Diet and a Good Night's Sleep

Your child's diet might just be the key to putting those wide-awake nights behind you
By Hannah Kaye

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Having a child that sleeps through the night seems to have become a reflection of good parenting. Admitting to a group of moms that night-time crying or the pitter-patter of little footsteps towards your bedroom in the early hours of the morning frequently occur in your home, can make you feel like a failure. Especially if they’re looking bright eyed after another eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
 
You may be asking yourself what you’re doing wrong. You’ve read the books; you’ve established a regular sleep routine; you’ve tried controlled crying, and co-sleeping. Yet sleep, or lack thereof, continues to be a major problem.
 
“People often ask me if Maya (age three), is a good sleeper,” says her mom, Dani Bergman. “For many months I used to laugh and say no, but she’s a great eater. After seeing a nutritional therapist, I learnt how I could use Maya’s strength to play into her weakness. Making some dietary changes has had a remarkable effect on her sleeping patterns, and I can honestly say she is now sleeping through the night  just in time for the arrival of our next baby.”
 
Perhaps, as was true for Maya, the answer might lie in your child’s diet. But where to begin? Even subtle changes can make a difference. Here are some suggestions:
 
Keep a food and sleep diary. Analysing this information may help you find some patterns in your child’s sleeping habits. Once you identify them, you may be able to find a solution.
 
Cut out over-stimulating foods. It’s best not to give children food and drink that contain caffeine, such as hot chocolate, tea, cola and chocolate desserts. Even caffeine early in the day can disrupt your child’s sleep cycle. Foods containing tyramine, a brain stimulant, should be avoided close to bedtime. These include tomatoes, bacon, cheese, potato, chocolate, sugar, sausages and Marmite.
 
Investigate healthier options. Reduce your family’s intake of refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cakes and crisps. Swapping to complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta, oat or millet porridge, buckwheat pancakes and pulses will help to stabilise blood-sugar levels. (Low blood sugar is often the cause of the 3am wake-up, the result of too much glucose being taken out of the blood after a highly refined meal. This drop in the blood-sugar level, following the initial high, leads to the early morning wake-up call.) These carbohydrates, which include fruit and vegetables, are much higher in minerals like calcium and magnesium, which have calming properties.
 
Read food labels. Get into the habit of examining the ingredients of the things you buy. Additives and preservatives are highly stimulatory. For example, tartrazine and MSG are both excitotoxins and will disrupt sleep.
 
Try an exclusion diet. Continual waking and crying at night can be manifestations of food intolerances. The removal of dairy or wheat could bring your family long-awaited relief within a few weeks. Low-grade inflammation associated with wheat and dairy intolerances initiates a stimulatory process, affecting neurotransmitters involved in sleep. Other possible clues to food intolerance can include a regular sore tummy, ear infections and a constant runny nose.
 
Perhaps the smallest dietary changes or exclusions may bring about what both you and your child need most: a good night’s sleep.

Comments

Alveda wrote 5 years 37 weeks ago

I agree with Thekla, I'd like to print/forward this article to my cousin who's a first-time mom & struggling to get her son to sleep properly.

admin wrote 5 years 37 weeks ago

Hi Alveda. The share link above the article will allow you to print it. However, sending your cousin the url (copy it out of the address bar in your browser when this article is open on your screen) will enable her to read the article online. All the best!

Anonymous wrote 6 years 13 weeks ago

Thank you for covering this subject, it contains very helpful information and tips.

Thekla Georgeou wrote 6 years 21 weeks ago

Hello there. I really enjoy these tips and would like to print them out, but you don't have a print-friendly version available. Please would you look into this as I am sure that there must be others out there who also may like to print and keep these tips. Thanks, Thekla

Anonymous wrote 6 years 21 weeks ago

My son of 3 had no problem to sleep through the night in his room, when we started to try it out. He likes to snuggle with us in our bed with a bedtime-story, then it's off to bed. Sometimes he has fallen asleep, sometimes we will just tuck him in. I guess it's the ritual before bedtime.

nouser wrote 6 years 44 weeks ago

This article is fantastic. I will be sure to tell my husband about it.

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