We all have our routines, particularly ways that we start and end the day.
These routines are designed to prepare us, psychologically and well and physically, for what we have to do next.
In the mornings we are winding ourself up to face the day, stoking up with fuel and cranking up the energy levels.
In the evenings we are shutting the non essential systems down, preparing for a micro hibernation which will recharge us overnight.
The routines are a comfort and measure that let us know that we're ready either to spring forward or switch off.
Food can play a large part in these rituals, like the first cup of coffee or that last cup of tea or a relaxing little nightcap for example.
I know my in-laws, even in their eighties, finish each day with a bowl of cereal - which they grandly call 'supper' - before contentedly retiring to bed with full bellies.
These habits are not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if they work, but there are certain foods which can help you to relax and others which will definitely keep you awake.
Some are obvious and others less so, a few of them are just a confirmation of what your mum told you all those years ago but with some science to back it up.
Others may well surprise you, but it is worth considering what your body is taking on board in the hours before you try and get your day's rest.
Warm milk: Yes, its the old standard, but it does work. Milk contains amino acids which your body converts into seretonin which has a generally calming effect. The calcium may help too since calcium deficiency has been identified as one of the factors in disturbed sleep.
Cherries: Life may not be a bowl of them but sleep can be. Cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep patterns.
Honey: The natural sugars in a tablespoon of pure honey will trigger a chemical reaction in your body that will cause the brain to relax. It also contains glycogen, a lack of which induces stress.
Bananas: A rich source of magnesium and potassium, elements which are natural muscle relaxants. Also crammed with 'good' carbohydrates which will help to induce sleep.
Flaxseeds: Not everyone's cup of tea but an excellent source of omega-3, magnesium and tryptophan which combine to relax your muscles and induce a feeling of calm and well being.
Almonds: Again not to everyone's taste but similarly packed with compounds that will increase your bodies chances of a restful night.
Alcohol: Sorry, but its true. Although a little of what you fancy before bedtime may make you drowsy and fall asleep more quickly, it will also inhibit proper REM sleep and ultimately prevent your body from resting properly. Try to have your tipple at least six hours before you retire for the night, or dilute it by drinking water...but we all know what that will mean later.
Green Tea: We all know not to drink coffee or strong tea but because of its soothing aromatic flavour green tea has become a favoured night cap. Unfortunately it also contains caffeine, as does hot chocolate. You should try and remain caffeine free for at least four hours prior to pillow time.
Chicken: Or any high protein food because they will interfere with your circadian rhythm and energise you body rather than calm it down. The same is true of ice creams, desserts, chocolate (in all it forms), biscuits or other bread products.
Spicy Foods: It probably doesn't need saying that the late night curry or chinese on the way home is one of the worst things you can ask your body to cope with when you are trying to sleep. They will raise your overall body temperature and may cause gastric problems which will disturb your sleep.
Cheese: Yes, cheese can give you dreams, whether they are good or bad probably depends on your current state of mind but aged cheese contains tyramine which stimulates the brain and has even been known to cause migraines.
So there you have it, a bowl of cereal not looking so daft now is it?
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