YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. AND PART OF THIS IS SLEEP:
We won't dwell on the no-no's of sugar here, suffice to say, if you have an energetic child, it's worth avoiding sugar (or anything else on the high-glycemic scale) in the afternoon or at night. This Nutrition page is more about offering ideas into what foods can help with getting to sleep and staying asleep. And our resident nutrition expert, Dawn Lerman, has tried out many on her kids. So here's her 'from the coal face' point of view.
THE 'WAKEY' FOODS
For any kind of sleep issue, caffeine-containing foods like soda and chocolate should be avoided completely. Sugary foods are a no-go too. Usually kids aren't spicy food eaters like their parents, so that shouldn't be the sleep issue as it can be with adults.
FOOD INTOLERABLE food
Certain food intolerances can interfere with a restful sleep. So it may be wise to determine if that is the cause. Always consult your doctor if you think this is an issue. The most common intolerances are dairy, wheat, soy, corn, eggs, chocolate and nuts.
THE 'SLEEPY' FOODS
Few discussions on sleep don't include the name serotonin. This is a brain chemical and neurotransmitter of feelings of relaxation and well-being, excellent for sleep. Serotonin is created from the amino acid L-tryptophan, and because it can't be made in the body, it must be in our diets. Good sources of tryptophan are: nuts (almonds are great), seeds, tofu, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, milk, cheese, and eggs. For good sleep, a small carbohydrate snack at bedtime will help make the tryptophan more available to the brain. This could be a third of a bagel with honey, or a few handfuls of air-popped popcorn.
CALCIUM AND MAGNESIUM
Foods that are rich in calcuim and magnesium are also helpful for improving sleep; these minerals help calm the nervous system. Calcium can be found in dairy, almonds, sesame seeds, leafy greens, oranges and sardines. Magnesium can be found in seeds, nuts, and green vegetables. Include these foods in their diet.
Sometimes I used a bedtime snack to get my kids to sleep through the night. If your young one is waking very early, try giving them a snack for a week and see what happens. You can try: pumpkin seeds and almonds, pineapple, banana or cherries (all good low calorie complex carbohydrates: and cherries have the highest concentration of naturally occuring melatonin), and kiwi fruit (linked to longer sleep time in problem sleepers).