Hops have been rocking the beer scene for centuries with flavor-packed goodness.
Did you know they also possess some hidden talents in the realm of relaxation and shut-eye? The little green cones are more than just a pretty face in your pint glass.
They contain natural compounds that can work wonders for relaxation and sleep. So the next time insomnia strikes, forget counting sheep and consider cozying up with a hops pillow instead.
Or, better yet: Count sheep AND use a hops pillow!
But wait, there’s more!
Hops don’t only make a good pillow. They also come bearing gifts of antioxidants and “anti-inflammatory-ness.”
More than just a beer ingredient
Hops are flowers that come from the hop plant, scientifically known as Humulus lupulus. They contain a variety of compounds, including alpha acids and essential oils, which contribute to their unique aroma and flavor in beer. These compounds have also been found to possess sedative properties that can promote relaxation.
One compound found in hops called xanthohumol has been discovered to have sleep-inducing effects. Xanthohumol acts as a sedative, promoting relaxation and helping to ease anxiety, key factors for a good night’s sleep.
The sedating effect of hops is also attributed to a compound called 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol (MBO). MBO acts on the GABA receptors in the brain, which are responsible for inhibiting neural activity. By enhancing the effects of GABA, hops can help calm the nervous system and prepare the body for a restful night’s sleep.
Regulating the sleep-wake cycle
One of the ways in which hops contribute to better sleep is by regulating our sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. This is achieved through an increase in the production of melatonin—the hormone responsible for initiating and maintaining our sleep patterns. By naturally boosting melatonin levels, hops can help us fall asleep faster and experience deeper, more restorative slumber.
Improving sleep quality
Research suggests that incorporating hops into your bedtime routine may improve overall sleep quality. By reducing anxiety levels, hops can help quiet racing thoughts and promote a sense of calmness before bed. This reduction in anxiety allows for easier relaxation and transition into deep sleep stages throughout the night.
Different forms of hops for sleep
While hops are a well-known ingredient in beer, you don’t necessarily want to drink beer or any other alcohol before bedtime. When consumed as alcohol, beer, like any other alcohol, disrupts the sleep cycle. This results in less restful sleep, though it will knock you out.
The whole purpose of sleeping is to refresh and rejuvenate.
To let hops help you sleep well, there are several options available.
One method is through the use of herbal teas. Simply steeping dried hops flowers in hot water creates a soothing beverage that can be consumed before bedtime. The calming properties of hops help to relax the body and mind, preparing you for a restful night’s sleep.
Another way to incorporate hops into your sleep routine is through the use of tinctures. These concentrated extracts are made by soaking hops flowers in alcohol or glycerin. By taking a few drops of a hops tincture before bed, you can benefit from its sedative effects and experience improved sleep.
For those who prefer aromatherapy, essential oils derived from hops can be used to create a relaxing environment conducive to sleep. Adding a few drops of hops essential oil to a diffuser or mixing it with carrier oil for massage can help calm the mind and promote deep slumber.
Enhancing Sleep with Hops Pillows and Sachets
The sedative effects of hops also make it an excellent ingredient for creating pillow sachets. These small fabric pouches filled with dried hop flowers can be placed under your pillow or near your bed to release their calming aroma throughout the night.
Hops pillows have been used for centuries as natural remedies for insomnia and anxiety. The gentle scent emitted by the hop flowers helps induce feelings of relaxation and tranquility, promoting deeper and more restorative sleep.
Understanding the medicinal properties of hops
Antimicrobial powerhouse: humulone
One of the primary bittering agents found in hops is humulone. This compound both adds bitterness to beer and has antimicrobial properties. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and fungi. Some studies even suggest humulone could counter antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Relief from menopausal symptoms: phytoestrogens
For women experiencing menopause, hops may offer some relief. Hops contain phytoestrogens, plant compounds mimicking effects of estrogen. Phytoestrogens have been found to alleviate hot flashes and night sweats. There is no evidence phytoestrogens have any kind of effect on men.
Hops also contain anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds can reduce inflammation throughout the body, relieving arthritis and muscle soreness. By soothing inflammation, hops contribute to pain management and well-being.
Hops are also known as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect our cells from damage by free radicals. This can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life.
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