Have you ever wondered why aging adults tend to sleep and wake up at earlier times? As a loved one ages, they often experience changes in sleeping patterns — which is completely normal. However, if they’re waking up tired each day and experiencing fatigue, they may be suffering from insomnia.

Insomnia not only affects physical health but also concentration, memory formation and immune system. Elderly adults who aren’t getting enough sleep often run the risk of memory loss, depression and cardiovascular disease down the road.

And while some of the leading causes of insomnia include health problems like acid reflux, arthritis and chronic pain, there are other ways to help improve sleep for seniors. Factors stress, physical activity and nutrition are all areas that can be improved — helping and even preventing insomnia altogether for your loved one.

3 Habits to Improve Sleep for Seniors

Consult with the family doctor.

Medical conditions and the side effects of certain medications can make it difficult sleeping. If your loved one is lacking rest on a consistent basis, it’s time to pay a visit to the doctor. With knowledge of their current medications and dietary restrictions, the doctor is able to provide more specific (and effective) recommendations. If the problem persists, most than likely they’ll refer you to a trusted specialist.

Set a designated sleep schedule.

If your senior has a regular bedtime and waking time, it’ll promote alertness throughout the day because of an established circadian rhythm. If possible, have your loved one avoid naps in the daytime — which may trigger insomnia later that night. Also, we recommend only using the bedroom for sleep. If your loved one enjoys reading or watching TV in bed, their body may be associating the space with mental activity.

Take part in regular exercise.

Exercising is a wonderful tool for promoting sleep — even if it’s just some light stretching. But avoid exercising too close to bedtime, though, as it can cause a rise in endorphins and body temperature.

5 Nutrition Tips to Help Improve Sleep for Seniors

1. Limit caffeine intake.

Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with your sleeping patterns. If your loved one must have their tea or coffee, have them decide a cut-off time — that way it’ll wear off by the time they go to sleep.

2. Develop a diet based around nutrient-rich foods.

Fruits contain thousands of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Potassium and magnesium-rich foods like apples, apricots and peaches help promote muscle relaxation while cherries are a great resource of melatonin. 

3. Incorporate complex carbs.

As we mentioned above, minerals like potassium and magnesium are great for soothing the body while supporting a healthy immune system. We also recommend your senior opting for snacks that incorporate complex carbs, fiber and calcium. Some of our favorite picks include oatmeal, popcorn, cereal or crackers with nut butter.

4. Don’t forget about lean proteins.

Since tryptophan increases serotonin levels, it’s important to incorporate in a variety of ways – with one being lean protein. Have your loved one avoid food that’s high in fat or deep-fried. Our team highly recommends peanut butter with banana, whole grain toast with egg for breakfast or something like turkey or fish during meals.

5. Opt for heart-healthy fats.

Though we advise staying away from saturated and trans fats, heart-healthy fats are a different thing entirely. They have the ability to boost your heart health and improve your vitamin levels. Some of these healthy fats may include avocado, nuts – or even replacing butter for olive or coconut oil when cooking.

Medical conditions and illness may be out of our hands sometimes, but don’t let that stop you and your loved one from making strides towards good health. We hope you enjoyed these 8 ways to help improve sleep for seniors. If you have any questions or would like some more information about our programs, reach out to us at (405) 360-2400.