Most parents will agree sleep is a complete luxury that is undervalued and unrecognised until you have kids.
Once you are blessed with kids, sleep turns into an illusive concept you dearly want to become intimate with, yet never seem to grasp!
First there are the sleepless nights as your pregnancy turns comfort into an unknown (no matter how many pillows are used for propping various body parts).
Then your magnificent baby introduces you to a whole new perspective of the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning.
And just when you think things are easing and your baby sleeps through the night, your precious little one turns into a toddler and bedtime becomes a whole new kettle of fish!
Quite often these sleep issues continue well into school aged years… then they become teenagers and yet again, the goal posts shift dramatically.
Never fear! There is a solution to your child’s sleep problems… and it’s not what you think!
The key to a calm sleeping child – whether a toddler or a grown up school kid – comes down to one thing… Food.
Now I’m not talking about capturing that mystical moment before they’re too tired to sleep or too hungry to eat. And it’s got nothing to do with never sending your kid to bed on an empty tummy. I’m talking about what you use to fuel your kidlet – any time of the day.
You most likely know that chocolate before bed is not such a flash idea as the caffeine kicks in and takes over your kidlet’s personality.
But what about certain unnatural and natural food elements we often think are completely harmless or even healthy?
Did you know that a simple piece of fruit or glass of juice could mess with your child’s sleep patterns and ability to go to sleep? Or that an innocent tub of flavoured yoghurt or a home cooked stir fry dinner can make your child restless, irritable and unable to sleep well?
Without getting too much into the nitty gritty, let’s take a closer look at what might be causing the problem with your sleepless kidlet.
Artificial colours are just simply one great big recipe for disaster that results in sleepless kids.
They can be found in just about any food kids eat – from flavoured yoghurt to breakfast cereal and almost anything in between.
Food colouring is a major contributor to unwanted symptoms such as sleeplessness, night terrors and tantrums before bedtime.
Whilst artificial colouring might be obvious in brightly coloured cupcakes and lollies, beware, as they are often also lurking in things as simple as fruit juice or store bought sauces you use in your dinner (e.g.: soy sauce or tomato sauce).
Aside from being linked to several adverse physical reactions such as breathing and skin issues (think eczema, asthma), preservatives can also cause hyperactivity – something I’m sure you will agree is far from a calm sleepy kidlet at bedtime.
Again, they can be lurking in seemingly harmless foods such as yoghurts, noodles, and the sauces you use in your dinner or the drinks you give your child.
Plenty of processed foods will claim they are healthy and sugar free to entice you to purchase them for your kidlets.
The problem is the artificial sweeteners used in place of sugar are far worse offenders when it comes to child behaviour.
Hyperactivity and sleep disturbance are just the tip of the iceberg here. Such nasties will be in anything from yoghurts to muesli bars, biscuits and sauces.
Salicylates, Glutamates, Flavour Enhancers
Salicylates are a natural pesticide found in natural fresh foods, usually in the skin or in unripe fruits e.g.: tomatoes, berries, citrus and therefore jams, sauces and juices.
Glutamates are acids found naturally in some foods (such as strong cheese, tomatoes and soy sauce) or manufactured to enhance flavour in processed foods (sometimes known as MSG, flavour enhancers or fermented proteins).
So simple things such as fresh fruits, flavoured yoghurts, two minute noodles and sauces can send your child far from the land of nod.
The essence of time
The effects of these additives and natural food elements can occur almost immediately after consuming the food, or take several days or weeks to rear their ugly heads.
So the timing is not the issue, it’s the actual food your kidlet eats that creates the problem. One or two doses of certain foods or additives in any form can send your kids down the wrong path to la la land, no matter when they eat them.
So what to do?
Put simply, how can you expect your little one (or big one!) to behave calmly, have balanced emotions and sleep well if they are being fueled with stimulants that do quite the opposite?
If you are after a calm happy kidlet that goes to bed easily and sleeps well throughout the night, the key is to change the way they eat.
Start checking labels, stick to fresh whole foods and eliminate the additives from your child’s daily intake. If you’re still not seeing the results you want, dig a little deeper and look at the ‘good’ foods they are eating (e.g.: salicylates in fruits).
Make sure the majority of your child’s food consists of fresh vegetables and clean pure foods, and not only will you have calm happy kids who sleep well at night, but you’ll rediscover the lost art of sleeping too! It’s a win win!
Wishing you healthy happy kids and sweet dreams!