Over the past few years researchers have linked a lack of sleep to a variety of health problems ranging from an irregular heartbeat to strokes, high blood pressure and diabetes. For many seniors and for those living with a disability, however, problems getting a good night’s sleep are all too common. A study from the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at University of Pennsylvania looked at many factors that influence sleep. Among them were dietary choices.

What they found was an interesting link between sleep duration and nutrition:

  • Shorter sleep duration increased the subject’s appetite for high fat, high carbohydrate foods.
  • Subjects in the study who slept too long were more sedentary and developed less healthy eating patterns.
  • Levels of leptin, a hormone believed to be responsible for sending your brain a “full” signal, are reduced when participants didn’t get enough sleep. At the same time, levels of the body’s natural appetite stimulant ghrelin, increased.
  • People who had short sleep durations also consumed the lowest amounts of lycopene and vitamin C.
  • Diets rich in Lauric acid, found in coconut oil, are associated with healthy cholesterol levels. That in turn is linked to a healthy cardiovascular system.
  • Tap water and hydration were important to getting a full night’s rest.

What does all of this mean for older adults or those living with a disability who are trying to get the right amount of Zzzz’s?

Researchers agreed that paying special attention to foods rich in vitamin C, Lauric acid, and lycopene could help improve the quality and duration of sleep. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

Foods rich in vitamin C:

parsley, broccoli, bell pepper, strawberries, oranges, kale, papaya, cauliflower and Brussels sprout

Foods rich in Lauric acid:

coconut oil, cinnamon oil, milk, and palm kernel oil

Foods rich in lycopene:

tomatoes, dried parsley, dried basil, guava, grapefruit, watermelon, asparagus, chili powder and red cabbage

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