As with so many aspects of aging, it’s easy to blame our poor sleep patterns on our bodies. I reality, there are plenty of simple things we can do to sleep better after 60. In this article, I’ll explain how what you eat in the hours before bed may be keeping you up at night.

Why Do Older Adults Have Trouble Sleeping? What Can We Do About it?

As we get a little older, our bodies have trouble producing melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” which can impact our sleep. In addition, the everyday aches and pains that occur in life after 60 have a tendency to keep us awake at night.

At the same time, just because we are getting older doesn’t mean that we should accept our bad sleep lying down. There are still plenty of things that we can do to improve our sleep patterns, from getting more exercise to spending more time in the sun to improving our diet.

Here are a few simple changes that you can make to your diet to sleep better every night.

Avoid Foods that Are High in Fat, Especially Processed Foods

In many cultures, dinner is the largest meal of the day. This may be ok, if you love fish and vegetables. But, if you tend to reach for a burger and fries, in the hours before bed, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. The truth is that eating fatty foods before bed can disrupt your sleep. This is just one more reason to make dinner your healthiest meal of the day!

If you find that you are getting peckish before bed, author Tim Ferriss recommends having a small snack, such as celery with almond butter, nuts or plain yogurt. Just make sure that you don’t overdo it.

How to Sleep Better - Avoid Foods that Are High in Fat, Especially Processed Foods

Watch for Caffeine in All Forms

Everyone knows that it’s a bad idea to drink coffee right before bed. But, did you ever think about the other sources of caffeine that may be keeping you awake? For example, black tea can have as much caffeine as coffee, depending on the types of each that you are comparing.

Sodas, such as Coca Cola also have a ton of caffeine and sugar, making them horrible evening drinks. Even dark chocolate, which can be good for you in other contexts, can keep you up at night.

How to Sleep Better - Watch for Caffeine in All Forms

Stay Away from Too Much Alcohol

Talking with the women in our community, I know that many of us enjoy a glass of wine before bed. Many of us even justify our drinking by telling our selves that the resveratrol in red wine is good for our hearts. Well, that may be the case, but, the more you drink, the less your chances of having a restful night’s sleep.


It feels like alcohol “knocks us out.” Unfortunately, in addition to the damage that drinking can do to our bodies and brains, alcohol can also prevent us experiencing the full benefits of sleep.


This is an especially important issue for older adults, because, as we age, our bodies do not process alcohol as efficiently. This means that our “limits” tend to be lower than they used to be.

Now, I’m not saying that you should avoid having a small glass of wine with dinner. We’re all adults here. But, at the same time, all of us should watch what we drink and make sure that our “occasional glass of wine” doesn’t become a 2 or 3 glass-a-night habit.

Also, if you do want to have a glass of wine, it may make more sense to have it earlier in the evening, rather than right before you go to bed. This will give your body more time to metabolize the alcohol before it starts to slow down for the night.

How to Sleep Better - Stay Away from Too Much Alcohol

Be Extra Careful with Non-Prescription Medications

No matter how hard we try to stay in shape, small aches and pains are a part of life after 60. As a result, many of us feel like we need to self-medicate to feel good. It’s important to remember that just because something is a “medicine” doesn’t mean that it is good for you in every way. It may help to reduce some of your specific symptoms, while making others worse.

For example, did you know that many over-the-counter pain-killers, weight loss pills and other medicines are packed with caffeine?

Obviously nothing in this article should be considered medical advice, and you should talk with your doctor about all of your medications, even those that you buy yourself at the pharmacy. At the same time, we should all recognize that medicines are powerful and may have unpleasant side effects – even if we don’t notice them directly.

How to Sleep Better - Be Extra Careful with Non-Prescription Medications

Stop Smoking Before Bed

By this point, we all know that smoking is bad for us. Even if you are over 60, you can still reduce your chances of getting a smoking related illness if you quit. But, if you are a smoker, despite the risks, there is an additional reason not to smoke before bed – nicotine is a stimulant.

It may feel like you are relaxing when you step out onto your porch for one last smoke. But, in reality, you may be interfering with your sleep. This perpetuates a negative loop. Without the healing effects of sleep, you may become more stressed, which may make you more dependent on your cigarettes.

How to Sleep Better - Stop Smoking Before Bed

Put Protein Aside for Another Day

Protein is another confusing food from a sleep perspective. It may feel like a “good hearty meal” puts you in the mood to sleep. In reality, protein can be hard to digest. So, it may be worth eating a bit earlier to give your system time to digest your favorite steak.

How to Sleep Better - Put Protein Aside for Another Day

There is no denying that our sleep patterns change as we get older. That said, we still have more control than we think. We can commit ourselves to staying healthy. We can get out into the natural light. As discussed in this article, we can also “first do no harm,” by eliminating foods that have a tendency to disrupt our sleep.

What foods do you avoid before bed? Have you found that your sleep patterns have changed as you have gotten older? What sleep tricks have worked for you? Please join the conversation.

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