The infant and toddler years are as active for parents as they are for children. Every day our little ones are learning more, growing more, and questioning more. During these years, a proper sleep routine is crucial. Many children, however, are struggling with sleep issues, whether not falling asleep quickly or experiencing night wakings. A child’s diet is just one of the many causes of improper sleep, but it certainly can be a significant factor. If your child is experiencing sleep issues, and you think it might be due to his diet, take a look at our expert tips and suggestions below.
Keep a Journal.
Start by tracking what food your child eats during the day, their behavior, and their sleep patterns. Over the course of a couple days, you will be able to start making correlations between their food and any sleeplessness.
When grocery shopping, a great way to eliminate foods that might be giving your child problems is to choose a wide variety of foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Go for the fresh vegetables, fish, meats, eggs and healthy fats, like almond butter. You will want to avoid frozen dinners, juices, and especially anything with added colors or preservatives. Often times cheese and yogurts, designed for kids (argh!), come with unwanted ingredients such as artificial colors and additives.
Try Breakfast for Dinner.
Foods with both protein and carbohydrates, like toast with natural peanut butter, will form amino acids that act like tryptophan (the chemical that makes you feel sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner). Other foods that are known to cause this effect include bananas, eggs, tuna, yogurt, cheese, and poultry. If you want to see those big yawns at bedtime, then serve your little one a variety of these foods.
Look for Foods Rich in Calcium & Magnesium.
By naturally calming the nervous system, calcium and magnesium can help toddlers fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Calcium is a key ingredient in dairy, leafy greens, oranges, almonds, and sesame seeds. Magnesium is mostly found in nuts and green vegetables. Try and include these foods in their daily diet. Warm milk is also a good choice as it contains both calcium and tryptophan.
Foods to Avoid.
In the same way that certain foods will get children ready for sleep, there are others that are known to prevent sleep. Sugary snacks and juices are bad news and should be avoided, especially in the evenings. When children consume sugar, their blood sugar levels will increase and then drop significantly. Their little bodies will work hard to re-stabilize their blood sugar and, in doing so, will release adrenaline, a stress hormone, which can cause toddlers to experience restlessness.
Rule out Food Intolerances.
If your child is still struggling with sleep, it could be the result of a food intolerance. The most common intolerances are wheat, soy, dairy, corn, eggs, nuts, and chocolate. You may want to consider doing an elimination diet, where you would remove all of these foods from your child’s diet for 10 to 14 days. You’ll also want to track if any improvements are made over these two weeks. Every four days, add one of the foods back to your child’s diet. This is an effective way to determine which food is triggering sleep and behavioral issues.
Check the Sleep Environment.
If your child is still experiencing some sleep difficulties, and you have ruled out a connection to certain foods, then it’s time to analyze your child’s sleep environment.
Make sure your child’s room is a comfortable temperature, and almost completely dark. Children also associate certain sleepwear with feelings of comfort, safety, and security as they head to bed. Medical studies have shown that babies sleeping in wool sleep wear settle more quickly, cry less, sleep longer, feed better and gain weight faster. Woolino products are an excellent option as they are made with the “magic of merino wool,” and the benefits are countless. Children who sleep longer and deeper will take that energy and channel it towards physical and emotional development.
If have additional questions and concerns in regard to changing your child’s diet, we suggest seeing a professional pediatric nutritionist who can provide additional resources on this topic.