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Child eating Watermelon

Diet, lifestyle and sleep all go hand in hand. We all know how important diet and exercise is for our health and our children’s health however sleep also plays a massive role in this. Studies have shown that sleep problems and obesity are closely interlinked therefore it is essential to consider sleep as a contributing factor alongside diet and exercise. So, we know all these aspects of health are linked but what kind of effect do they have on one another? When it comes to children’s diet, we are very conscious of what foods are considered to be ‘bad’ or ‘good’ for them but it is also important to consider how specific foods affect sleep and sleep quality.

Research shows that there are different foods which can have an impact on sleep in many different ways. For children, there is an emphasis on the types of foods consumed and the times they are consumed.

High Sugar

The national sleep foundation reports that the more sugar consumed during the day, the more often you will wake up throughout the night. Children are often sugar fiends, so it is important to regulate their sugar intake. Obviously, children love sweet foods so it is not to say you should stop them have sweet treats entirely but limiting them especially close to bedtime can help them to have an improved nights sleep. It is also important to note that a high sugar intake can lead to an energy crash which could cause children to nap in the afternoon which then may interrupt their sleep at night.

High Caffeine

A high caffeine intake can interrupt anyone’s sleep, but for children it is even more likely. Limited caffeine intake is incredibly important for children for many reasons but especially due to the impact it has on their sleep. For adults, it is advised to have no caffeine after 2pm, but for children they shouldn’t have high amounts of caffeine where it is not necessary. There is caffeine in a lot of food and drink so it can’t be avoided entirely but try to limit their intake to special occasions.

High Fat

Suddenly switching to a high or low-fat diet can impact the body’s natural sleep cycle as it can alter the circadian rhythm, essentially resetting our body clocks. In generally fatty foods don’t have too much impact on sleep except from when they are consumed too close to bedtime. Foods that are higher in fats are generally tough for the stomach to digest, especially in children. Eating fatty food too close to bedtime therefore often leads to indigestion making sleep unlikely.

Meal Timing

Just like eating fatty foods at night can prevent sleep, eating any large meals too close to bedtime can stop children getting a good night’s sleep. This is why it is recommended to have a bigger meal at breakfast and lunch and a smaller meal at night. However, we know this may not be possible for children; so it is advised to have an early tea and have light, easily digested snacks at bedtime such as wholegrains or fruits.

Everything in moderation is a good rule of thumb when it comes to children and their diets, but it is important to understand how diet can have an impact on various aspects of a child’s life and plan accordingly.

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