Many kids ask for snacks before bed, and keeping little tummies full can often mean the difference between waking up at 5 am and actually getting a full night’s sleep yourself.
You have good reason to be wary about food at bedtime: Many of typical nighttime delights can actually inhibit sleep by either increasing alertness or causing indigestion. However, when chosen with care, a bedtime snack can not only keep your little ones from waking early but also help them fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
Yogurt, milk and cheeses are a great source of calcium which contains the amino acid tryptophan. While not sleep-inducing itself, our bodies use tryptophan to make the neurotransmitter serotonin, which promotes feelings of calmness and sleep; as well as the sleep hormone melatonin.
There is merit to the old wive’s tale: A glass of warm milk before bed sports these benefits, as well as the additional soothing effect of a warm tummy.
Complex carbohydrates such as those found in 100% whole grain breads and crackers. This type of carb processes more slowly than it’s simple counterpart (found in sweets and white breads), which avoids sharp increases and dips in blood sugar to avoid nighttime awakenings.
Look to all-natural nut butters for a healthy source of protein at bedtime. While all nuts boast a high concentration of tryptophan, choosing certain varieties will pack extra benefit. For example, walnuts have an additional source of the sleep hormone melatonin; while almonds contain magnesium which helps muscles relax.
However, it’s important to avoid sweetened nut butters which can cause spikes and dips in blood sugar throughout the night.
Fruits make a great addition to any snack, but choose the right ones before bed for an extra sleepy boost. Apples and bananas are rich in magnesium and potassium which promote muscle relaxation; but picking the banana will provide you with an extra source of tryptophan which your body will synthesize into serotonin and melatonin.
Cherries — especially the tart variety — have been proven to increase melatonin levels and promote sleep. In fact, drinking a glass of tart cherry juice can even help lessen insomnia.
If you fix a snack and it needs a sweet touch try honey! This all-natural sugar will cause insulin to be released which makes it easier for tryptophan to enter the brain where it will be used to create serotonin and melatonin — promoting sleep.
As you can see, many of the foods your kids love make the cut; and these fan favorites can easily be combined in a myriad of ways to please even the pickiest of appetites. Simply keep in mind that the best snacks include both a source of protein and complex carbohydrates! We’ve included a list of a few of our favorite combinations to get you started.
7 of our favorite bedtime snacks that help kids sleep:
- Nut butter on whole-grain toast or crackers.
- An apple with a slice of cheese.
- Plain yogurt with fresh fruit (optionally sweetened with honey)
- Banana with peanut butter
- Warm glass of milk with whole-grain toast.
- Honey on toast.
- Cherry smoothie with milk and honey.
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Alisa is the editor in chief at Nestmaven.com where she writes about all things sleep related – from sleep hygiene and disorders to useful tips to help you sleep to helpful sleep products. She has a Bachelor of Honors in information science, loves yoga, healthy food and chocolate (and is totally fine with that contradiction).
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.