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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

Foods That Are Ruining Your Senior's Sleep

Sleep. Some of us get plenty of it, some don't. We do all know that the amount of sleep you get affects your mental health, focus, physical health and your overall well-being. This need for sleep increases as you get older, but some seniors have a very hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. If they go a prolonged amount of time without a decent night's rest, it can have a major impact on the overall wellness of your health.

“Later in life there tends to be a decrease in the number of hours slept,” Dr. Karen Carlson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of Women’s Health Associates at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained. “There are also some changes in the way the body regulates circadian rhythms.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, food and sleepiness are interconnected more than you may think. Certain amino acids in foods can cause sleepiness or alertness, so it is important that your aging loved one eats balanced meals that won’t slow them down or cause them to become jittery during certain times of the day.

Here are some foods to avoid if your senior needs some extra sleep:

1. Tomatoes

Weird, right? As non-controversial as these vegetables (or fruits?) are, according to AARP, they are packed with tyramine, which is actually a chemical used in common energy drinks. Tyramine is an amino acid that tells the brain to release norepinephrine, which is common for triggering high brain activity. While tomatoes are not bad for you, try to encourage your senior to enjoy them in the morning so they can get a good night's sleep.

2. Fatty Foods

In a perfect world, these wouldn't be a thing for anyone, but c'mon, there's nothing like a juicy cheeseburger, fries and pizza. These are some of our favorite comfort foods, but unfortunately, they don't do anything good for us. Seniors should be limiting this kind of food anyway to avoid weight issues, but if they do decide to eat the burger, try to do it in the early afternoon. Fried foods have a very high fat content, and the body has a harder time digesting it. This can cause an upset stomach, gas, and discomfort as your senior is trying to sleep.

3. Alcohol or Caffeine

I feel like this one is kind of a given, but if you enjoy these drinks, try to find the decaffeinated version. Consuming drinks that are meant to keep people awake probably isn't the best thing to have before bed. Also, did you know that chocolate has a high caffeine content in it? Sorry to all you chocolate lovers out there...

4. Foods with High Water Content

Although your doctor recommends you to eat your fruits and vegetables, try to avoid the ones with a high water content (celery, cucumbers, watermelon...). Why you ask? Because they are mostly water, this will cause your senior's bladder to fill up faster, causing them to have to use the restroom in the middle of the night and disrupting their sleep.

5. Spicy Food

Spicy food is notorious for causing heartburn, but did you know that it can also impact your sleep? Food that contains a significant amount of spice and heat can actually raise your core body temperature, making it difficult to get into a comfortable sleeping position due to the temperature. If your senior loves spicy foods, the best time to eat it is in the early afternoon so your body has time to cool down.

Considering we spend one-third of our lives sleeping, encourage these adjustments to your senior's diets to make sure they are enjoying their slumber.

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