4 Dietary Changes to Help Sleep Quality

Loss of mental focus, frequent illnesses, a foul mood, and even food cravings might all be signs that you are suffering from sleep deprivation. Joy Bauer, a leading nutrition expert and health expert for "The Today Show" notes that diet can be a major influencer of the quality of sleep that people experience. Consider these four tips to learn more about the types of food to eat or avoid in order to enjoy sound sleep:

1. Snack on Certain Foods

Almost everybody has heard the advice that a glass of warm milk before bed will help them relax. And it’s true, the amino acid, tryptophan, when combined with carbohydrates, is one of nature's best sedatives. This is because the brain needs this amino acid in order to make serotonin, a calming chemical. If you'd rather not drink a glass of milk before bed, yogurt works, too. So do bananas, sweet potatoes and turkey.

2. Avoid Hidden Caffeine

It seems obvious that caffeine should be avoided before bed, but some people don't realize just how sensitive they are, and the vigilance required to avoid it after 2 or 3pm. An even more difficult problem might be with other kinds of food that contain hidden caffeine. Even though caffeine is one of the few actual drugs that can be added to food or occur naturally, the FDA does not require caffeine to be listed on ingredient labels. Obvious sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, and sodas. Less obvious sources of caffeine include chocolate and some flavors of ice cream. According to Ms. Bauer, some so-called decaf coffees contain up to 20 milligrams of caffeine, so don't get fooled.

3. Eat Foods That Boost Melatonin

A study of people who drank tart cherry juice in the morning and the evening found that they reported better sleeping habits after a period of two weeks. Cherries are a good source of melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone. Other food choices for good melatonin production include many tropical fruits and oats. So far, it seems as if a small bowl of oatmeal with a little milk and some sliced bananas might be the perfect bedtime snack.

4. Avoid Late Night Alcohol

It seems as if the old advice about drinking wine to get to sleep might not be as good as the advice to enjoy half a glass of milk. Wine does help people relax, but it doesn't always produce an uninterrupted or sound sleep. This doesn't mean that you need to completely abstain, but it might be a habit to skip when you suffer from a poor quality of sleep and frequent periods of wakefulness during the night. In any case, alcohol should never be used as a sleeping pill.

Sleep Should Be Part of Your Healthy Routine

In order to remain healthy, you need to eat and sleep in a healthy way. Both the food you choose and the food you abstain from can impact the duration and quality of sleep you get each night. In turn, the quality of the food you eat might influence your dietary habits. Paying a little more attention to the kind of food that you eat before you go to sleep may result in healthier and more productive days.