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3 Common Food Problems Leading to Sleep Problems for Kids

Updated: Sep 8, 2023


A girl lying wide awake in bed

It may surprise you to learn that what your kids eat can affect how well they sleep at night. Science supports that many problems with sleep can be linked to our diets. Some of the common sleep difficulties that kids (and adults) can have include:

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Night waking or waking up too early

  • ‘Weird’ dreams, nightmares or night terrors

  • Restless legs

  • Sleep walking

  • Sleep apnea

We know as adults that in today’s world, it can be hard to find a good balance between work and rest. The same goes for our kids, so it’s important to find healthy ways to help them unwind to get the sleep they need. By identifying and addressing the contributors to your child’s sleep problems, you can help them to have regular, restful nights.


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A woman yawning and holding a pillow while standing at an open refrigerator door

Here are 3 big ways that ‘the food piece’ can interfere with our sleep:

1. Unnecessary Additives/Fake Foods

This one includes a variety of food issues, but still, the bottom line is that our bodies were not designed to break down the ingredients found in so many of our processed foods today.

Our convenience food diets are often missing essential nutrients that affect the neurotransmitters in our brains, among other important bodily systems.


There is plenty of research to support that artificial colors and flavors in foods are linked to learning and behavior problems in kids. Along with pesticides. And caffeine…think soda and chocolate for kids. And sugar. You get the idea.


How can our bodies rest when they are working overtime to process the unnecessary ‘extras’ in our foods?


While we’re not going for perfection, we can get good at reading ingredient labels to choose healthier alternatives and lesson the load, while better nourishing our bodies.


2. Going to Bed Hungry

Depending upon your dinner time, kids typically need a night snack before heading to bed. Our bodies need fuel to sustain us throughout the night. But, we do need to try to make sure it’s the right kind of fuel.


If your child has a sugary or simple carbohydrate snack before bed (these are usually high in saturated, unhealthy fats), chances are they may have a less optimal night’s sleep.


Better choices for night snacks are those that contain protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. These options help to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the night and aid in deeper, restorative sleep cycles.


Some examples of snacks that fit this category are whole-grain crackers with hummus, cheese or nut butter, fruits and veggies, nuts, or healthy choice protein bars, and even a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread.


These choices help even things out, supporting relaxation and the best opportunity to enjoy a restful night.


3. Possible Food Intolerances or Allergies

Sometimes there are food intolerances or undiagnosed allergies that may be disrupting sleep patterns. Foods that are problematic for us increase inflammation in the body, particularly the gut.


A little girl with long dark hair sitting in front of a plate of vegetables with her hands over her mouth

If your child has food allergies or sensitivities with related digestive issues such as indigestion, gas, or constipation, he may be uncomfortable and therefore unable to fall or stay asleep. Incidentally, food intolerances can cause bed wetting, too. Read more about it HERE.


Also, food problems can cause other physical problems like ear infections, and this can definitely make it hard for kids to sleep.


Talk with your qualified medical professional if you are concerned that food intolerances or allergies may be affecting your child.


These are just a few of the ways that food can affect sleep for our kids. Other nutrition-related issues like nutrient deficiencies or dehydration can also be playing a role.


And of course, in addition to food, consider things like a varying sleep schedule, increased anxiety, or other stressors that may contribute to sleep problems.

If you didn’t catch our post about foods to reduce anxiety for kids, CHECK IT OUT HERE.

A sleeping baby with a smile on face

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.





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