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The Correlation between a Good Diet and Great Sleep

15/03/2013 | Room to Grow | by Catherine Godiva

Do your children have problems with falling to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night? If they do it’s possible that the reason is their diet.  In fact, diet is the number one cause of sleep problems among children and controlling what they eat, especially around bedtime, is vital if you want them to be able to get the sleep that they need in order to learn and grow at a normal rate.

Problems with diet and sleep can begin very early in childhood when parents, thinking that feeding and sleeping go hand in hand, feed their children to get them to go to sleep.  What can happen is that the child will start to associate the act of sleeping with the act of eating. Experts advise that, rather than feeding and expecting the child to sleep right away, a baby should sometimes be put to sleep even if it hasn’t eaten. 

It can get even worse if the baby doesn’t have a regular feeding schedule and naps on and off all day long, eating only small portions as the day progresses.  This causes the child to never fully get enough deep sleep and never be fully awake either, something that can cause an unhealthy connection between food and sleeping that, in some cases, can continue through to the teen and even adult years.

Inadequate sleep may be the causative factor in the increase in toddler obesity and obesity in pre-school children. The fact is, children who don’t get the right nutrition and they don’t get the right amount of rest or the ‘good’ kind of sleep like REM sleep they are going to be more prone to obesity, diabetes and other unhealthy risks later in life.

One of the biggest factors in sleep problems with kids is the fact that many are drinking sugar filled drinks and eating sugar filled snacks near or right before bedtime.  Sugar is a stimulant, as well as the caffeine that is found in many drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi, both of which can cause a child to be more awake and active at bed time rather than tired and ready for sleep.

What the sleep experts recommend is this; a predictable and scheduled meal-time every day, a bedtime routine every night that sets the standard for when lights-out is expected and sufficient sleep time for the age of the child. (More when they are younger and less as they get older.) No sugar and absolutely no caffeine before bedtime and, if possible, nothing to eat at all less than 4 hours before going to bed.

Follow these guidelines and your children should not only get the amount of sleep they need but also healthy, deep sleep that they require to really recover from the previous day’s adventures and be ready for the day ahead.

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