Eat Right, Sleep Tight??
Most of us have heard that we need less sleep as we age. So when older people spend hours awake in the middle of night or wake before the sun comes up, they tend to accept it as a normal part of ageing. I know I approach sleep as the enemy, something to be conquered.
But do you actually need less sleep as you get older? Most research says we need as much sleep as a twenty year old. What does control our sleep? Your “body clock”, which is actually the circadian centres in your brain, dictates your propensity to sleepiness and wakefulness across day and night. These centres are generally influenced by light and darkness, but can also be affected by other aspects of your daily routine, such as what you eat.
Our body clock also controls the production of a hormone called melatonin, which promotes sleep. As you grow older we produce less of this hormone, which may make it more difficult for you to sleep. Certain foods can produce melatonin.
Snack foods that can promote better sleep.
But even though difficulty sleeping may be a part of aging, that does not mean men and women over 50 cannot take steps to improve their sleeping patterns. For example, certain snack foods may help to improve quality of sleep, especially when these foods replace less healthy snacking options. While men and women over 50 should always consult with their physicians before making any changes to their diets, AARP notes that the following are a handful of snack foods that promote better sleep.
- Almonds: Magnesium is a mineral with muscle-relaxing properties, and almonds contain enough magnesium to help men and women get a better night’s sleep. A small amount of almonds before bed might be enough to make falling and staying asleep easier.
- Bananas: Much like almonds, bananas provide a substantial amount of magnesium. Bananas also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which many people associate with Thanksgiving turkey. While tryptophan might be most often associated with the sleepiness people feel after eating a holiday meal, it also has been linked to better sleep quality, so a banana shortly before bed might be just what you need to fall and stay asleep.
- Cheese and crackers: One more traditional snack may just help you get a better night’s sleep. Cheese and crackers contain tryptophan and carbohydrates, which can induce a better night’s sleep and help you fall asleep sooner.
- Cherries: Cherries contain the sleep hormone melatonin, and the AARP notes that recent studies indicated that participants who drank tart cherry juice on a daily basis fell asleep more quickly and slept longer and better than participants who did not.
- Hummus: The primary ingredient in hummus is chickpeas, which are loaded with tryptophan, folate and vitamin B6. Folate has proven especially beneficial to older men and women who need help regulating their sleep patterns, while vitamin B6 helps the body regulate its clock.
- Peanut butter: Peanut butter is another snacking item loaded with tryptophan. Spread some peanut butter on a carbohydrate, whether it’s a slice of toast or some crackers, before going to bed, and you may enjoy a better, longer sleep.
- Walnuts: Like cherries, walnuts contain melatonin, which can contribute to a longer, more restful night’s sleep. Walnuts also can help regulate stress, which is a leading cause of sleeping difficulty.
Many men and women experience difficulty sleeping as they age. But the right foods may just help combat such problems and help men and women get a more adequate night’s sleep. I’m willing to try! Let me know if you have success sleeping better by eating right at night.