Bedtime can be the bane of a parent’s existence. Between restlessness, delay tactics, and complaints that your kiddo is “just not tired,” getting kids to stay in bed and actually sleep through the night can be a challenge. So learning that there may be foods that can help kids sleep through the night is huge news.
Getting quality sleep is one of the most important things that children can do for their health and well-being. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that regular sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypertension, headaches, and depression. Conversely, children who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system, and better school performance, behavior, memory, and mental health. Bottom line: good sleep can do wonders for your kids.
And it’s true that – in conjunction with classic sleep-supporting tips such as avoiding screens before bedtime, keeping the bedroom cool, and trying calming techniques like meditation – eating the right foods may help kids sleep.
These foods aren’t going to be a magic bullet, and if you suspect a true sleep disorder, you should discuss it with your family pediatrician. But these 10 sleep-supporting foods might make a little difference – and we’ll take all the help we can get.
Can Eggs Help Kids Sleep?
Not only are eggs loaded in high-quality protein and important nutrients, but these breakfast favorites are a natural source of tryptophan, an amino acid that plays a role in creating serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate sleep cycles.
Although the results are based on adult subjects, data published in British Journal of Nutrition suggests improvements in sleep after 19 days of tryptophan-rich egg-white protein hydrolysate was consumed versus those who did not eat the egg whites.
When it comes to children, a 2022 study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care shows that dietary protein intake in children aged 2-5 years are associated with better quality of sleep and appetite. Since one medium egg contains a whopping six grams of protein, eating these nutritional powerhouses before bed may offer some benefit.
Can Chickpeas Help Kids Sleep?
Pulses are the dried seeds of the legume plant, and they include chickpeas, lentils, and yellow split peas, as examples. Pulses are a source of the the amino acid tryptophan, which plays a part in producing melatonin, a hormone that impacts the sleep-wake cycle.
Pulses also contain vitamin B6, a nutrient that is essential for the production of serotonin, which is key in supporting sleep. They also contain magnesium, a mineral that can help the brain feel relaxed.
Instead of snacking on potato chips, offer your kiddos some roasted chickpea snacks, and keep your fingers crossed for an awesome night’s sleep later on.
Can Kiwis Help Kids Sleep?
Eating two kiwis before bed may be the ticket to better sleep. Although studied in adults and not kids, data published in 2011 in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that people who ate two kiwis one hour before bed fell asleep 42 percent faster than people who didn’t eat kiwis. The researchers called out the fruit’s antioxidants and serotonin content as a possible reason for its sleep-inducing properties.
Can Milk Help Kids Sleep?
A glass of warm milk is a classic sleep remedy, and for good reason. For one, sipping milk can be a comforting and cozy ritual. Secondly, milk naturally contains tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for the production of serotonin and melatonin – two key compounds that help kids relax and have a regulated sleep-wake cycle.
You don’t necessarily have to warm up the milk to reap the benefits. But, some people find that drinking a warm beverage can have a calming effect on the body.
Can Salmon Help Kids Sleep?
Fatty fish like salmon is rich in nutrients like vitamin D and healthy fats, and vitamin D likely plays a role in sleep quality and regulation, reports the journal Nutrients. Some small studies of adults have shown that eating more fish has a positive impact on sleep quality among certain populations. And since seafood is so healthy for most little ones, consider this just another reason to add it to your mealtime rotation.
Can Walnuts Help Kids Sleep?
Walnuts are a rich source of the hormone melatonin, which is known to play a large role in sleep regulation. Combining the hormonal benefit of melatonin with the satiating benefits of their healthy fats, fiber, and plant-based proteins that this nut offers makes this nut an excellent choice for a bedtime snack.
An easy way to include walnut into a child’s diet, especially if they are not developmentally ready to enjoy this whole nut, is to include walnut butter on snacks and sandwiches. They can also easily be added to smoothies.
Can Bananas Help Kids Sleep?
Bananas are thought to be a sleep-supporting food because of their tryptophan and magnesium content. One medium banana has about 11 mg of tryptophan and 32 mg of mag. And while experts can’t say for sure that magnesium, specifically, improves sleep, anecdotally, plenty of people find it calming enough that it’s worth testing out bedtime bananas on your kids.
Can Chicken Help Kids Sleep?
You may be surprised to learn that tryptophan, the amino acid that has made turkey famous, is found in chicken, too. This amino acid is a precursor to serotonin and is associated with healthy sleep. So enjoying a drumstick in the evening may help support a restful night. Just don’t overdo it or have your kids snack on it too close to bed, to avoid having a full stomach keep them awake.
Can Tart Cherries Help Kids Sleep?
Sipping tart cherry juice has been linked to positive effects on sleep among adults, with a small study in the American Journal of Therapeutics showing that it helped increase the sleep time among adults with trouble snoozing.
While we don’t have the data to say that the same effect will occur when kiddos drink it, it’s still worth asking your pediatrician if it’s OK to serve them a moderate amount of the fruity drink. (Consider disguising the tart taste in a smoothie.)
Can Watermelon Help Kids Sleep?
We think of hydration as something to prioritize when our kids are sweating our out in the heat. But staying hydrated may also impact their sleep. In fact, some data shows that inadequate hydration is linked to short sleep duration. Watermelon is 92 percent water, making it a hydrating food — and one kids love to eat. It is also a natural source of magnesium, vitamin B6, and many other important nutrients that may impact your little ones’ sleep.
Can Prunes Help Kids Sleep?
If your kids are craving something sweet, prunes can be a perfect solution — and one that supports sleep. These fruits contain key nutrients that play a role in sleep, including magnesium, vitamin B6, and potassium. They’re also famously rich in insoluble fiber, which can help keep kids’ bowel movements regular — a win win.
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