Posted by Nicole on February 5, 2014

Foods That Can Help, or Harm, Your Quality of Sleep

Sleep is an important part of how we feel throughout our day. If we're low on the amount of sleep, or the quality of that sleep isn't quite what it should be, then it can have both physical and mental effects. The average person needs around 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day, and while scientists are divided as to whether or not that constitutes 7 to 9 continuous hours, or 7 to 9 hours in total, there are some measurable negatives if you don't get enough.

Here are a few ways that you can improve the quality of your sleep through your diet. While they aren't a replacement for getting medical help if you suffer from a condition, like Restless Leg Syndrome, that can diminish your quality of sleep, they may give you some noticeable improvements in your average night of rest.

What to Avoid:

  • Alcohol
    In small amounts, alcohol can actually help you to fall asleep, but it can also greatly disturb the quality of your sleep if you have too much. Once alcohol becomes metabolized by the body, it can cause you to urinate more frequently, which can mean disrupting your sleep cycle. Alcohol itself can also impair your ability to reach and stay in REM sleep, a key part of a healthy night's rest. Finally, it can also dehydrate you, which can leave you feeling groggy the next day.

  • Caffeine
    This seems like a no-brainer, but did you know that having caffeine as early as 6 PM can actually disrupt your ability to fall asleep well after 10 PM? Everyone has a different level of tolerance for caffeine, and our bodies react differently to it as well, but it is generally a good idea to avoid caffeinated beverages after a certain point in the evening. Even low-caffeine drinks, like tea, can give you trouble.

What Can Help

  • Milk
    The time-honored classic of a glass of warm milk actually does have some scientific backing. Milk has tryptophan in it, which can help to induce sleep in the brain. It's also a sedative, which can help you to calm down and get in the right state of mind for a good night's rest. Taken with a small amount of sugar to get tryptophan to your brain faster, it's a natural sleep remedy.

  • Turkey
    Now that we've mentioned tryptophan, one of the more notorious methods of getting it is the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. If you've ever wondered why we want to nap after the big meal on Thanksgiving day, it's the combination of tryptophan from the turkey, and carbohydrates from the side dishes that provide the one-two knockout.

In general, it's always a sensible idea to avoid eating or drinking too much near your bed time. It's also not a good idea to go hungry before bed as well. You want to reduce the amount of factors that can disturb your rest, so that nothing gets between you and a few good Zs.