March 15, 2021 8:06:26 pm
By Janvi Chitalia
Sleep is an essential activity for energy restoration, neurological function, management of mood, and physical recovery and repair of the body. Sleeping can decide the quality of life.
Why sleep is important for your child’s health
* It maintains body weight
* 70 per cent of the growth hormone is released during sleep
Hydration and its role in sleep
It is essential to sleep through the hours of the night to be able to sleep well in order to compensate for dehydration in the early hours of sleep. For children to also be able to replenish stores, they should have 750 ml water on waking up within 20 minutes.
It is imperative for children to wake up in the morning and be exposed to sunlight. Light exposure to the retina would shut off melatonin production, which is the primary sleep hormone.
Exercise also plays a role in the way sleep is impacted at night. Exercise helps to increase the time we spend in deep sleep at night by improving the physical restorative sleep.
Eating higher protein and good fat meal is a better option than complex carbohydrates like ragi, jowar, or brown rice, as it helps to optimise the energy and improve brain function.
The role of napping
Children should get a 25-minute or 90-minute sleep to complete one full sleep cycle. The best time for them to sleep is between 1 pm and 3 pm, as naps can help improve cognitive function, accuracy, and short term memory. Newly-learnt information is also retained better.
Foods that help children to sleep better
Several vitamins and minerals play a role in improving the quality of sleep.
a) Bananas, nuts and green leafy vegetables, which are high in magnesium, can be incorporated as a smoothie in the child’s intake to improve sleep, as it helps the nerves to relax.
b) Good fats such as omega play a role in the brain health, and are also great in terms of reducing inflammation and to help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which aids rest. Foods such as chia seed, flaxseed, salmon, walnuts are a good sources of omega.
A good breakfast or snack option can be nuts and chia seeds mixed with yogurt to boost the omega levels.
c) Oats which have a great reputation for being high in soluble fibre also contain an amino acid profile that improves the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Rolled oats or steel-cut oats can be used as a preferred variety to give to children as a part of the smoothie or pre-exercise meal snack.
d) Nuts are known to be high on tryptophan, and thus, help to facilitate sleep and help the body relax. Tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin. They are also high on zinc which helps fight infections.
Almonds and walnuts are good snacks. Dry fruit shake of almond, walnuts and dates with water is a healthy option to help manage sugar cravings. These amazing nuts are high in magnesium and melatonin.
e) Mediterranean diet: A rainbow on the plate can be fascinating to a child. Colourful foods, fruit and vegetables help to improve immunity. They carry polyphenols that help with sleep (such as pineapple, and avocado).
Oranges can increase melatonin by 47 per cent. The foods that have colour are great in terms of antioxidants and reduce stress by reducing free radicals.
f) Vitamin D, vitamin D3 improve bone health and help with many other functions of the body including sleep. Helping children get some sunlight is as good an option as adding milk, eggs, chicken, and fish to the diet.
g) Sweet potato is high in potassium, which can help to overcome sleep deprivation. Potassium helps the body to calm down and balance the electrolytes to keep muscles relaxed at night while sleeping.
h) Bananas are high in serotonin and melatonin, which help to support good health and encourage sleep. They are high on magnesium also, and have calming effect on the body.
Getting your child to consume a smoothie bowl with banana is a good way to induce sleep naturally.
i) Cherries are high in potassium, melatonin, serotonin, magnesium. They are perfect for sleep. Serotonin helps to fix sleep-wake cycles.
(The writer is an integrative gut microbiome health coach and functional nutritionist, and the founder of Body Cocoon, a nutrition and fitness studio)
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