Infants and young children need daily naps to reach their optimum growth potential as well as to help their brains regulate sensory stimuli as well as their moods. Getting little ones to nap regularly at scheduled times can be a challenge for their parents or caretakers, but doing so consistently will help to build healthy sleep habits.
Because young children also need proper nutrition for growth, including healthy snacks, you can often find ways to offer light meals or snacks prior to nap time with food choices that will help to aid your little one to fall asleep and stay asleep. Consider these four nutrients and food choices for ideas on nap-friendly snacks.
Tryptophan is often associated first with turkey and the post-Thanksgiving meal sleepiness that is induces. An amino acid, tryptophan is a building block for serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that regulates mood but also helps the body relax and fall asleep. Turkey is rich in tryptophan, but other foods such as milk are as well. Having a glass of milk with a nap time snack is an easy way to harness the power of tryptophan while also making sure your little one gets important calcium and vitamin D.
Complex carbohydrates offer your little one a long-lasting source of energy as it takes the body longer to break down complex carbohydrates to glucose for use by cells for metabolic processes. Choices such as oatmeal, baked potatoes, and even bananas can be offered and can be made more appealing in formats such as a soft oatmeal cookie or banana muffin. When baked with whole grain flours, those choices offer even more complex carbohydrates and greater nutritional impact.
Melatonin is the naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin works within the brain to help regulate sleeping and waking times. Foods rich in melatonin can offer a supplemental effect to keep melatonin levels within normal ranges. Choose cherries or nuts and seeds as these foods are rich in melatonin.
Magnesium and Potassium
Magnesium helps to regulate blood pressure and both magnesium and potassium have a muscle relaxant effect on the body. Many athletes take advantage of this benefit by eating a banana during or just after endurance events to aid in preventing muscle cramps due to low potassium levels in their large muscle groups. Choosing foods such as nuts or bananas will increase dietary magnesium and potatoes and bananas are a fantastic source of potassium.
Food Choices to Avoid Before Napping
Just as many foods may both give your little one a pleasantly full feeling while providing nutrients that aid the brain and body to relax and sleep, there are also many foods you should actively avoid giving your little one before nap time or bedtime because they may have the opposite effect of inducing wakefulness and alertness.
Foods and beverages with caffeine, such as dark chocolate, coffee, or tea should be avoided as caffeine is a stimulant that increases brain activity and alertness. Additionally, you should avoid sugary foods that create a spike in blood sugar levels. Last, avoid fatty, greasy foods such as fried chicken because these foods require the body to divert energy to digestion and may leave your little one unable to fall asleep easily.
Foods that will help your little ones nap is a feature post