Getting a good night’s sleep can boost mood, energy levels, physical health, and mental well-being. With so many benefits to staying rested, sleeplessness — especially common in seniors — can pose serious problems. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 48% of older adults exhibit signs of insomnia, compared to less than one-third of the general population.
While a healthy amount of sleep enables the body to fight off disease, symptoms of insomnia include an increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions, warns Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine. Daily exhaustion can also lead to irritability.
For seniors in particular, insomnia can aggravate symptoms of dementia and sundown syndrome, including confusion, depression, and anger, according to the National Institutes of Health. Minimize these risks and protect the health of your senior loved one by offering these recommended foods to eat before bed and throughout the day.
Wondering how to fall asleep fast? Reach for the fruit bowl. Not only are fruits a healthy, natural stand-in for sweet cravings, but many contain magnesium and potassium.
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Does magnesium help you sleep? The answer is a resounding “yes.” These foods that help you sleep calm the nervous system by regulating stress levels, making deep sleep easier to attain.
Complex carbohydrates promote sleep in a couple ways: by triggering natural chemical reactions involving amino acids and, in many cases, preventing blood sugar fluctuations that may interfere with rest.
Have you ever heard of the Thanksgiving “turkey coma?” You can attribute this sleepy sensation to an abundance of tryptophan, as well. Researchers at Purdue University found a strong connection between high-protein diets and high-quality sleep. Proteins like turkey are also considered melatonin foods because serotonin is used to make melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
Encourage your senior loved one to boost both their heart health and their serotonin levels with unsaturated fats. Note: Though sleep experts suggest health-conscious unsaturated fats before bed, they caution against saturated fats and trans fats, like pizza, french fries, and cake, which can enhance sleeplessness.
A glass of warm milk is a classic bedtime ritual for a reason, but it’s not the only beverage that eases the nervous system.
However, it’s best to introduce these remedies two hours before bed to limit late-night trips to the bathroom.
Just as some foods can stimulate sleepiness, there are many foods that keep you awake.
Families can take extra care by consulting a doctor or dietitian. While these foods to eat before bed can help most seniors, experts can account for more specific dietary concerns.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Study suggests what you eat can influence how you sleep.” https://aasm.org/study-suggests-that-what-you-eat-can-influence-how-you-sleep/
American College for Advancement in Medicine. “To Sleep or Not to Sleep.” https://www.acam.org/blogpost/1092863/ACAM-Integrative-Medicine-Blog?tag=magnesium
American Sleep Association. “New Study: Improved Sleep with Weight Loss and High-Protein Diet.” https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-health/new-study-improved-sleep-weight-loss-high-protein-diet/
Breus, Michael J. “4 Sleep Benefits of Gylcine.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201902/4-sleep-benefits-glycine
Hong et al. “Two combined amino acids promote sleep activity in caffeine-induced sleepless model systems.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5974066/
Patel et al. “Insomnia in the Elderly: A Review.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991956/
Kara Lewis is a content writer at A Place for Mom. She’s worked in writing, editing, and creative strategy for several years, most recently at Andrews McMeel Universal, Hallmark, and Gannett Media. Her writing has appeared in Bustle, Alma, and The Kansas City Star, among other outlets. She has won awards for digitally conscious journalism, investigative reporting, magazine writing, and poetry.