In most homes with young children, bedtime snacks are a must (no parent wants to hear “Mom, I’m staaaaarving!” in the middle of the night, right?). But all bedtime snacks aren’t created equal. Many parents have learned the hard way to avoid caffeine, salt, and sugar at bedtime. As I mentioned in last week’s post, caffeine and salt are linked to bedwetting. Sugar isn’t much better: many a sleep doctor has informed me that too much sugar can make bedtime a battle (though it affects each child differently).
So we know what not to serve kids at bedtime. Now for the good news: certain foods in certain combinations can actually make bedtime easier and more peaceful. If you’re feeding your kids anyway, why not serve up a snack that makes bedtime less of a hassle and more of a breeze?
The trick is to pair tryptophan, the sleepy superhero, with complex carbohydrates. Why? Tryptophan helps kids feel calm and sleepy by aiding in the production of serotonin and melatonin. But tryptophan alone won’t summon the sandman. This where the carbs come in. Eating carbohydrates triggers a release of insulin, which helps tryptophan enter the brain and cast its sleepy spell. (That’s why Thanksgiving dinner is so notoriously sleep-inducing; most T-day dinners include turkey along with heaping helpings of carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. Hello, food coma.)
Foods rich in tryptophan include meat, poultry, and seafood, dairy and soy products, whole grains and lentils, peanuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, and eggs.
Here are some super sleepytime snacks for kids:
- Peanut butter spread on a banana
- Hummus on a whole-grain tortilla
- Whole grain cereal with milk or soy milk
- Apple slices and cheddar cheese
- Wholegrain toast with almond or sunflower seed butter
- Turkey and cheese on whole-grain crackers
- Plain yogurt with honey and dried fruit
- Egg salad in a whole-wheat pita
- Popcorn (a whole grain!) and peanuts (non-salted)
What are your family’s favorite bedtime snacks? Happy snacking—and sweet dreams!