myself) I often recommend a little herbal tea WITH sugar or honey before bedtime. The teaspoon of sugar or honey adds about 5 grams of carbs, which isn’t a whole lot, but is usually enough to shut down ketone production for long enough to allow sleep.”

    Scroll halfway down this page:

    http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/low-carb-diets/why-is-low-carb-harder-the-second-time-around/

    1. Eades: “Sometimes for some people being in mild ketosis interferes with sleep, especially falling asleep. For those people (including myself) I often recommend a little herbal tea WITH sugar or honey before bedtime. The teaspoon of sugar or honey adds about 5 grams of carbs, which isn’t a whole lot, but is usually enough to shut down ketone production for long enough to allow sleep.”

      I had no trouble falling asleep, yet I found that a teaspoon of honey made a big difference.

  9. Over at Richard Nikoley’s blog, Free the Animal, he has a running series on resistant starch, which is primarily about blood glucose control. However, one of the unexpected and pleasant effects (affects? I can never get that right) of consuming resistant starch, primarily in the form of unaltered potato starch, is improved sleep along with vivid, technicolor dreams.

    There has yet to be any discussion of honey at bed time.

  10. Read this book, Seth:

    Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye, by Ellie Phillips, DDS.

    Hunch: You’ll never eat honey before going to bed again.

    Not without brushing, etc., afterwards. And again in the morning.

    Seth: That’s strange, I have read it. Before I realized that honey improves sleep. I guess I’ll read it again, I agree that you have a good suggestion.

  11. After a few months in ketosis I too found that my sleep length and quality diminished. Last night I ate potato before bed and for the first time since starting a ketogenic diet I slept soundly, had vivid dreams, and recovered libido. Perhaps the potato is having the same effect of the sugar in honey.

  12. Am I missing something here, or are we all supposed to brush our teeth before bed AND in the morning?

    Seth: I don’t know. I need to reread Tell Your Dentist Goodbye.

  13. I’ve had no trouble falling asleep since I started taking Vitamin D in the morning. I started a tablespoon of honey a week ago, and the effect was instantaneous. My sleep now is almost luxurious, and I am waking up more rested. I take the honey, brush my teeth (and floss), rinse with my healthy-teeth mouth rinse, and then go to bed.

  14. My thinking with testing tallow versus butter is that you could perhaps narrow down the specific cause of the effect. Is if just more saturated fat, or something that is specific to butter? Given that butter is better than pork fat (which has plenty of saturated fat), it seems likely that it is specific to butter. If it’s specific to butter, then it seems likely that it’s due to the SCFSA in butter (lots of butyrate, and some 6- and 8-carbon fatty acids) . And since coconut oil has lots of 8-carbon fatty acids but no butyric acid and doesn’t produce the effect, I think that it’s likely that the effect you notice is due largely to the butyric acid in butter.

    Tallow is a good experiment here because if you get similar performance to butter then that would be good evidence that pork fat is worse than beef fat because something in the composition (probably the high polyunsaturated fat) is worse for your brain than the beef fat composition. If tallow is similar to pork fat, then it would be evidence that something in the composition of the dairy fat specifically (likely the butyrate in my opinion, maybe the vitamin A) is what is of particular benefit.

  15. Hi Seth

    Were you aware that consuming sweets later in the day improves response to light therapy for seasonal affective disorder? This seems like it could be related to consuming honey at night. You can find the paper in Psychiatry research 46: 107-117. The authors are Kurt Kriiuchi,AnnaWirz-Justice,and Peter Graw.

    Seth: No, I didn’t know about this. Fascinating.

  16. Well I’ve had a teaspoon of honey up to an hour before bed for the last three nights. It has not helped me get to sleep quicker, but I am finding that I wake up earlier. I can only assume this means my sleep has been deeper. I have also had some fairly odd dreams. It is quite rare for me to remember dreams. I also seem to be losing weight and have changed nothing else in my diet or daily routine.

  17. Tried a teaspoon of honey last night with no effect. But I must say I had friends over, so I had several beers, and since alcohol always makes me sleep deeper but shorter (and the sleep seems of lesser quality), this was not a good night to test it. But I felt obliged to do it and report back here after my comments yesterday. I’ll report back again when there’s something to report.

    Oh, Seth, and if you’re planning on re-reading “Kiss your dentist goodbye”, you may want to pick up “Cure tooth decay” by Ramiel Nagel as well.

    Seth: I can’t say 1 teaspoon is the best possible dose. The best dose might depend on body weight. If you are uncertain whether there is any effect, you should use a larger dose, such as 1 tablespoon, so that if there is no change it is unlikely that the dose was too small.

  18. If anyone has a Zeo, would be interested in deep/REM sleep measurement. I’ll check if mine’s still working.
    When I was using the Zeo heavily, was always amazed how inaccurate my subjective impressions of sleep quality/wakeups were.

    1. “When I was using the Zeo heavily, was always amazed how inaccurate my subjective impressions of sleep quality/wakeups were.”

      Did you consider the possibility that it was the Zeo that was wrong, not your subjective impressions?

  19. I’m 172 5’11”. Dose of 1 teaspoon raw organic. 50% improvement in sleep quality. I currently also use blue blocking goggles from 8:30 pm on. I also sleep on a grounded sheet. Only one night in, but I’m optimistic. Sleep is the key to health.

