A handful of good and bad foods for sleep

There's more benefits to getting a good night's sleep than feeling well-rested in the morning. There's lots of research indicating that getting a full seven or eight hours of sleep can help make weight management easier, as having more energy to move around improves the body's ability to use food eaten during the course of the day. Other studies – including one from the Harvard School of Public Health – suggest that getting enough sleep helps control hormones linked to appetite. So not only will sleeping more provide more energy to use, it may also reduce hunger. 

Aside from the alertness factor. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that getting enough sleep should help people complete complex mental tasks, and reduce their chances of being harmed in an automobile accident, as these are often tied to a lack of alertness.

In light of the importance of sleep, The Huffington Post put together a list of foods that are most likely to interfere with getting a solid night of shuteye. The news source spoke with Kelly Glazer Baron, Ph.D., of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine to add her expertise to the story.

This one really should go without saying, but coffee, other beverages containing caffeine and even chocolate can keep you up later than you'd prefer to be. However, the caffeine content of chocolate depends greatly on the brand, Baron told the news source. Nonetheless, it's worth remembering that some candy bars have as much caffeine as the typical can of soda.

The Post's list of foods that may contribute to sleep deprivation also includes fatty foods, spicy foods and steaks. The former two are known to contribute to heartburn, while the latter's protein content may simply make it difficult to digest. 

"Your body's not designed to be digesting food when it's sleeping," explained Baron.

In addition, a 2007 study on how fatty foods cited by the news source suggests that foods with a high fat content may disrupt the natural flow of a brain chemical called orexin, which influences both appetite and sleep patterns. 

Water and other beverages
For reasons we probably don't have to explain, drinking a glass of water within the two hours before you're planning on hitting the hay could result in you waking up in the middle of the night and rushing to the restroom. 

On the other end of the spectrum, other news providers have pointed to some foods that may improve a person's ability to wake up well-rested the next morning, some of which may be surprising for some people.

Milk and turkey
As anyone who's found themselves thoroughly sedated after eating several slices of Thanksgiving turkey is fully aware, the chemical tryptophan can make you drowsy. The human body uses tryptophan to produce serotonin, a chemical known for its ability to create feelings of contentment, according to the Washington D.C. news provider WTOP.com. The source also notes that some tryptophan is present in milk. Warm milk, RealAge.com suggests, summons up subconscious memories of infancy, and may trigger feelings of reassurance. 

The legendary yellow fruit is pointed to by both RealAge and WTOP as a good sleep aiding food. RealAge even goes so far as to describe bananas as "practically a sleeping pill in a peel." The natural muscle-relaxing substances known as magnesium and potassium are what causes bananas to be potentially beneficial for sleeping well. 

Caffeine-free tea
While we've been cautioned against drinking beverages too late into the evening, Valerian and Chamomile tea are noted by both sources as beverages with soothing effects that may help knock a person out.