A reader named Sam, an engineer in Irving, Texas, writes:
I am a long time reader of your blog. Based upon your writings, I have taken Vitamin D in the morning and Magnesium Glycinate powder at night for over a year. Both have helped. So I do not have any sleep issues that needed to be addressed. I took the honey only to see if it would make any further difference. I was a bit wary to begin with as I do not usually consume honey. I have had a mild allergy to eating honey until at least several years ago. Even a teaspoon of honey would within an hour give me abdominal cramps that would last for an hour or more.
I started a Primal/Paleo/PHD way of eating 3 years ago. No processed foods, no wheat, only fermented dairy (kefir/cheese/cultured butter/ghee), occasional alcohol and occasional desserts (generally fresh fruit or some ice cream) and regular use of home fermented food like sauerkraut, beet kvass and lemonade.
So the honey experiment was also to test whether the changed diet had fixed the allergy.
I tried regular store bought honey (Kroger) first. I took a tablespoon approximately 10 minutes before going to bed. It could be a bit more than a tablespoon as I would dip a regular tablespoon in the jar and eat it as soon as the stringing ended. The first day there was anxiety in expectation of an allergic reaction. No cramps but there was some mild abdominal pain, I would just call it discomfort. I thought this could be psychological. So I tried it for 3 more days. Still the same discomfort within the hour. But I would fall asleep at some point and wake up feeling the same as I used to earlier.
I almost quit after this – when my wife reminded me that we had some Manuka honey in the pantry that we got as a gift and that could be worth trying. So I did. This is a honey produced in New Zealand and has some number on it – that claims to have medicinal properties. This honey was thicker, so easier to measure. About one tablespoon each night, same time as before. Same discomfort – no change in overall sleep quality or post waking up energy. I tried this for 4 days.
It may seem that the obvious course of action would be to quit the experiment at this stage. However, around this time, I read a comment on one of the blogs I follow, describing the process of refining honey for bottling. Apparently it is heated and filtered as a minimum and maybe more processing in most cases. I know a friend who cured his allergy to homogenized milk (skin redness after consumption) by shifting to raw milk which he pasteurizes himself at a low temperature. So I looked for raw unprocessed honey and stumbled upon a source – which curiously had regular raw honey and fermented raw honey. I ordered a jar of each.
Initially I tried the raw honey, in the morning, in white tea just to test for the abdominal discomfort. Surprisingly, there was none. So I decided to take it at night and continue to see if there are any benefits. One tablespoon as before. I usually fall asleep within a few minutes of turning off the lights. This time, I noticed that I would toss around a bit longer before getting to sleep. However, I did notice that I would wake up more energetic. As I said it is subjective – hard to describe. But I would get ready faster and finish up a few chores that I would be lazy about on other days.
After a week I reduced the dosage to one teaspoon. The only observable change was that the tossing in bed now ceased and I would fall asleep quickly. So I stayed with this dose as a smaller dose is difficult to measure accurately.
After a total of 10 days on regular raw honey, I decided to try the fermented raw honey – only because I had ordered it and had it with me. I stayed with the one teaspoon dose just before bed and immediately noticed one remarkable change besides the increased energy in the morning. Normally, I wake up once at night, around 2AM, to go to the bathroom. The very first night, I slept through till the morning. Subsequently, I have noticed that occasionally I wake up at 5AM but most nights I just sleep through.
It is has definitely increased my sense of well being and post wake up energy.
His main conclusions are:
1. Raw honey works better than ordinary (cooked) honey. Manuka honey is no better than ordinary honey. Fermented raw honey is even better than ordinary raw honey.
2. One teaspoon is better than 1 tablespoon — fell asleep faster.
3. The benefits include less waking up at night, more energy in the morning, an increased sense of well being, and better motivation (e.g., to do chores).
I fall asleep quickly whether or not I take honey at bedtime. But it is curious that fermented honey works better than non-fermented. Fermented honey has less sugar; maybe that’s the reason for the difference.