  20. “Am I missing something here, or are we all supposed to brush our teeth before bed AND in the morning?”

    Only if you want to keep your teeth!

    And it’s not enough to just “brush.” You need to use the right kind of brush, use the right kind of mouthwash, maintain the proper PH level, eliminate harmful bacteria, etc.

    You’ll notice the difference IMMEDIATELY.

    And since dental health is so important for HEART health, maintaining proper dental health can literally save your life.

  21. I don’t know if this brushing mouthwash thing is true. My gums seem better when I only brush once a day. I get less bleeding with gums and no soreness.

    I also eat fermented foods and not much sugar. I think there’s something to Seth’s bacterial space competition theory.

    If brushing and mouthwash, etc is so necessary, how do you explain the excellent oral health of pre-agricultural remains?

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/02/24/172688806/ancient-chompers-were-healthier-than-ours?ft=1&f=1001

    Hell, my cat doesn’t need to brush his teeth and they’re all perfectly white. I feed him a 100% animal meat/organ diet.

    I’m also not sure that good dental health CAUSES good heart health. Bleeding gums and heart disease are common side effects of chronic inflammation. Brushing your teeth doesn’t fix inflammation, though.

  22. Darrin asked me a question (below). Yes, I am taking 4000 IU of Vitamin D every morning, and have been since summer of 2012. (I started at 10000 IU and worked my way down to 4000. If I only take 2000 my sleep suffers.) I have been taking the honey for over a week.

    >Hi Bruce,

    >Are you still taking the Vitamin D in the morning (as well as the honey before >bed)?

  23. “I get less bleeding with gums and no soreness.”

    You’ll get ZERO bleeding gums, and no soreness whatsoever. And no infections.

    “how do you explain the excellent oral health of pre-agricultural remains?”

    They didn’t eat what you (probably) eat, especially all the sugar and carbs.

    “I’m also not sure that good dental health CAUSES good heart health. Bleeding gums and heart disease are common side effects of chronic inflammation. Brushing your teeth doesn’t fix inflammation, though.”

    Poor dental health creates bacteria in your blood. If that bacteria reaches your heart, there go your heart valves. E.g., endocarditis.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/endocarditis/DS00409

    You’ve basically got it backwards, my friend. Bleeding (infected) gums can cause chronic inflammation. Even stress can, in the form of cortisol.

    Another good book to read is:
    The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It, by Dr. Malcomb Kendrick
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Cholesterol-Con-Disease/dp/1844546101

  24. GeoffD, I found that combining the honey with coconut oil didn’t seem to work as well. I did it for similar reasons to you. It might be worth considering that you want that quick insulin spike and temporary rise in blood sugar from the honey. Adding a fat possibly changes things a bit. But test it and see what happens, I kind of like the idea of trying to combine other foods for a better effect.

  25. “You’ll get ZERO bleeding gums, and no soreness whatsoever. And no infections.”

    Well, like I said, it gets worse the more I brush. My personal experience is different than your expectations. I also don’t eat sugar (except this honey experiment and the occasional fruit) or grains.

    In fact the only thing I’ve really found that gets rid of my gums bleeding is proper omega 3 to omega 6 ratio.

    Anyway this is rather tangential to the subject at hand. I’ve found that I sleep better with honey, but I’m waking up sooner. I don’t feel any less refreshed, maybe a bit more refreshed in fact. Just strange to be waking up at ~5am.

    1. “I’ve found that I sleep better with honey, but I’m waking up sooner.”

      I found that a lot of standing had the same effect. I woke up sooner but slept better.

  26. Stuart King,

    I tried 1.25 tsp raw organic last night without the coconut oil. A good, not great night of sleep. I did go to bed an hour later. I’ll try again tonight and for 7 days sans oil.

  27. To Keimpe above thinking about sugar as a preservative, in marmalade: there it’s acting as a desiccant, sucking the water out of bacteria by osmosis. Same principle as salted meat. It’s not going to achieve that in your mouth.

  28. “Well, like I said, it gets worse the more I brush.”

    That’s because your gums are INFECTED.

    Until you deal with that, they’ll continue to bleed.

  29. I’ve been doing this for about a week and a half now, taking 1.5tsp of honey ~45-60 minutes before bed. I’ve noticed two things so far. One, my feeling after my morning workouts improved. This is subjective; I don’t have any hard strength or endurance numbers to back up any improvement yet.

    The second is more objective: after about a week (didn’t start happening right away), I have regularly started waking about an hour before I usually do, and when I wake, my body feels like it’s ready to get up. The only reason I go back to sleep is because I check the clock and it’s 3:30am.

    Next thing on the list is to shift my bedtime so I early wake at a less obscene hour and watch my performance to see if the early waking is because honey is improving or disrupting my sleep.

  30. I am interested about the orange glasses. Where can you get one? have anyone tried it? those it work? Computer, TV, fluro lights are bad for sleep.
    I will try the honey. I also do EFT in bed ( emotional freedom technique) sometimes it helps. I have an active mind and keeps chatting when I am trying to sleep.

    Seth: I got my oranges glasses from amazon.com. You might try getting plenty of sunlight, like an hour, in the morning. That might slow down your active mind at night.

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