Did you know that the food your child eats can determine the quality of their sleep? I am not just talking about their last meal of the day, but what they eat ALL DAY long. Here are a few ways you can use nutrition to get your child the best sleep possible!
1. Stable Blood Sugar Levels
Keeping your child’s blood sugar curve as stable as possible throughout the day is essential for good sleep. All carbohydrates should be paired with protein and fat, to keep your child from hopping on a blood sugar rollercoaster. Limiting carbohydrates before bed can also prevent the spikes in blood sugar that make it difficult for a child to transition to sleep.
2. Avoid Sugar at all costs
Consuming sugary foods and refined starches can cause stress hormones to rise. When children consume sugar, their blood sugar levels increase dramatically, and drop significantly. Their little bodies work hard to re-stabilize their blood sugar and, in doing so, will release adrenaline, a stress hormone, which can cause children to experience restlessness.
Avoiding these foods is always a good idea, but they should specifically be avoided in the evening. Please reach out if you have any questions on how to keep your child’s blood sugar stable throughout the day.
Many studies have shown that increasing tryptophan in the diet can improve sleep. Tryptophan creates a sleepy effect, by increasing melatonin in the body, which regulates sleep cycles. Offering your child foods that contain high levels of tryptophan can be a sneaky way to increase their melatonin levels before bed. Some of these foods are cheese (cheddar and swiss), nuts, nut butters, bananas, green leafy veg, eggs and poultry.
4. Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium and magnesium have the power to calm the nervous system naturally, which can help your child fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Calcium can be found in all dairy products. It combines with tryptophan, to create melatonin (sleep-inducing hormone). Including foods in your child’s diet such as milk, cheese, yogurt and leafy green vegetables, will help your child produce the melatonin they need for a good night's rest.
Ensuring your child is getting enough magnesium can prevent them from waking up in the night. To avoid frequent wake ups, make sure to include nuts, whole grains, black beans and bananas, in your child’s diet.
5. Food Intolerances
Sometimes an unidentified food intolerance can cause your child to struggle with sleep. The most common food intolerances are wheat, soy, dairy, corn, eggs and nuts. If you suspect that a food intolerance may be the reason your child is having sleepless nights, then an elimination diet should be considered.
Remove all the common food intolerances from your child’s diet for 14 days, and take note if any sleep improvements were made. After the 14 days, you will reintroduce one of the foods to your child’s diet and determine if their sleep is impacted.
Getting the proper amount of sleep is so beneficial to your child’s physical, mental and emotional health and development. When it comes to sleep, Jane is the expert! And although nutrition has a role, there are many other factors that come into play. Just ask Jane!