The truth about food and sleep is that THEY ARE SO CONNECTED.
They are both required for survival and the body requires both each day in varying amounts. We know that our children require lots of sleep, but we also know that they need meals as well – so let’s chat about timing.
Who knew that the timing of meals actually matters if we want our kids to sleep better?
Let’s take this on a scientific level. When we eat food, the digestion process starts as soon as that food enters our mouths. Once the food reaches the stomach, it mixes with our stomach acid and starts to break down – eventually leading into the small intestine, then the large intestine…and you know what happens next. Complete digestion can take anywhere from 24-72 hours.
When we eat a large meal, we have something called the gastrocolic reflex. It is a normal reaction the body has to eating food in varying intensities. When food hits your stomach, your body releases certain hormones. These hormones tell your colon to contract to move food through your colon and out of your body. This makes room for more food.*
With that knowledge – WHY do we feel like we need to make sure our children are “full” right before a nap or bedtime? Is it a myth that a full stomach leads to a longer sleep?
YES – it is a myth!
Once the digestion process has started, the body warms up as it is working. AND in order for sleep to happen, our internal body temperature has to cool down.
So what does this mean for nap time?
This means that TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
I recommend that if your child’s nap time is around 12:30pm, that lunch starts by 11:30am and finishes by 12:00pm. This will ensure that if a bowel movement is made, it happens before the nap. It also gives your child’s body some time to “cool down” after eating, meaning they will have a better quality of sleep – instead of wasting time tossing and turning due to discomfort in their bellies. It can also lengthen the nap because it will be of better quality.
The same thing goes for dinner. Have dinner at your normal time and if needed, offer a healthy snack 30-45 minutes before bedtime, but no more eating right up until bedtime.
The same goes for you, mama. If you would like to improve the quality of your sleep at night, try cutting off eating 1-2 hours before you go to sleep, and only drinking water after then if needed. I bet you’ll notice a big difference!!