Have you noticed that drinking red wine before bedtime seems to make you sleepier? If so, you’re not alone! This got the attention of university scientists, who decided to do a study to find out once and for all what it is about wine that seems to make people so sleepy.
Turns out, there’s melatonin in grape skins! Melatonin, of course, is that hormone released by your brain that helps maintain your circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. It’s often taken as a supplement for those who have trouble sleeping.
Melatonin for Sleep
That makes its presence in wine all the more revealing. It also led researchers to wonder why white wine doesn’t seem to have the same effect.
It has to do with how the wine is made. With red wine, the grape skins are left intact; with white wine, they’re removed prior to fermentation. Since the melatonin is located in the actual grape skins, only red wine ends up with a nice little dose of the sleepytime hormone.
Researchers also got curious about why different reds seem to have a bigger impact in terms of sleepiness. They found that different varieties of grapes have varying levels of melatonin present.
Nebbiolo grapes, for instance, had very high levels of the hormone. These grapes are used to produce Barolo and Barbaresco wines (native to northwest Italy). More common wines, such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot, were also high in melatonin, while wines made from the Cabernet Franc grape (often used for red blends) had relatively low amounts.
Sleep Aid? No!
It is worth noting, however, that while red wine may be a more enjoyable alternative to supplemental melatonin for sleep, sleep quality can be reduced due to the alcoholic nature of the drink. Alcohol, whether it’s wine, beer, or hard liquor, can disrupt sleep cycles, causing more moments of wakefulness and less time spent in deep sleep.
There is a silver lining for those who want to imbibe AND sleep well, though. Just do it in moderation! Having just a glass or two before going to sleep is fine, as long as you follow a few pointers.
- Finish drinking about 3 hours before going to sleep.
- Drink one or two glasses of water for every glass of wine.
- Pair your wine with food.
- Limit yourself to just one or two glasses.
That’s it! By following these guidelines, you get the best of both worlds, and can still enjoy drinking red wine before bedtime.