Red wine is purported to have a host of health benefits, from increasing levels of good cholesterol to improving heart health and even fighting the effects of aging. More recent research suggests that a moderate amount of red wine in the evening may offer benefits to sleep.
Researchers at the University of Milan have found that red wine may help people sleep. Any alcohol, which is a central nervous system depressant, can help people sleep. Red wine, however, more than any other alcohol, contains a chemical that can help people wind down at the end of a long day, and improve the quality of sleep.
That chemical is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. The body's production of melatonin is related to the amount of sun to which a person is exposed. After being produced, it is released into the body as a way to inform the body that it is time to sleep. Drinking red wine between one and one and a half hours before bedtime helps to encourage the body to sleep.
Some of the wines tested in the Italian study had more of the active sleep hormone melatonin than others. The highest melatonin levels are found in Nebbiolo grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon has very high levels--75 times the melatonin in Cabernet Franc. High levels are also found in Sangiovese, Croatina, Merlot and Barbera grapes.
While melatonin in red wine does help your body to begin sleep, skeptics point out that the quality of sleep might be worse because of the alcohol. Tyramine, for instance, an amino acid in all fermented beverages, is linked to headaches and can trigger migraines. Not to mention that drinking anything right before bedtime might interrupt your sleep to use the bathroom.
While there may be sleep benefits to moderate red wine consumption, the professors who conducted the study do not advocate heavy drinking. In fact, while excessive consumption of red wine one night may help you fall asleep, chronic abuse of any type of alcohol can induce sleep disorders and disturbances, let alone psychotic and mood disorders.