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Nutritional Advice to Help Your Children Sleep

by Tina Goldsmith 29/04/2020
mum and toddler with drink in snuggle sac

It’s a stressful time and if you are not getting enough sleep, it only adds to the anxiety. We thought it might be helpful to share some advice from nutritionist Hannah Bailey on how elements of our diet can affect our children’s sleep.

Why is nutrition so important?

“Nutrition is vital for our health not only now but also in the future. What children eat affects their health, growth and development, but also affects their disease risk in the future.”

Can what we eat really impact on our sleep?

“The short answer is yes! The food we eat has an impact on every function and process in the body, sleep included. If our bodies are lacking nutrients or we’re hungry because of blood sugar dipping then regular night waking is also likely to happen.”

What are the things we should avoid to help children to sleep better?

“Essentially, any processed food in particular sugary foods such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate etc. Also, some foods contain artificial colours or ingredients which can affect children and make it harder for them to fall asleep. Lots of children’s products are full of artificial ingredients and colours to make them more appealing. Older children may be starting to drink caffeine which can have a huge effect on falling asleep and quality of sleep too.”

What is your favourite sleepy food recipe?

“No-sugar banana pancakes- quite simply 1 banana mixed with 2 eggs and fried in a little coconut oil. Everything to help a child sleep – and so simple.”

What foods can help sleep?

“Chicken and turkey, green leafy vegetables, bananas, foods such as sweet potato and brown rice which will keep blood sugar more stable. Essentially anything that is a whole food or not processed. Foods which contain plenty of protein and fat will help keep children’s blood sugars stable and also fill them up more so a glass of full fat milk and a banana before bed can be a good thing. A small amount of carbohydrate (not from a sugary source) can also help them drift off to sleep.”

Can drinks impact on sleep quality?  

“Yes, definitely! I recommend that children only drink water or milk anyway but squashes, fruit juices and fizzy drinks can all affect sleep quality because of the sugar or artificial sweeteners. There’s now evidence suggesting the body views them in the same way it does sugar so will have the same effect on blood sugar and the brain. It’s worth checking for caffeine in drinks such as hot chocolate too as chocolate is a natural source of caffeine.”

What is your top tip for parents who want to make changes to their children’s diet?

“My top tip would be to cut out the processed and junk food and whatever you decide to do, be consistent. Some resistance to changes is normal and often children will test the boundaries however, if they’re offered a wide range of foods on a regular basis, they will start to eat them. For some families, making one change at a time works best so do what works for you and your family.”

Hannah works with The Children’s Sleep Charity as their dietary specialist. Visit her website Wise Choice Nutrition for more great tips.

Give nutritionally-balanced kids a cosy bedtime gift: Snuggle Sacs are currently 30% off with free shipping to UK addresses.