It is important that your child eats at least 1-2 hrs before going to sleep and chews their food well – in an unhurried, peaceful environment.  This will improve digestion and also promote a better night’s rest. Stress can slow down the digestive system and the distractions of TV while eating, can cause reduced chewing and tasting of foods. They should stop watching TV at least 1-2 hrs before bedtime, as this can also neurologically as well as emotionally, effect sleep.  Your child should also have a set routine before bed as this acts as a signal for the body to prepare for sleep (EG: supper, bath, teeth brushing, story, bed etc.).  A warm, comfortable, quiet & dark environmental is conducive to sleep.


Don’t even try making them over-tired and then expect a great night’s sleep from them! Sleep deprived children are generally more restless at night and irritable during the day. They have trouble concentrating and therefore become less efficient at school and may also suffer from behavioral problems. Another thing that lack of sleep causes is childhood obesity, and an obese child is liable to continue to suffer with a weight problem throughout life.  According to a 2004 National Sleep Foundation survey, children in every age group are cheating themselves out of much needed sleep. Pre-schoolers require 11-13 hrs a day and should include an afternoon nap. Primary school age children need 10-11 hrs of sleep.





Foods that are high in fats, as well as stimulating caffeinated drinks (EG: coffee, cola, red bull etc.) should be avoided late afternoon and at supper time, in fact a child should only be consuming these occasionally – if at all!


Some people also find that their sleep is affected by cocoa & chocolate at night. Even just eating too much or too ‘heavy’ a meal can disturb sleep because of indigestion, heartburn, or just plain discomfort.



Foods containing TRYPTOPHAN – an amino acid (protein), which converts to SEROTONIN and then MELATONIN, are good to have at night-time.  Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body cannot produce. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that slows down nerve traffic so that your brain isn’t so ‘busy’. It is essential for sleep and mood regulation. Without adequate serotonin the severity of insomnia a person suffers will increase. Melatonin is believed to be responsible for modulating sleep patterns with day and night (circadian rhythm). It is also an antioxidant and it has been shown to protect the gastrointestinal tract from irritation as well as help heal ulcers. The production and secretion of melatonin increase tenfold in the dark and signals the body that it is time to sleep – it is therefore essential that your child is in a darkened, quite room, before & during sleep.



Foods that promote sleep include leafy green vegetables – rich in chlorophyll, whole grain breads & cereals, and mushrooms. Fruits – especially berries, can also help with sleep problems. Even some spices, including dill sage and basil. 



Tryptophan containing food examples:



Dairy products like milk & cheese contain tryptophan, but if full cream, have a high fat content which in turn can hinder sleep.  Dairy products can also aggravate mucous production and hinder breathing, which in turn will disrupt sleep – so let your child have dairy products in moderation or avoid if they are prone to post nasal drip, sinus problems and mucous build-up.


Other foods containing tryptophan are turkey, sunflower & sesame seeds, egg whites, tuna, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas – including peanuts) & soya products, nuts (walnuts & hazelnuts especially), brown rice, honey, fruit (banana) and vegetables.



Eaten with foods that contain more carbohydrates is a better way to increase your tryptophan absorption, as amino acids compete with one another for absorption, when eaten together.  This will also aid in the production of serotonin, which helps to relax the body and combat sleep problems.  In fact, eating a high-protein meal without accompanying carbohydrates may keep you awake, since protein-rich foods also contain the amino acid, tyrosine, which perks up the brain.


It takes about an hour for the tryptophan in the foods to reach the brain, so don’t wait until right before bedtime to give your child tryptophan containing foods – rather eat them at supper time.



Melatonin containing Food, Spice & Herb Examples: 



Sunflower seeds, fennel seed & lemon verbena (taken as a tea), flaxseeds.


Oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas and barley also all contain small varying amounts of Melatonin.


Please note that if your child is suffering from insomnia without any known cause, then it is advisable to visit your health practitioner as soon as possible.

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