I cannot stress enough the value of a good nights sleep for everyone. Sleep is a time for our bodies to rest, restore and regenerate. This is incredibly important for healthy immune function, hormone and neurotransmitter development and function, and specifically in children – a time for tissue growth and regeneration. It truly is incredible the rate in which young children learn, grow and develop and we want to be supporting their bodies through that process as best we can.
This is a guest contribution from Dr Kira Lewis. Please see the medical disclaimer at the bottom. This post is entirely informational and not medical advice
How do you get your child to have a restful sleep throughout the night?
You’ve tried a relaxing bath, maybe even adding in lavender or other calming essential oils, you stick to a familiar bedtime routine, you read their favourite book over and over (to the point that you’ve got it memorized), but they still are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
This is something I have seen in children and in adults alike, that the problem with sleeping can be rooted in a lack of blood sugar control. Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) both have the capacity to impact our ability to achieve restful sleep.
Hyperglycaemia can stimulate the body and brain. From your cells perspective, there is an abundance of sugar (glucose) in the blood, which means there is available energy to get stuff done and your body being the fine-tuned efficient machine it is, is going to stimulate you so you use that energy and not let it go to waste! This process that occurs is great during the day time when we need the energy to do our day to day activities but is counter-productive at night when we’re trying to wind down and sleep.
Hypoglycaemia can also be stimulating to the body and the brain. Our blood sugar is tightly regulated (at least it should be), so when it drops too low it stimulates the production of our stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol will stimulate the brain that our body is stressed and begin to mobilize energy from our fat and muscle stores in our body to be used as energy to counter act the low blood sugar. Hypoglycaemia can leave us feeling shaky, dizzy and grumpy – try having a restful sleep when you feel like that!
So, how do we best support and balance blood sugar to promote a restful sleep?
By what we are putting into our children and our own bodies!
Refined carbohydrates and simple sugars are going to dramatically spike blood sugar, providing that instant energy, but can be quite stimulating and then lead to a “sugar crash” – which is low blood sugar after. The more we can avoid putting these foods into children’s growing bodies, the better.
Foods to avoid that will cause a spike in blood sugar:
- White bread
- Packaged white crackers
- Juice or pop
- Any type of candy
- Breakfast cereals
- White Pastas
- White rice
This list doesn’t contain ALL refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, but I wanted to include the most common ones I see that I believe can be easily swapped out for more healthful alternatives.
By avoiding these refined carbohydrates and simple sugars throughout the day will promote more stable blood sugar heading into the evening. Definitely be avoiding these simple sugars before bed, as they are stimulating which is going to impact the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep! Also keeping in mind – at night when your children are sleeping is when the most growth and restoration takes place, so you want them to be filled with nutrients, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals!
Which brings me to the title of this little post. The importance of a good bedtime snack. In order to promote a stable blood sugar and avoid spiking their blood sugar resulting in stimulation or going hypoglycaemic sometime during the night resulting in waking and inability to fall back asleep, I recommend a protein and fat dense snack before bed.
Snacks to consider:
- Seed crackers + cheese
- Apple dipped in nut or seed butter
- Handful of nuts or seeds
- Olives (if your little one likes them!)
- Avocado on whole grain toast or seed crackers
Not a Magical Fix, but does make an Impact.
Blood sugar regulation isn’t a magical fix for everyone’s sleep problems (boy do I wish there was a quick fix for sleep issues!) however I wanted to bring the impact of blood sugar regulation to your attention today as a potential contributing factor to your child (or you!) not getting a restful sleep.
Try swapping their snacks throughout the day that contain refined carbohydrates or simple sugars to fruits and veggies, and/or nuts and seeds to keep their blood sugar stable throughout the day and try out the bedtime snacks higher in fat and protein I’ve listed above.
Get them to have their fat and protein-rich bedtime snack sometime during their bedtime routine (humans are creatures of habit, we love routine!) about half an hour to forty-five minutes before bed and see if that helps!
Dr. Kira Lewis
Dr. Kira Lewis is a naturopath doctor in Prince George, BC. To learn more about her practice check her out website, and find her on Instagram for inspriation for a healthy and active lifestyle.
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