Sleep is of vital importance to our health and as we age it becomes even more crucial. Oddly enough, many Canadians today are still holding on to the belief that we don’t need as much sleep when we get older. This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to an article on WebMD, seniors need to get just as much sleep as adults 30 or 40 years younger.
Even though seniors should be sleeping similar hours to younger adults, this is often not the case. Many seniors find themselves restless during the night or waking up far too early too often. These sleep habits, coupled with the common ailment of insomnia, make getting a great night’s sleep very challenging in old age. Luckily for seniors, there are a number of dietary changes that can be made to help aid your sleep habits and get the restful sleep you need.
Natural and nutritional solutions are available to you and can be implemented into your day-to-day life with ease. This week, we’re looking at the super foods that can help you get the balanced and restful nights’ sleep you need.
The Brain’s Chemicals You’re Looking to Boost
If you want a restful sleep, you’re going to want to boost the three main substances that promote good sleep habits; Tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin. These three work together to help regulate your body’s sleep patterns. The tryptophan found in certain foods converts into serotonin once it reaches the brain which eventually changes to become the most important substance, melatonin, the sleep chemical.
Certain foods can help boost your body’s production of melatonin, a natural hormone made by your pineal gland just above the middle of your brain. By changing your diet to include these foods you are effectively making it easier for your body to fall asleep and wake up more refreshed.
Super-Powered Sleep Fruits
You don’t have to go too far into the reaches of more exotic and obscure fruits to help your sleep habits. Many of the super-powered sleep fruits are fairly common, with bananas and pineapples being two of the best. The natural magnesium and vitamin B6 found in a banana helps to produce the serotonin in your body that eventually turns into melatonin. Bananas also come with their fair share of tryptophan which can promote muscle relaxation and help you get to sleep.
Pineapples and oranges are great alternatives if you aren’t a fan of bananas. Both fruits help your body produce melatonin and can easily be a great addition to your meals or snacks during the week. The calcium and B vitamins in oranges are especially helpful as they help strengthen your bones and provide you with valuable antioxidants that can protect your cells from various diseases like cancer.
Finally, if those options aren’t your favourite, you can turn to another melatonin powerhouse, cherries. People often cite that some tart cherry juice before bed is particularly effective in helping your body relax and drift off to sleep. Cherries can be added to anyone’s diet simply by being made into smoothies, ice cream, or even just added to savory dishes for dinner time.
Proteins and Complex Carbs Can Be Useful Too
If you’re looking for simple carbohydrate solutions to getting a good night’s sleep, then look to oatmeal, cereal, high-fiber popcorn, and even whole-wheat crackers. Not only are these options great to help boost tryptophan, they also add plenty of calcium, magnesium, and other beneficial nutrients that promote a healthy body that can easily get to sleep and stay asleep.
Lean proteins can be just as effective with high amounts of tryptophan to increase serotonin levels. Instead of eating excess amounts of turkey or other meats, there are healthy alternatives available. Instead of just eating meat, have apples or another fruit with peanut butter, boiled eggs, or even cheese and crackers. Prepare these small snacks an hour or two before bed to help your body easily fall asleep.
Do You Want to Sleep Better? Then Avoid These…
First and foremost, avoid anything with caffeine. If you need to have a coffee or other caffeinated beverage try to have it several hours before bed. What’s also important is limiting foods that are hard to digest or are irritable on the digestive system. Foods that are spicy or greasy or just too much protein before bed can cause a strain on your system disturbing your sleep patterns.
Finally, try not to turn to pills or alcohol to help you sleep. These will never solve your sleeping problem and tend to only offer short term solutions. Also, extended use can lead to dependency which can have severe adverse effects on your body. Before you turn to any form of sleeping pill or medication, contact your doctor and he or she will recommend what medication is best and how to go about taking it.