Sleep problems are a common difficulty among seniors. Some have trouble getting to sleep, while others say they just can’t stay asleep.

Studies show these issues can be linked to a variety of health conditions ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure. However, sleep experts can have trouble determining if the senior’s health condition causes the sleep problems, or if the disrupted sleep cycles lead to health problems.

The Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania tackled the issue. Researchers there investigated potential influences on a senior’s ability to get a full night of quality sleep—one of which was a healthy diet.

Nutrition, Sleep, and Seniors

Researchers found an interesting potential relationship between nutrition and sleep among seniors. Their investigation seems to show that poor-quality sleep or a lack of sleep can affect the food choices we make. When we are feeling tired and weary, we are more likely to reach for comfort foods that aren’t very healthy. These poor nutritional choices make sleep problems even worse.

Here are more of their discoveries:

  • Lack of sleep increases the appetite for high-fat, high-carbohydraet “comfort foods.”
  • Too much sleep is also a problem. It leads to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits.
  • Hydration can also impact sleep. Not drinking enough water can lead to mild dehydration, which also disrupts the body’s sleep cycle.
  • Vitamin, mineral, and nutrient deficiencies might also play a role in sleep quality. Researchers found that adults who had short sleep durations also consumed low amounts of lycopene and vitamin C.
  • The hormone leptin is considered to be the body’s natural appetite suppressant. Researchers believe leptin sends the brain a “full” signal to stop eating. When participants in the study didn’t get enough sleep, they experienced lower levels of leptin.

Can Improving Diet Improve Sleep?

“We’ve all heard by now how important it is for our well-being to eat a healthy, balanced diet. But we’ve also heard just as frequently how important good sleep is for our overall health,” said Caitlin Rogers, Sunrise’s vice president of Dining & Nutrition Services.

“Now, the link between good sleep and good nutrition gives us extra motivation to make the right choices,” Rogers continued. “That can be easy to do by simply choosing items that are naturally high in both lycopene and vitamin C, like tomatoes, watermelon, and asparagus.”

Here are some more options that can help:

  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, fresh parsley, strawberries, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower are all high in vitamin C. You can easily add these foods to salads, soups, and smoothies.
  • Lycopene: Foods rich with lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, dried parsley, dried basil, chili powder, mango, guava, red cabbage, carrots, and grapefruit.
  • Lauric acid: This one is a little more difficult to work in to your diet. A few food choices high in lauric acid are coconut oil, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, milk, and palm kernel oil.

Sunrise Dining Program

Residents at Sunrise communities enjoy healthy and delicious meals every day. Our culinary teams use fresh, local ingredients to create a variety of dining options at every meal. Call today to schedule a time to join us for a meal at a community near you!

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