Children’s Sleeping Habits may Affect Their Eating Behavior and Weight
Fussy eaters. We’ve all experienced them, right? Whether we were the culprits in our youth or we’ve got a houseful of them now, the signs are oh-so-familiar.
A fussy eater can be almost impressively stubborn; withstanding whatever pleas and bargains you put forward to make them eat. They can also cause you a lot of worry, as you fret that your child has gone 3 days on nothing more than a couple of slices of toast, a few bites of egg and other tidbits like raisins or grapes. Hello, mom guilt!
You may have the best intentions and spend a full weekend whipping up soups and casseroles before blending and separating into cute lunch-boxes for the week. But when it comes down to feeding time, your little one decided to make it a playtime instead; throwing your homemade soup aside (and possibly all over you) in favour of a plain cracker.
On the other hand, your child might be constantly demanding snacks and treats even though they’ve had lunch half an hour before. Their appetites are insatiable and you worry whether all that chubby cherubness will cause them trouble down the line.
The solution could lie in sleep.
Whether your child’s eating too much, or not enough, getting better sleep can make a big difference.
It makes sense. As adults, we know what a great night’s sleep feels like. (Well, hopefully we do!) We wake up feeling rested and replenished, ready for whatever the day has in store. We’re more productive and creative at work, we remember to exercise and we’re nicer, kinder people to be around.
On the other hand, when we’re sleep-deprived, we can be moody zombies who can’t function without 2 coffees before 9am and who snap at everyone, from the barista to our boss. Yikes.
We can act incredibly childish when we’re under-slept; so what about our poor sleep-deprived kids?! It can be hard to determine the real cause of our children’s behaviour – often we simply chalk it up to them being children – but looking at their sleep habits can give us some answers.
Write these questions down now, and any other ones you think are pertinent to your kids’ sleeping/eating patterns. Then monitor your children’s behaviour over the coming week with these questions in mind. This can be a very worthwhile exercise; you may notice distinct patterns beginning to emerge, with the biggest tantrums and eating problems on the days after less sleep.
- Are they getting enough sleep? (Remember, they need a lot more than us adults.)
- Do they have a set bedtime or does it vary?
- What time do they go to bed/wake up?
- How does this affect a) their mood and b) their eating habits?
How to help your children sleep better:
There’s no catch-all solution, and like any new routine, it will take time to feel the effects. The Sleep Advisor website has some great articles on how to get a better sleep, so check them out if you need inspiration.
You can also take some simple steps right now. Start by creating an evening routine – switch off TVs and other screens an hour before bed, give your kids a bath and read them a story before tucking them in. Set a bedtime that that ensures they’ll get their recommended hours of sleep in… and stick to it!
You can even make a game out of it by offering some kind of rewards scheme. For instance, if your kids go to bed at the set time on weekdays – and actually stay in bed until morning, they get a sticker every night. Once they’ve got 5 stickers in line on the chart, they get a treat that weekend. Day trip to the zoo, anyone?!
Once your kids start getting enough sleep on a consistent basis, it’s likely that their eating behaviour will improve, too. You can stop worrying about their weight and keep worrying about all the other things that flood your mind instead!
Oh, and if after a week of this routine they still seem over-tired, maybe it’s time to bring naps back into their waking hours. There’s a reason why they’re called power naps, after all!
That’s about all, folks!
Hopefully once your children get a little more rest in, they’ll start being the healthier, happier kids you know they can be! So may you both enjoy a sounder sleep… tonight, and every night.