Foods to Avoid Giving Children Before Bed to Help Promote Better Sleep
Kids are naturally hyperactive and excited after school. The boredom they endured all day gives way to freedom and play time. The issue for parents is, often this active state continues on into the evening. Come bed time, this becomes a problem.
It is not uncommon for children to stay up much later than they should. This might not necessarily be by choice: many children just find it difficult to sleep. In frustration parents turn to various techniques to help; from warm milk before bed to white noise machines for sleeping.
However, what most parents don’t realize is the fact that what you feed your child for dinner often influences how easily they sleep. Some popular foods to feed children are in fact often the source of the problem.
Below are five of the major culprits.
Pizza is delicious. There is no argument there. However, it happens to be one of the unhealthiest meals on the planet earth. With the fatty cheese, refined wheat and processed meat, it is like feeding your child a whole bunch of fat and chemicals and kissing them goodnight. One way pizza keeps your kids from falling asleep is through indigestion. Whether or not you are lactose intolerant, having too much cheese and not burning the carbs before bed will back up your digestive system. This causes the child discomfort preventing them from falling asleep easily. According to David Geffen, director of the sleep disorder center at UCLA School of Medicine, digested cheese releases chemicals, fatty acids and amino acids that interfere with normal sleep cycles.
2. Cereal Rich in Sugar
Sugar is to children what gas is to an engine. It fuels the excitement and gives them energy to run around exhibiting hyperactive behavior. A child who is in such a state will not fall asleep easily. According to Dr. Michael Murray, brain stimulants such as processed sugar are the number one cause of insomnia not only in children but also in adults. This is because the sugar is broken down to glucose which is the brain’s number 1 source of energy. This keeps the neurons fired up and the brain in an excited state as opposed to the inhibited state required for sleep.
3. Greasy Burgers
Burgers, like pizza, are also super yummy but not good for kids especially before going to bed. The processed wheat in the buns is a heavy carbohydrate and takes a significantly longer time to fully break down than other lighter foods. This means that your child will have a slow and sustained release of broken down sugars to keep the brain active. Result? No sleep. The meat also contributes to the insomnia in kids as it also takes a long time to digest and could cause discomfort that prevents sleep. As a parent who wants to give their kids a treat, try substituting the fatty burgers with a nice vegetable burger with wholemeal buns. This is easier to digest and will not leave your kid pumped with fatty acids and sugars to keep them awake. If they really must indulge in the fatty burger, make it a lunch time snack so that they have time during the day to burn the excess carbs and fats.
4. Spicy Food
Spicy food is not for the faint of heart and children are, by definition, very faint of heart. The number 1 reason why having spicy food before bed will keep your child awake is indigestion. Nothing backs up your digestive system more than having a bunch of spices in one meal. A study by the International Journal of Physiology shows that chemicals in spicy food upset the digestive system in children more than in adults causing a lot of discomfort, flatulence and in some cases, nausea. What child would fall asleep happy experiencing this? Bottom line, spicy foods should be off your child’s dinner menu if you want them to sleep properly.
5. Ice Cream
A scoop of ice cream for dessert might seem like a lovely treat for your kids but is one of the main insomnia food culprits. Like the sugar-packed cereal, ice cream is full of simple sugars which when broken down provide your child’s brain with glucose to stay active. It is therefore safe to say that ice cream should not be a dinner food. Instead, let your child enjoy their scoop in the afternoon when it is nice and hot and they have a lot to do to exhaust the excess sugars.
After all is said and done, there is no denying the fact that these foods are not good for your kids. In addition to depriving them of much needed sleep, they put your kid at risk of suffering from conditions brought about by unhealthy eating habits such as diabetes and obesity. So be a good sport and substitute with wholesome meals free of refined carbs and excess sugar. Your kids will thank you for it in the long run.
Guest Post by Nick – Nick is an Engineer with a passion for sleep. He is the principal blogger for Sleepydeep.com, a site dedicated to providing the best sleep information. We spend about one third of our lives asleep, yet it is largely under valued as a source of rejuvenation, health and wellbeing. Reach your daily potential by optimizing your sleep.