Contrary to the old adage, seniors don’t need less sleep than younger people.
The cleansing and rejuvenating power of quality rest is critical to everyone’s good health. However, seniors may find that there are more issues getting in the way of a good night’s sleep, including anxiety, pain and an increased need to urinate.
Here are some of the best ways to fight senior insomnia.
Getting Back On Track
Repairing your bedtime habits, monitoring your diet and getting a thorough physical examination are all good steps to take if you’re exhausted and can’t seem to get enough rest. While you schedule an appointment with your doctor, there are several items below that can help.
Start With Your Plate
As your body winds down at the end of the day, be sure to avoid any heavy foods. Whole foods containing tryptophan, such as milk at bedtime, can help you rest more quickly, your body can’t handle a heavy meal late at night. There is a connection between protein and insomnia.
Whenever possible, try to have your heaviest meal completed before 8 pm. After 8 pm, try to cut back on fluids to avoid having your rest quality challenged by your bladder.
If You Must Snack
Many medical conditions require us to eat something before bed to avoid blood sugar issues. If this is a concern, try a small serving of easy to digest carbs, like whole grain crackers, and a hard boiled egg for best nighttime protein and tryptophan. A small serving of a dark chocolate sleep aid may help you nod off, but be aware that chocolate can contain caffeine.
Many people find that alcohol relaxes them at night, but as a sleeping aid it’s not your best option. Alcohol can increase your risk of apnea, making it harder to breathe as you sleep. Additionally, some forms of alcoholic beverages may lead to more frequent urination. Finally, alcohol can be hard on your stomach and lead to reflux or abdominal pain.
Try Adding These Five Foods
Any of these foods will make a great addition to your dinner plate. If you’re having them as a snack, simply reduce the portion size.
- Cereal and milk: Tryptophan and carbs will help you nod off. Skip cereals with sugar or chocolate.
- Bananas are loaded with tryptophan and can reduce nighttime leg cramps
- Tart cherries contain melatonin and can help you rest longer
- Hummus, cheese or peanut butter on whole grain crackers will provide tryptophan and carbs to help you nod off
- Popcorn with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese also provides tryptophan and carbs, as well as fiber
Consider Small Meals
A large meal may make you feel sleepy, but the quality of your rest will be impacted by an over-full stomach. Additionally, if you drink alcohol with your large meal, you may deal with hyper acidity, reflux and other conditions that are both hard on your body and the quality of your rest.
Supplements and Medications
If chronic insomnia has plagued you for years, you may need more help to get a good night’s sleep. The natural sleep aide provided by cherries (as noted above) may make resting easier, and studies have shows that melatonin supplements can increase your quality of rest. However, you must discuss any supplementation with your physician, as this treatment may interact with other medications.
Benzodiazepines are a prescription medication that can help increase the quality of your rest. However, these are not a good option as a long term treatment as they can be habit-forming and the withdrawal can be dangerous. If your physician recommends benzodiazepines for chronic insomnia, be sure to understand there will be an end point with this medication and make plans to coordinate weaning off these drugs.
Lighten Your Load
A simple way to increase your chance of a good night of rest is to build a habit of winding down at the end of the day. Cut back on liquids after 8 pm. Try to have your supper finished by that time. Try not to go to bed with an overfull stomach.
Manage Light Exposure
Good bedtime habits start long before you go to bed. If you struggle to physically wind down at the end of the day, you may need to build a better night time hygiene pattern. Getting away from artificial light is a good first step to building a better nighttime routine.
A simple midnight sleeping aid may well be an ink and paper book. Another option is to break away from electric light when you start cutting back on water. Once you’re in your pajamas, try lighting a candle and taking it with you from room to room as you turn off electric light sources. Plug your phone into a charger that’s far from your bed so you aren’t tempted to expose yourself to light that will actually wake up your brain.
Stick To A Schedule
Once you retire, it may be tempting to destroy your alarm clock. However, if you capitalize on the option to stay up later than usual, nap a lot or sleep-in every day, your sleeping patterns may get scrambled.
Making changes in your daily activities and your eating schedule, as well as your eating habits, is perfectly acceptable if you approach these changes with a goal of setting and holding to new habits. If you find that your newer, more flexible schedule leaves you feeling exhausted, dietary changes can help you build a new bedtime pattern.
No matter what bedtime you’re trying to build, milk at bedtime is a good option. Eggs and cheese can also help, but for excellent sleep quality, the best nighttime protein should be coupled with a small serving of whole grain crackers or bread. If you need a midnight sleeping aid, avoid a chocolate sleep aid such as hot cocoa. The extra sugar and jolt of caffeine won’t help your new patterns of rest.
Dietary monitoring can give you plenty of clues about improving your sleep quality. Carbohydrate intake, the correlation between protein and insomnia and avoiding liquid intake after 8 pm can make it easier both to fall asleep and stay there.