Having a toddler that has yet to "sleep through the night" has often been a challenge, but I have begun to find it more so with tax season upon us and a more absent husband, who when he is home NEEDS his sleep. For the longest while I thought O's frequent awakenings at night were normal,then I gave birth to Henry, who from day one has slept all night long. This got me thinking and researching what O might be lacking that would help her sleep at night. My search led me to serotonin and melatonin production in toddlers and eventually to foods that increase that production. I have been keeping track in a little book of what I feed her and which nights she sleeps better (meaning she only wakes up once or twice as opposed to every hour after midnight). To my relief I have found that the melatonin and serotonin producing foods increase her sleep at night! Needless to say I have begun to incorporate as many of these foods into her diet as possible. I will share them with you here.
Let me start with the fact that tryptophan is an amino acid. This amino acid is used by the body to make serotonin, the precursor to melatonin, your sleep inducing hormone. Serotonin affects neurotransmitters by "slowing down nerve traffic", in other words calming down your brain. Tryptophan is found in milk, seafood, meats, peanuts and eggs. The key to consuming tryptophan is not to eat it alone. It must be consumed with carbohydrates to activate its calming effect. Eaten alone most proteins will actually wake up your brain (due to the amino acid tyrosine, which with no carbs on board will over rule the tryptophan). Dairy, which contains calcium, is the most effective sleep inducing food since calcium combined with tryptophan increases the production of melatonin in the brain.
This vitamin is required for the synthesis of the hormone melatonin. Deficiency of this vitamin is virtually unheard of but just for some good information it is found in high amounts in the following foods:
liver and kidney, yeast, egg yolk, broccoli, fish, shellfish, chicken, milk, yogurt, legumes, mushrooms, avocado, sweet potatoes, and unrefined whole grains.
A fact I found interesting is that melatonin is produced in the pineal gland AND in the gut. A child with a compromised gut or "leaky gut syndrome" may have issues producing melatonin and therefore may not sleep as well at night. Melatonin is found in the following foods:
(my reference list has a website with herbs and seeds that contain large amounts of it also)
· Sunflower Seeds
As we continue our journey towards O sleeping better at night I am sure I will have more to share! Thanks for listening.