Natural Sleepy Hacks
Updated: Jul 11
There’s no better way to end your family Thanksgiving meal than with a nice afternoon nap. And pumpkin pie, of course.
But chances are, if you’re a parent, you might not have had the opportunity to take a nap in a while…unless your little one is catching their zzz’s, also.
However, there’s a reason why curling up on the couch after a Thanksgiving lunch feels so cozy, and it’s not just because we’ve overstuffed ourselves. The food that we eat can actually impact just how sleepy we feel, and in honor of Thanksgiving, we thought it would be fun to give you a few natural sleepy hacks, food related.
Of course, if you’ve been experiencing challenges with your child’s sleep, it’s worth it to look at the holistic picture of what’s been occurring – like with their circadian rhythm – and not only rely on filling your little’s belly with sleep-inducing food.
But knowing which foods can help aid in sleep is fun information that you can experiment with!
How does food impact sleep?
It’s amazing to think that the food and drinks you consume throughout the day can impact your sleep quality overnight. Why exactly is that?
Well, there are a few reasons.
First, food can interfere with how well you sleep by causing some disturbances. For instance, having a Venti Caramel Macchiato an hour before bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep, as the stimulant will keep you feeling more alert and awake. I mean, that’s why the first thing you reach for in the morning is likely your cup of tea or coffee.
But other foods also contain amino acids that can stimulate your brain and interfere with your sleep, like salami and pepperoni.
Additionally, some foods take a longer time to digest, like high protein foods (think steak or chicken), which can make you feel uncomfortable as your body will continue to process that food while you sleep.
But on the flip side of that, there are foods that can promote sleep due to the hormones they trigger, and that’s what we want to share with you today!
Which foods can promote sleep?
I’m sure you’re well aware of foods that can keep you up late or cause discomfort while you sleep, either from personal experience or information your doctor has provided, but we’re all about finding hacks for sleep.
Here are a few items that we like to keep in our house for those nights when our littles just need an extra boost to help them sleep.
No, the reason you begin to feel tired after Thanksgiving turkey isn’t because your body is trying to skip out on the cleanup (well, at least not totally). Turkey contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid used in the process of making serotonin, which helps promote melatonin. Melatonin, of course, determines when and how much your child sleeps. So adding a few slices of turkey to your child’s plate (or enjoying the leftovers for days) can serve as a boost to your little one’s sleepy levels.
Tart cherry juice is the perfect “treat” to give your child in the evening hours. In a study published by the European Journal of Nutrition, it was found that tart cherry juice had phytochemicals, including melatonin. In the study, cherry juice was found to increase melatonin levels and the total sleep time for participants. We want to stress the tart part of this – maraschino cherries won’t give you the same effect.
You might have heard the old saying that a warm cup of milk before bed will help you fall asleep quicker. But does that hold any truth?
If you have an intolerance to lactose, the answer is likely no, as you’ll be extremely uncomfortable. But otherwise, dairy products can make you feel sleepy due to tryptophan, which is naturally occurring in milk products. So if your little one (or you) is struggling with settling down, you may decide to offer a warm cup of milk before the bedtime routine begins.
A handful of almonds? It might just help promote sleep in your house!
Almonds are not only a rich source of tryptophan, but they also contain magnesium, which can help with sleep efficiency as it promotes relaxation and circulation. They also make a great bedtime snack before your child brushes their teeth, as they’re calorie and nutrient-dense.
If your little one enjoys an after-dinner snack, a kiwi may just satisfy their sweet tooth and promote better sleep. Kiwis are high in serotonin, which in turn increase melatonin levels. If your little one finds kiwis too tart, you can consider mixing them into a fruit salad!
Breastmilk at Night
Towards the evening, a mother’s breast milk naturally contains higher levels of tryptophan, which aids the body in producing melatonin. If you are breastfeeding all the time, this fluctuation of levels will naturally aid your baby’s sleep. If you are breastfeeding and supplementing with formula, consider making it a habit to nurse as your bedtime feeding session. And if you are exclusively pumping, remember to label which milk is from the evening or overnight sessions so that you can feed that milk around bedtime.
Knowing which foods can help your child sleep a little better is a great tool to have, just as knowing which foods interfere with sleep is important to consider.
Sleep is so complex, and many factors impact it. If you’re struggling with your child’s sleep, we encourage you to find a sleep consultant to help support you on your journey of sleep transformation!
Otherwise, be sure to save this list so that you can plan what items you’ll be purchasing on your next trip to the grocery store!