I'm hungry! It's a common catch cry for children of all ages, but when it comes to bedtime, is snacking a stalling tactic and what effect will it have on your child's sleep? Just as sleep or lack of it can affect a child's behaviour, so can eating at inappropriate times. Growing children generally have higher energy requirements than adults, especially if they are active. For many children regular meals and snacks will keep little tummies full, but as bedtime nears, what is the best approach?
While opinion does vary, generally it seems that late night munching is acceptable, provided parents follow some basic guidelines. Avoid sugary foods, or those containing caffeine late in the day (soft drinks often contain both) which make it more difficult to fall asleep. Try not to make eating before bed a habit, as this can result in overeating later in life. Often a child may not actually be hungry, instead looking for an excuse to stay up longer. In this case, distraction like offering a drink or story may work. If food is the only solution, provide low calorie, nutritious snacks, and at least half an hour before bed and be sure to brush teeth afterwards.
Magnesium promotes relaxation and vitamin B can improve sleep quality. Tryptophan is vital to the production of melatonin, the body's sleep regulator. Choosing snacks that are high in these elements will assist your child with a good night's sleep. Good sources of these include some fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, avocados, raisins and dairy products.
So for a great night's sleep for everyone, you may like to prepare your children for bed with an old fashioned glass of warm milk.