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Posted in Senior Wellness | January 2016

Sleep better naturally

sleep-better naturally

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep, but as we age it can become increasingly difficult to get the rest we crave and need to function properly during the day. Adults age 26 – 65 should be getting 7 – 9 hours of sleep, and those 65+ should aim for 7 – 8 hours1.

It’s tempting to reach for a sleeping pill if you’re not hitting that target, but before you opt for that quick chemical fix, consider looking at your diet to see if that could be contributing to your sleep woes. A poor diet can contribute to poor sleep.

According to Health.com, a varied diet of good-for-you foods is an important way to ensure a good night’s sleep. The reason is that there are four key nutrients found in certain healthy, whole foods that play a key role in regulating sleep: Lycopene, Selenium, Vitamin C and easily digested carbohydrates.

How can you get more of these vital nutrients into your body? Make sure you’re regularly eating foods that are rich in each of them:

Lycopene

  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Papaya
  • Watermelon

Selenium

  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Barley
  • Turkey
  • Nuts

Vitamin C

  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Citrus fruits
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Kale

Carbohydrates (those that are easily digestible may help you fall asleep faster if eaten about four hours before bed)

  • Cereal
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • White bread

You may also want to try a few other natural sleep remedies that might help you get the sleep you’ve been dreaming of.

Quiet your mind. Often no matter how tired we are and how much our bodies want to sleep, it’s our minds that won’t shut down. Prepare it for sleep by writing down any worries or concerns you have in a notebook by your bed. Tell yourself those worries are now safely stored and can be addressed in the morning since there’s nothing you can or should do about them in the middle of the night anyway. Once you’ve turned out the light, try relaxing breathing exercises like this one demonstrated by Dr. Weil, or the 5-4-3-2-1 relaxation technique  (it can also be used during the daytime if you’re feeling anxious and need to reduce your stress level).

Shorten that afternoon nap. Naps can be a very healthy way to allow our bodies to rest and relax during the day – and may even decrease your risk of heart disease2 – but if you find you’re having trouble getting to sleep at night, it could be that you’ve napped for a little too long. Healthy adults should aim for a 10 – 30 minute nap around 2:00pm or 3:00pm.3

Watch what you eat and drink before bed. A small but balanced, healthy snack like cereal with milk can help ensure that hunger doesn’t wake you up in the middle of the night, but avoid heavy, greasy or spicy food that may cause heartburn when you lay down. Make sure to limit your caffeine intake after lunch since it can stay in your system for 10 to 12 hours, and steer clear of alcohol before bed because it can interfere with your sleep cycle.4

Stick to a schedule. Going to sleep at roughly the same time every night – even on weekends – helps set your body’s internal alarm clock. If you do have a late night catch up on your sleep by having a short nap the next day and head to bed at your regular time that night.

It’s possible that a sleep disorder or medical condition is what’s disrupting your sleep, so if you are still struggling despite giving these natural suggestions a try, it’s worth paying a visit to your doctor to get checked out.

For more information and advice on getting a good night’s sleep visit HelpGuide.org.

SOURCES

1 http://www.prevention.com/health/sleep-energy/are-you-getting-enough-sleep-based-your-age

2 http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps?page=2

3 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/napping/art-20048319?pg=2

4 http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm

413187A CAN/US (01/16)

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