Nightcap (drink)

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“A Bedtime Drink” by Dutch painter Johannes Rosierse (circa 1860)

A nightcap is a drink taken shortly before bedtime. For example, a small alcoholic drink or glass of warm milk can supposedly promote a good night's sleep.[1][2]

Alcoholic nightcaps and sleep[edit]

Traditional nightcaps include brandy, bourbon, and cream-based liqueurs such as Irish cream. Wine and beer can also function as nightcaps.[3]

In folk medicine, consuming a nightcap is for the purpose of inducing sleep. Alcohol is not recommended by many doctors as a sleep aid because it interferes with sleep quality.[4] But, in low doses, alcohol has sleep-promoting benefits,[1][needs update] and some popular sleep medicines include 10% alcohol,[5] although the effects of alcohol upon sleep can wear off somewhat after several nights of consecutive use.[6]


A nightcap was originally alcoholic, since it makes the drinker feel warm and helps them sleep, just like the garment of the same name.[7] However, warm milk is often recommended as a nightcap for inducing sleep. It contains both tryptophan and calcium.[8] Alternatively, honey can improve the flavor.[8] The effectiveness of warm milk for inducing sleep is disputed.[9]

In 1930, Ovaltine was advertised as "the world's best 'night-cap' to ensure sound, natural sleep".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Stone, Barbara. "Sleep and low doses of alcohol". Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology. 1980; 48: 706-709.
  2. ^ Green, Wendy. The Greatest Guide to Slimming & Healthy Living, p. 15 (2010).
  3. ^ Gaines, Jordan. “A night cap may get you to sleep, but studies show it will also make you sleep less well”, Washington Post (December 2, 2013).
  4. ^ "Alcohol & Sleep: Nix the Nightcap?". Webmd. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  5. ^ “VICKS ZZZQUIL FAQ”, Vicks, accessed November 20, 2017: “ZzzQuil Calming Vanilla Cherry Liquid and ZzzQuil Warming Berry Liquid contain 10 percent alcohol. ZzzQuil LiquiCaps and ZzzQuil Alcohol Free Liquid do not contain alcohol.”
  6. ^ Roehrs, Timothy and Roth, Thomas. “Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use”, Alcohol Research and Health, 2001;25(2):101-9.
  7. ^ a b "Overview Nightcap", Oxford Reference, Oxford University Press, accessed November 20, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Green, Wendy. The Greatest Guide to Slimming & Healthy Living, p. 15 (2010).
  9. ^ Wright, Brierly. “Six sleep myths busted”, Sun-Sentinel (June 13, 2012).

External links[edit]