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A quality memory foam mattress can help provide you with the best sleep of your life, but no matter how comfortable your bed is, eating the wrong foods can all too easily rob you of the chance of a good night’s rest.

In the Charles Dickens ghost story, A Christmas Carol, the main character, Scrooge, blames his nightmare visions on having eaten cheese earlier in the evening. While there is no credible evidence that cheese consumption causes nightmares, there are plenty of other foodstuffs that will definitely have a disruptive effect on your journey to the land of nod.

Most people know that they should avoid drinks containing caffeine late at night but few realise that, for certain individuals, a cup of tea or coffee can excite the nervous system for as long as eight hours. That means if you plan to go to bed at midnight, a caffeinated drink any time after 4pm could be a mistake. Caffeine can also be found in chocolate so having certain cakes or puddings after your evening meal could also affect how easy you find it to fall asleep. Stimulant drinks containing taurine – which behaves in similar way to caffeine – should also be avoided.

Many people get into a routine of having a tot of spirits or a liqueur as a nightcap just before bedtime. While alcohol does help promote sleep, it only works in the short term. Its effects usually wear off after a few hours and the resulting dehydration can make it more likely that you wake up in the middle of the night. Experts recommend that anyone suffering from sleep problems should cut all alcohol out of their diet for a few weeks as this move alone may resolve the issues.

So what should you eat in order to increase your chances of sleeping soundly? The amino acid, tryptophan, helps the body to produce serotonin, a key brain chemical responsible for feelings of sleepiness among other things. Natural sources of Tryptophan include oats, milk, yoghurt but it is also found in red meat, eggs, fish and certain seeds. This means that, ironically, one of the best snacks you can eat in the evening with a view to helping your body get a good night’s sleep is an oat-based cereal.

Cherries are a natural source of melatonin - another brain chemical which helps the body to regulate sleep – while bananas are rich in substances that help your muscles to relax. Toast is another great snack. It causes a rise in blood sugar which in turn causes a rise in insulin levels. While you might feel a small burst of energy at first, this will soon be replaced by a wave of tiredness.

How much you eat can be of just as much importance as what you actually eat. Large meals too close to bedtime mean your digestive processes will be working flat out just as you hit the sack -  a situation that could easily lead to you tossing and turning for several hours.

Similarly, drinking too many fluids can fill your bladder and cause you to wake in the middle of the night in order to use the bathroom. Try to avoid drinking large amounts in the hours before you head to the bedroom and be sure to remember to use the bathroom before you lie down.

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