Two senior women drinking tea during the afternoon

14 Surprising Foods to Help Seniors Fall Asleep

Sleep is one of the most important things you need for a healthy life. In fact, sleeping less than seven hours each night increases your risk of health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Getting quality, uninterrupted sleep boosts your immune system, gives you more energy and reduces your stress levels. However, even though the benefits of good sleep are well known, the CDC reports that one in three adults don’t get enough sleep at night.

To make things even more challenging, sleeping well is harder to do as we get older. Jack Gardner, MD, explains on WebMD that insomnia is more common in mature adults due to a variety of issues linked to health, stress and the use of medications.

Though the problem of poor sleep is common, there are many things you can do to sleep more soundly. Practicing good sleep hygiene should be the first step. Establish a good nighttime routine and stay consistent with it. Cut out all screen time an hour before bed and move the TV out of your bedroom. Go to sleep at the same time every night after winding down with a soothing activity. Exercising regularly can also relieve the symptoms of insomnia and help you sleep better at night.

Foods to Help You Sleep

After establishing a healthy lifestyle, you can go even further and add sleep-friendly foods to your diet. Nature provides many nutrients that can help your body regulate sleep. In truth, one could write a book on all of the foods out there that can help you achieve this goal. Here are just a few of the elements that work together to promote sound sleep:

  • Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body turns into niacin or vitamin B3. Niacin creates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which promotes healthy melatonin levels.
  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle to make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. It occurs naturally in your body but can also be found in many common foods.
  • Carbohydrates help your body release insulin, which helps tryptophan easily enter your brain and raises the levels of the hormone serotonin in your body
  • Calcium is a valuable nutrient that doesn’t just help you regulate muscle movements, but it also helps the brain use tryptophan
  • Vitamin B6 also helps your body make serotonin and melatonin
  • Magnesium is another mineral that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. If you’re low on magnesium, it will be harder to stay asleep at night. Studies show that over 50% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Active adults need to make sure that these levels stay high enough through supplements and natural food intake.
  • Other foods contain natural sedatives like glycine and lactucarium that can make you feel pleasantly drowsy

As you can see, different naturally occurring components in food work together to help you sleep better. Here are 14 foods that you can snack on before bed to improve the quality of your sleep.

#1: Oats

Whole oats are a natural source of melatonin, which makes oatmeal a great bedtime snack! While you can find this nutritious grain in many types of cereal and bread, make sure to check ingredients and stay away from refined sugars before bed, as it can hinder your sound sleep. This type of sugar is found in many sugary drinks, canned fruits, sauces, breakfast cereals and even some white breads.

#2: Cherries

This tasty fruit is high in melatonin as well. A 2010 study on tart cherry juice revealed that regularly drinking cherry juice or eating raw cherries can help regulate sleep cycles and diminish the symptoms of insomnia.

#3: Grapes

A 2017 study found that melatonin isn’t just present in grapes, but it’s also in their byproducts like grape juice and grape vinegar. However, though melatonin is present in red and white wine, the alcoholic content offsets its melatonin-rich contents.

#4: Poultry

Turkey isn’t the only bird that contains tryptophan. All poultry contains this valuable amino acid to some extent. To promote good sleep, try having some rotisserie chicken or duck for dinner!

#5: Nuts

Nuts contain a variety of wonderful nutrients that can help you sleep easier. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds contain high levels of tryptophan. Almonds also contain magnesium, which supports your sleep-wake cycle. Pistachios contain vitamin B6, which boost melatonin and serotonin production.

#6: Dairy Products

Many dairy products contain tryptophan, which means milk can be a great bedtime drink. Milk also contains calcium that helps your body process tryptophan and melatonin — a win-win situation!

#7: Eggs

A dozen eggs are handy to have in your fridge at all times. They aren’t just great sources of affordable protein, but they’re also rich in tryptophan!

#8: Bananas

A banana is a wonderful food to help support a good night’s sleep. They contain the mineral potassium, which can help you sleep more deeply. Bananas also contain tryptophan and magnesium that help regulate your sleep cycle and trigger the feeling of sleepiness.

#9: Whole Grain Bread

Whole grains, which can be found in a variety of delicious forms at your local bakery and supermarket, help your body produce insulin. Insulin clears your blood of other competing amino acids, leaving tryptophan uncontested to reach your brain and help you feel ready for bed.

#10: Chickpeas

Grab the hummus! Chickpeas contain vitamin B6, which helps your body produce serotonin. Not only does this hormone help you feel happier, but it triggers the production of more melatonin.

#11: Fish

Seafood such as halibut, salmon and tuna are rich sources of vitamin B6 that will boost your body’s production of sleep-inducing hormones melatonin and serotonin.

#12: Garlic

Nature’s wonder food never seems to run out of uses. Aside from being antiviral and antibacterial, garlic is high in vitamin B6 and can help boost your melatonin levels. You can get most of its benefits by eating it raw, or you can incorporate it into your dinner as some extra seasoning.

#13: Lettuce

There are more nutrients at work as you delve deeper into the world of sleep-inducing foods. A fresh salad at dinner can also help you get some shut-eye. Various species of lettuce contains lactucarium near the base of its stems, which is both a pain reliever and sedative.

#14: Chamomile Tea

A warm cup of chamomile tea isn’t just a soothing drink, but it’s also known as a natural tranquilizer. In addition, chamomile contains the antioxidant apigenin, which works with your brain to reduce anxiety and make you feel sleepy. This beverage can also raise your body’s glycine levels. Glycine relaxes your muscles and has mild sedative properties. Make the tea even more beneficial by adding a spoonful of honey, which has natural sugars that help tryptophan enter your brain.

Pursue Total Health at Homestead

At Homestead at Hamilton, we offer residents a lifestyle that sets them up for great sleep. Not only do we have a fitness center and recreational programs for physical and social wellness, but we also offer anytime dining. Our restaurant-style menus are always adding something new and fresh to offer the best in daily nutrition. Live your life to the fullest and eat great meals every day of the week with friends at Homestead at Hamilton! Contact us for more information today.

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