Expert Opinion

Foods that positively impact your child’s sleep

Unbeknownst to many, nutrition plays a very crucial role in our ability to sleep – particularly in toddlers! 

Often when a child is overtired they struggle with feeding as they are exhausted, impacting their calorie intake throughout the day. Once a child transitions to solids, I always suggest feeding until they turn away, at which point you may offer a second course. Remember, toddlers can get bored of food, but still be hungry.

What foods promote great sleep?

Meals that are high in carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, which helps manufacture sleep-inducing substances, such as serotonin and melatonin. Ideally, you are teaming carbohydrates with some protein, which will help your little one feel sleepy and comfortable after dinner, and will also help keep them feeling fuller for longer (throughout the night).

Protein is also filling, so if your toddler is still waking throughout the night for feeding (and is of the age where they should be sleeping), perhaps try adding more protein into their daily diet.

I generally encourage a protein-rich meal at lunchtime (i.e., a ‘meat and three veg’ style meal), followed by a carbohydrate and protein-rich dinner.

Some other great sleep-inducing foods for bubs are:

  • Bananas (high in magnesium and potassium to help relax the muscles)
  • Eggs (high in melatonin and a great source of protein)
  • Oats
  • Chicken, fish, and turkey (great source of protein and high in tryptophan)
  • Pulses beans, nuts, and legumes
  • Cheese
  • Cherries (very high in melatonin)

As always, it is important to rule out allergies or intolerances in your little one, and I always suggest allowing ample time between dinner and bedtime to allow them to digest their food. Going to bed on a very full tummy can cause digestive issues (think reflux). If you do start introducing new foods into their diet, introduce them into your child’s lunchtime meal to allow time to monitor for any reactions.

It’s also important to try and avoid foods high in processed sugar in the latter part of the day. This can cause restlessness and difficulty in staying asleep for long periods of time – neither of which any parent wants overnight!

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.
Photo by Bulat Khamitov