Foods that Help Kids Sleep

The Perfect Foods to Help Your Kids Sleep

It’s difficult to ensure your kids sleep on a regular schedule, especially when they are younger and want nothing more than to stay up with their parents. Certain foods can ease a child into a sleepy state where they are ready for bed themselves and other types of foods have the opposite effect. As a parent, being aware of these two groups of foods is imperative to maintaining a healthy sleep schedule for your child and when your child has a good night’s rest, so can you.


That famous amino acid tryptophan is known for its Thanksgiving turkey sleep-inducing properties, but did you know it can be found in a host of foods? Dairy is an especially good source. The folk wisdom of warm milk is right on the money, and if your child isn’t a fan of milk, other dairy products like yogurt or cheese are also good sources. Tryptophan works with the body to produce serotonin, the chemical responsible for making us feel content and sleepy. Dairy products also contain an abundance of calcium, which makes tryptophan easier to process, and also helps induce another sleep chemical, melatonin. Serving some dairy about an hour before bed should help your kids sleep (or at least wind down in preparation for sleep).

To further augment the effects of tryptophan, carbohydrates such as bread, crackers, oatmeal, and other whole-wheat snacks can be paired with dairy. Keep these snacks light, as eating too much before sleep can cause an upset stomach and keep your child up, having the opposite effect.

A few other foods that contain tryptophan include: nuts, green leafy veggies, and eggs. There are a host of foods that help with sleep; you can find the right combination for even the pickiest eaters.


Bananas are a kind of sleep super-food, containing potassium, magnesium, and tryptophan. Both magnesium and potassium help muscles relax, helping the body slow down and get ready for sleep. Kids often feel the need to keep moving and a banana can dull the compulsion. Pairing the banana with milk is a great combination, making for a restful sleep.

Something to consider as a sort of all-in-one option would be a banana and peanut butter smoothie. This recipe from allrecipes.com can be made with common household ingredients:

  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups of milk
  • ½ cup of peanut butter
  • 2 cups of ice

This recipe provides a tasty treat that will help your kids sleep, although you should avoid any honey, as too much sugar can keep them awake at night.

Foods to Avoid

While some foods can help your child fall asleep and have a good night’s rest, others can be detrimental. Soda is perhaps the worst offender, containing caffeine and a high amount of sugar that, after a short crash, will create a feedback of adrenaline. Chocolate is similar, containing caffeine and sugar. In general, foods high in simple sugars are a bad idea, so avoiding things like candy or other sweets is imperative.

Anything that you have noticed gives your child an upset stomach should also be avoided; gastric disturbances can wake a child in the night. Also, avoid trying new food before bed even if it is healthy, as your child could be sensitive to the new snack. It’s best to try new foods during the day, so any adverse reactions can be limited to waking hours. If you find a few things that work, try to stick with them and they can become a part of your child’s nightly ritual. A sense of certainty can also help with ensuring that your kids sleep well.

The Bigger Picture

No single thing is assured to help a child sleep at night, and some children may have underlying medical reasons for why they aren’t sleeping well at night. Be sure to try other solutions such as white noise, routine, and other sleep hygiene steps. If your child’s sleep isn’t improving, then it’s important to consult a doctor to assess the underlying reasons for a child’s sleep issues. Contact New York Sleep Specialist Dr. Mayank Shukla so that your kids sleep healthily, and so that you can have a restful sleep, as well.

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