DO you find it hard to get your kids to sleep? A nutritionist has revealed the foods that can help them to drift off.
Olga Preston, a registered nutritional therapy practitioner, also shared the snacks you should avoid, if you want your little one to get some shut eye.
Speaking to Fabulous, Olga, who works at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition’s Brain Bio Centre, said: “Foods can have a profound effect on your children being able to concentrate during the day and sleep well at night, as well as on how long it takes them to fall asleep and on how long they stay asleep for.
“Lack of sleep affects school performance and our children’s ability to learn and develop, it leads to temper tantrums, irritability from exhaustion, day time sleepiness, overeating, depression, and in some extreme cases paranoia and hallucinations.
“There are foods that can raise anxiety levels and there are foods that have a calming effect. “Eating the right foods will have an effect on whether your child is able to sleep or not.”
So what does Olga advise?
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The practitioner said you should make sure your child has plenty of six nutrients…
Try to give your child food rich in omega-3 (essential fatty acids), such as oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines.
Vegan sources include chia seeds, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, seaweed and algae.
Olga explained: “Essential fatty acids have been noted to help modulate levels of dopamine (a chemical released in the brain that makes us feel good), which is implicated in many neuropsychiatric disorders including ADHD, ADD and schizophrenia.”
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Olga said that magnesium is a “calming mineral that supports sleep”.
You can boost your intake by eating dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, chickpeas and wholegrains.
The nutritional therapy practitioner said that calcium has a similar “calming” effect to magnesium.
She advised you should aim to eat more kale, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, spinach, blackstrap molasses, fish with soft bones like canned sardines or canned salmon, sesame seeds, tahini and almonds.
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She added: “Calcium is also present in dairy so if your child can tolerate dairy, then a glass of warm milk at night (not after teeth are brushed).
“Or if they can’t tolerate dairy and want something warm, a glass of fortified plant-based milk alternative with a sprinkle of cinnamon might do the trick.”
Olga said: “Tryptophan is an amino acid which converts to serotonin
(our happy neurotransmitter) to keep you calm and help you sleep.
“Serotonin converts to melatonin which is our natural body clock and controls our sleep cycle.
“We need serotonin and melatonin to help us sleep at night.
“Eating tryptophan-rich foods during the day would also help to improve sleep, for example chicken, tofu, eggs, nuts and seeds.
“Oats, porridge or plain oatcakes, which are easy to digest, can be eaten as a late snack.”
In order to produce serotonin and melatonin, Olga said our body needs B6.
She added: “B6 is present in lentils, oily fish, walnuts and lean protein such as chicken or turkey.”
What to avoid?
As well as foods to eat more of, there are also ones to avoid.
Olga advised: “The main ones are sweets, sugary drinks, and foods containing caffeine; for example chocolate, black tea, iced teas, green tea, cola drinks, energy drinks and energy bars.
“Some children may have a food intolerance which may exacerbate any sleep issues.”
You should aim for your child getting nine to 12 hours of sleep a night, and the time they should go to bed depends on what time they need to wake up.
She said: “Around 7:30 pm for younger kids and 8:30 pm for older kids is ok.
“We can then look at eating times, eating too close to bedtime will make your child uncomfortable, while leaving too many hours after dinner might make the children feel like they have an empty stomach; two to three hours is normally recommended in between eating dinner and going to sleep.”
She also advised that there are numerous lifestyle factors that can affect sleep.
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She said: “A nice bath before bed with lavender oils and / or children’s Epsom salts (a source of magnesium) to help them relax.
“Limit screen time, a minimum of 30 minutes of screen-free time before going to bed.
“You can also try regular exercise to help to improve sleep, keep to a routine and avoid weekend sleep-ins, black-out curtains and a dark room for melatonin production and keep the bedroom a screen-free zone if possible.”
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