Over thousands of years, many different civilisations have used honey as a natural sleep remedy.

Back in the Middle Ages, European healers suggested consuming warm milk sweetened with a teaspoonful of honey. Mexican healers still hark back to their ancestors' recommendations and today, add a teaspoonful of raw honey to a warm cup of Manzanilla or chamomile tea. The Chinese are fond of taking a teaspoonful of honey before bedtime too.

So what is it about honey that seems to induce sleep?

It's believed that honey helps to improve sleep quality and increase the length of time a person stays asleep through three different mechanisms. Mike McInnis, a Scottish pharmacist and author explains that when consumed before bed, honey helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, promotes the release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and makes sure the body's liver glycogen stores are adequate for an 8-hour sleep. The last point inhibits the early morning release of adrenaline and cortisol, the two main stress hormones.

McInnis describes this mechanism as the honey-insulin-melatonin cycle (or HYMN cycle). He recommends a dose of one to two tablespoons of honey one hour before going to bed.

For more information, check out his book, Eat, Sleep and Slim with Honey.