Pariksha Rao, Chief Nutrition Officer, and Co-Founder Lil' Goodness and SCOOL Meal points out the importance of food quality and its impact of sleep, as evidenced by global Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index score.
Junk food contains high amounts of refined or simple carbohydrates which have a detrimental impact when compared to the total quantity of carbohydrate. Frequent consumption of energy drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with poor sleep quality. Other eating patterns like skipping breakfast and eating irregularly were strongly associated with poor sleep quality, she adds.
Rao lists down some food items that can improve sleep quality:
Protein rich foods with some carbohydrate
An amino acid called tryptophan plays a vital role in sleep quality. On the other hand carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, and that is why carbohydrate-heavy meals make us feel drowsy. Protein rich foods like milk and milk products, nuts etc. are the building blocks of tryptophan. So, the best bedtime snack is one that contains both a carbohydrate and protein, such as oats with milk, peanut butter on whole wheat toast, or cheese and vegetable crackers.
Omega-3 fatty acid rich food
Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids can lead to sleep problems in children. Salmon or other fatty fish are great source of omega-3 fatty acids and can be a great dinner. Other rich sources of omega 3 are eggs, poultry, walnuts, chia seeds, broad beans, cauliflower greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, wild rice, berries, plant oils such as flax oil, soybean oil, and canola oil or fortified foods such as yogurt, milk, and soy beverages.
Other Foods That May Promote Sleep
Several other foods have sleep-promoting properties, like:
Bananas: They contain tryptophan and are a good source of magnesium. Both of these properties may help you get a good night's sleep.
Oatmeal: Similar to rice, oatmeal is high in carbs and has been reported to induce drowsiness when consumed before bed. Additionally, oats are a known source of melatonin.
Cottage cheese: Contains a significant amount of casein- a milk protein that is well known to sustain overnight muscle repair and growth when consumed before bed.
Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolates also contain serotonin, which has a calming effect on your mind and nerves and help you catch up with some valuable sleep. Unfortunately many children don't have a taste for dark chocolate as it is low in sugar and has a little bitter taste. If one can build that taste, can be a perfect post dinner dessert. Don't forget to motivate them to brush before bedtime in that case.
Cherries: They contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Eating 10-12 cherries a day could help you catch some good sleep.
On the other hand try and keep your children away from high sugar containing beverages, caffeinated beverages and junk food, especially in late evening hours. Good hydration is a must throughout the day. Avoid a lot of liquid intake after dinner to prevent frequent visits to the bathroom at night, that can disrupt the sleep.