Foods to help children sleep

Experiment with your child's food intake to find the right amount of food to have in the evening. It takes around an hour for the tryptophan in foods to reach the brain, so give a snack well before bedtime.

Wholewheat bread

A slice of toast with tea and honey will release insulin, which helps tryptophan get to your brain. Once there, tryptophan turns into serotonin, which murmurs: "time to sleep".

Bananas

They're practically a sleeping pill in peel! Bananas contain a bit of soothing melatonin and serotonin, as well as magnesium, a muscle relaxant.

Honey

Drizzle a little in your warm milk or herb tea. Lots of sugar is stimulating. But a little glucose tells your brain to turn off orexin, a neurotransmitter linked to alertness.

Warm milk

It's not a myth. Milk has some tryptophan, an amino acid that acts like a sedative, and calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan. Plus there's the reminder of infancy, when a warm bottle meant "relax, everything's fine".

Oatmeal

Oats are a rich source of melatonin. A small bowl of warm cereal with a splash of maple syrup is cosy. If you've got the munchies, it's filling too.

Almonds and peanut butter

A handful of these heart-healthy nuts can be snooze-inducing, as they contain both tryptophan and a nice dose of muscle-relaxing magnesium.

Potatoes

A small baked spud will not overwhelm your digestion. It clears away acids that can interfere with tryptophan. To increase the soothing effects, mash it with warm milk.

Turkey

It's the most famous source of tryptophan, always credited for all those Christmas naps. But that's modern folklore. Tryptophan works when your stomach's empty, not overstuffed, and when there are some carbs around, not tons of protein. So put a lean slice of turkey on some wholewheat bread in the evening, and you've got one of the best sleep inducers in your kitchen.

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