Insomnia or sleeplessness affects an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the population. Experts estimate that as many as 10 percent of sufferers have chronic insomnia, which is defined by the difficulty of maintaining or initiating sleep. It distresses all age groups, and women are known to experience more symptoms than men. Further, people with depression or anxiety are known to experience the affliction more frequently.

But a new product from Germany claims to offer a natural solution to insomniacs everywhere. Deutsche-Welle reports that “Nacht-Milchkristalle,” or Nighttime Crystals, recently received its German patent to bring freeze-dried packets of melatonin-infused night crystals to the sleepless masses. Milchkristalle, a Munich-based company, claims that, once added to milk, the crystals will help regulate a person’s sleep cycle. Melatonin is a hormone that can return the body back to a natural sleep cycle.

Some swear by Nighttime Crystals. Maike Schnittger was an unemployed resident of Hamburg when she started using the product. Her night worries would keep her up at all hours, but she claims that this product got her to sleep in 30 minutes. Schnittger says the product tastes like milk, only a bit stronger, and that it can be added to any glass of milk or cup of yogurt for consumption.

Melatonin is available only through pharmacies in Europe, but it can be found easily without a prescription in the United States. Nighttime Crystals have been available for about six months in Germany, and now its use is expanding across Europe for just 25 euros ($35 U.S.) for sixteen packets.

How does it work? The company uses milk from cows that have been gently milked between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., a time when the cows' melatonin production is the highest. The cows are milked under soothing red lights to keep them calm during the milking process. Further, they are fed clover and are pampered during the day in a “cow beach” of rolling grass and sand. Inventor Tony Gnann claims that this enables the cows to yield 10 times as much melatonin as other cows.   

But not everyone is on board with the science behind the product. Nightmilk Crystals offer a 1,800 picogram dose of melatonin, while the average recommended dose is 3 milligrams. Critics call the supplement nothing more than an expensive placebo, pointing out that this amount of melatonin is too small to be effective. Jim Lorne is the head of the Sleep Research Center at Loughbourough University in Leicestershire. As he told Deutsche-Welle, “I'm not so sure you can expect great things from melatonin anyway and whether it's effective in this milk is another matter."   

For further reading:

Melatonin-rich 'night milk' may help insomniacs sleep
Nightmilk Crystals inventor says the product can return an insomniac to a regular sleep cycle, but critics say there's not enough melatonin to support the claim