An increase in sleep disorders in children is becoming a major challenge for the parents and caretakers. If these disorders are left un-diagnosed or left untreated, it may result into behavioural problems at home as well as in school. The negative effect of behaviour eventually result in poor performance of a child.
The role of food in controlling and managing sleep disorders is no more an occult science now. Nutrition, Exercise and sleep are correlated and hence, a balance of these three is needed to work on the sleep disorder of your child.
A quick over view of diet tips to manage sleep disorders in children.
- Strike a Balanced diet approach – The routine food must consist of grains, Dals/pulses, Milk and milk products, enough fruits and veggies, nuts along with good hydration. Always hands up for the seasonal food produce that belongs to your geographical area.
- Check for the Food sensitivity or intolerance in children – those kids who are intolerant to cow milk protein, it is not wise to stop milk. Your Doctor/dietitian may suggest you to check for an alternative such as soya milk.
- Say NO to junks especially in major meals – Three major meals i.e. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner should be preferably home-cooked food. Junk food or outside food can be planned as a small meal in between the major meal items.
- Maintain the food or meal gap – the more evenly the meal gap is maintained, the better will be the digestion. Inculcate the early Dinner habit so that child gets more time for a sound sleep.
- Monitor the weight of a child – If you are feeling the sudden change in weight as per the height of your child, check with the health experts to know better for corrective measures. Weight can be an informant of several diseases.
- Avoid caffeine based beverage before sleep – Milk with honey when given at bedtime can be helpful for a sound sleep.
Role of Vitamins & Minerals
- B vitamins– They improve body’s ability to regulate its use of sleep-inducing tryptophan and produce more system-calming serotonin. Food sources-Chicken breast, salmon, bananas, potatoes, cereals fortified with B3 or B12.
- Calcium: Calcium is a natural relaxant and has a calming effect on the body’s nervous system. Food sources: Low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese.
- Zinc: Deficiency in this mineral has been directly linked to insomnia. Food sources – nuts, dark chocolate, chicken, beans, and mushrooms
- Iron: Restless leg syndrome can be an outcome because of lack of iron. Food sources: Oysters, clams, beef tenderloin, dark-meat turkey
- Copper: It regulates serotonin levels. Food sources – Whole grains, beans, nuts, Dark leafy greens.
How an Elimination diet is helpful in sleep disorders of children?
Few parents have observed that eliminating certain food items from the routine diet has helped managing the sleep disorders in their kids. If the child is unable to sleep, start by dropping one item from her bedtime snack or dinner every week. See if it helps her sleep better. For eg: juice at night might be giving her more energy than needed and interfering in sleep, or some food–wheat, bread for example–might be causing gastric issues, and not letting the child sleep.
Elimination diet is a slow process but definitely helpful. It helps in regulating sleep and other health disorders in your kids.
Inculcate good habits to avoid sleep disorders
Children are hooked on their mobile/laptops/ipads and other gadgets. They eat food by keeping these gadgets along and so are not bothered much about their food they are eating. The sooner you stop this the better it is for your child. Along with proper Nutrition, also try and identify the stressors like home work, peer group problems, and nighttime anxiety, if any that may not be letting your child get her amount of sleep.