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How Eating and Sleeping Patterns Change with Age

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How Eating and Sleeping Patterns Change with Age

Eating well and getting plenty of rest are important parts of a healthy lifestyle for residents in our Cambridge Court senior living community, but it can be challenging for older adults to achieve these goals as our bodies do change with age.

If you've noticed that you're waking more frequently at night or don't have as great an appetite as you once did, you may be experiencing common shifts in sleeping and eating patterns that develop over time.

Here's a look at some of the physical and emotional changes that can affect your eating and sleeping patterns.

Changes in the Way You Eat

It's normal to consume less food as you get older because of changes in metabolism, physical activity, smell, taste and oral health.

1. Need for Less Calories

As you get older, your metabolic rate slows to accommodate a decrease in physical activity. Your body demands fewer calories to fuel you through the day and your appetite may decrease.

Many residents enjoy participating in exercise programs at our assisted living community in Kearney, NE, but even if you're busy and active, you likely aren't expending the same energy as you did when you were younger. Make those calories count and consume nutritious foods, such as proteins, grains, vegetables and fruit.

2. Changes in Smell and Taste

Our brains are designed so that the delicious aroma of bread baking or a roast in the oven entices us to eat when we're hungry. As you get older, adjustments in the brain and nervous system can affect your senses.

If your sense of smell isn't as strong as it used to be or food tastes bland, you may experience less of a desire to eat.

3. Oral Health

People over the age of 65 tend to have higher rates of dental problems such as gum inflammation or disease, tooth loss and cavities. Difficulty chewing or problems with oral health can cause seniors to avoid certain foods that are hard to eat or swallow. Consult with your dentist if you're experiencing problems that prevent you from eating.

4. Medication and Illnesses

Many seniors manage health conditions by taking regular medication, but some of these may cause side effects including a dry mouth. A lack of saliva makes it hard to chew food and swallow, which can impact how much you eat. Be sure to drink water with your meal and speak to your doctor if you're having difficulty eating.

5. Other Factors

Many seniors may find that cooking is inconvenient or that dining alone affects their desire to eat, but a nutritious diet with a variety of foods is important to maintain weight, health and strength.

Residents at Cambridge Court enjoy the convenience of restaurant-style dining with healthy menu options. Sharing a meal with others in our senior community in Kearney makes eating an easier, more pleasurable activity.

Changes in the Way You Sleep

If you find that you sleep more lightly or have trouble staying asleep, you're not alone. Adults over the age of 18 should get about seven hours of sleep per night, but many seniors find that their quality of sleep decreases as they get older.

According to Cleveland Clinic, more than 50% of adults over the age of 65 experience at least one sleep problem. Here are some changes you may experience.

1. Difficulty Falling Asleep

Changes in neurological receptors in the brain as you get older make it harder for your body to sense when you're tired. You may find that even though you feel sleepy, you're tossing and turning under the covers.

Chronic illnesses or pain and discomfort from conditions such as heartburn or arthritis can also make it hard for you to fall asleep.

2. Disrupted Sleep

Our bodies go through four stages of sleep during the night, moving from wakefulness to light and deep sleep. Seniors spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep. It's not uncommon to wake an average of three or four times per night, whether you're getting up to use the bathroom or waking for no reason at all.

You may also have side effects from medication that cause wakefulness and impact the quality of your sleep.

3. Less Restorative Sleep

The most restorative period of sleep typically occurs in the first half of the night, but because older adults spend less time in this stage of sleep, they're less likely to wake up feeling refreshed. Emotional stress and anxiety from changes occurring in this stage of your life can also affect the quality of your sleep.

Because of this fragmented sleep, you may be more tired during the day and need a nap to re-energize.

Making Sure You Eat and Sleep Well

Changes to your eating and sleeping patterns are natural as you age. If you're aware of these shifts, you can take steps to ensure you're still eating well and getting enough rest for optimal health.

  • If you find your appetite is changing, ensure that you make your calories count and choose healthy, nutritious foods when you do eat.
  • Try to limit your napping and establish a schedule to help your body know when it's time to sleep and wake up. Get plenty of exercise and get fresh air during the day to help you sleep better at night.

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