It is a very simple answer and it is yes! Food has a huge impact on sleep and also the time of day some foods are eaten also. Many parents who start out on their weaning journey are confused what to give and when to give it and in some countries health care professionals still suggest pureed fruit at dinner time until the age of around 9-10 months. I am going to give you a small insight to how food can impact sleep.
First of all I want to tell you about a very important amino acid called Tryptophan. It is obtained only from food and essential for normal growth in infants. It helps maintains muscles, enzymes and neurotransmitters and the body’s proteins. It also helps with sleep.
What foods contain Tryptophan?
Meat (turkey is super high in tryptophan), eggs, cheese, wheat, rice, potatoes, fish, legumes and bananas. There are more, this is just a short list!
What does it do?
Tryptophan is helpful in the production of serotonin and melatonin. We know serotonin converts into melatonin and melatonin is the magic hormone we need to induce sleep. Serotonin also helps regulate our feelings, mood, behaviour and the sleep wake cycle.
Research has shown that eating foods in the first part of the day, breakfast, snack and early lunch can help support a consolidated night’s peaceful sleep. No tryptophan in the body equals poor night’s sleep.
A breakfast example high in tryptophan yoghurt, eggs, whole grain toast.
Offering complex carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, wholegrain breads and pastas, brown rice and grains early in the day can help stores of tryptophan build up and help with the nights sleep. Offering these foods at dinner time will also give an extra boost in tryptophan and help with that peaceful night’s sleep.
Other great examples of foods high in tryptophan • Cherries. Tart and sour cherries also have a high level of melatonin. You can purchase tart cherry juice from health food shops. You can stew cherries and offer over yoghurt or spread on wholegrain toast. A great bedtime snack! • Salmon. Plain grilled salmon with a side of whole grain rice or perhaps a cheese sauce is super yummy and healthy • Avocado. A great food to take out on the go for snack, crushed on wholegrain toast with a poached egg for breakfast or even dinner is a great combo…yum yum!
Avoid, Avoid! Avoid simple carbohydrates like refined sugars and refined white breads. These foods will only raise sugar levels in the body and give you and your child a burst of energy and a fast come down from it. That energy will also impact on sleep… You know that offering sweet treats before bed your child will be on that sugar rush and up for a long while! What Other Foods Can Help Sleep? A low blood sugar level will cause adrenaline to be released at night, which will cause sleep disturbances - so ensure those low GI carbs such as whole grains, apples, carrots, and broccoli are offered at each meal. Deficiencies in zinc, magnesium and iron will cause poor sleep quality and quantity. Low on these two things can make your baby very alert and will find it very hard to sleep and stay asleep. Low on iron will cause your baby to become anaemic.
Some foods high in zinc • Cheese • Yoghurt • Turkey • Chicken • Spinach • Broccoli Some foods high in magnesium • Yoghurt • Salmon • Avocado • Tuna • Spinach • Tofu Some foods high in iron • Turkey • Lean beef • Spinach • Chickpeas • Fortified breakfast cereals
So there we have it, foods can help with sleep of course, the time of day foods are eaten also. But please bear in mind that just offering foods high in these magic ingredients does not mean your child will magically start sleeping through the night. It just means these foods will HELP consolidate sleep, it is one part of the puzzle piece that makes the great picture of healthy sleep. If you feel you would like to talk more about your child’s sleep please SEND ME AN EMAIL HERE or BOOK IN A FREE CALL to find out how I can help you more! Peaceful nights to you all, Rachael, Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant xo