Many children will settle down to sleep much better if they have eaten shortly before bedtime. This is not intended to be a full meal, so make sure you keep the portions small. Ideally, you should plan for your child to have the snack around an hour before going to bed, which will give the food time to settle, while still being able to fit in your normal bedtime routine after they have eaten.
An ideal bedtime snack should be something healthy, and should not give your child a quick burst of energy, as this means that they will be unwilling to settle down and sleep at their usual bedtime. Bedtime snacks should contain carbohydrates and proteins, rather than sugar.
Ideas for bedtime snacks
These are some suggestions for bedtime snacks that you could give to your child. They are also ideal if you are looking for something to eat before you go to bed.
- Fresh fruit is always a good option for a snack, whether at bedtime or during the day. There is a huge variety to choose from, so whether your child prefers apples, grapes, bananas or something more unusual, eating fruit is a good habit to develop at a young age.
- Another good option for a snack would be yoghurt. These are available in a wide selection of flavours and textures, with and without fruit, and you can also find low fat varieties. Combining yoghurt and fresh fruit can introduce more variety.
- Cereal and milk may sound more like breakfast than an evening snack, though it can be eaten at any time of day. Using low fat milk makes this an even healthier option, and as cereal releases energy slowly, your child won’t suddenly become much more active and alert just as you are trying to put him or her to bed.
- Crackers and cheese may not be an obvious choice, but they do make a good evening snack. You can restrict the portion size easily by limiting the number of crackers that your child eats.
- Another quick and easy option would be a slice or two of toast. Try to avoid sugary toppings such as jam if it is a bedtime snack, though if your child insists, make sure it is spread thinly.
When to give a bedtime snack
Try not to make a snack part of your child’s bedtime routine. If they ask for something to eat, then it is fine to give them a healthy snack, but don’t do it every day. If your child is hungry, then they will ask for food, and you will find that they will sleep much better after eating, if this is the case.
Make sure the snack is eaten about an hour before bedtime, so that the food has time to settle in the stomach.
Foods to avoid before bed
These apply regardless of age, so if you are also looking to eat before you sleep, there are some things you should avoid at night.
- Caffeine, especially in cola drinks for children, should not be taken before bed. Caffeine is a stimulant and will keep you awake, if consumed too late in the day.
- Large meals. Any food eaten shortly before sleeping should be a small portion. Large meals that can be heavy in the stomach commonly lead to a disturbed night’s sleep.
- Foods that are high in fat. Any late night snacks should ideally be healthy, rather than processed snack foods. Processed foods are usually high in sugar and fat, which not only provides a quick burst of energy exactly when you don’t need it, but are also likely to lead to weight gain.
- Finally, one for the adults. Though you may feel that alcohol helps you to get to sleep, it usually leads to a disturbed night. This means that you will not feel rested in the morning, and if you have young children, getting through the next day may be difficult as a result.