Do your kids have trouble sleeping? Are you at your very wit’s end trying to figure out how to make them shut their eyes at night? Because I’ve been there from the moment my daughter was born almost five years ago. There’s always something keeping my children awake at night.
I survived those early days when my kids woke up every 30 minutes to feed. I made it through those beastly sleep regressions that keep a child wide awake at certain developmental stages. I nursed sick children all night long. I’ve even dealt with those crazy-ass night terrors. I’m not talking about those moments though.
My daughter used to just wake up for absolutely no apparent reason, and still does, if I don’t handle her with care. She was sleeping through the night just fine for about a year or two (mind you, I was awake all night with her brother, so yeah). Then all of a sudden, just as my son started to sleep through the night, at 3 years old she started waking in the middle of the night. Sometimes she’d get out of bed five or six times in one night. It was a nightmare.
For over a year, I suffered through this. I had no idea what to do. I researched high and low for reasons preschoolers woke at night. I read that she could be having night terrors, waking with the urge to pee, have sleep apnea and that b.s. “she could be overtired” excuse every sleeping site likes to give. None of them made sense. I didn’t know what to do.
One day, I was reading an article about why adults have insomnia. There was a huge list of possible causes and one of them just so happened to be a lack of fat in the diet. It was my aha moment. I couldn’t believe I had overlooked diet as a factor to my preschooler’s night wakings. She had become an extremely picky eater and refused almost anything I put in front of her. Prior to this picky stage, she ate everything. I mean, even escargot.
The next day I ran to the store and bought a bag of cashews. I had her eat about 12 of them. That night she slept like a log. I figured it had to be a fluke. But it wasn’t. Every time I gave her a bunch of cashews at dinner, she slept through the night. It was a miracle.
If you have a picky eater who doesn’t sleep, consider what sort of thing is missing from his or her diet. It could easily be fat. Lots of kids live off of fruit, crackers and pasta, none of which have fat.
Here are some healthy high-fat foods that are also kid-friendly:
- Cashews or some other type of nuts
- Organic and/or pasture-raised chicken skin
- Avocado (guacamole!)
- Nut butters
- Coconut oil – I put this on a waffle with some honey. My kids are obsessed.
- Organic full-fat yogurt and milk – I’m not a huge fan of dairy but some parents don’t have a problem with it. Just make sure it’s organic (a.k.a. cows aren’t injected with hormones).
I know we’ve been told that all fat is bad for so long. Although it’s been a few years since that’s been proven false, lots of people are still following that fat-is-bad mindset. All fats are not created equally so you have to be careful. Fats high in omega-6, like canola oil, should be avoided. And of course those nasty trans-fats, found in things like french fries, shouldn’t be in your daily diet but there’s relatively new evidence that saturated fats and other healthy fats aren’t so bad after all. Plus, they’re making my kid sleep!
If sleep is an issue in your house, give this a chance. Like I said, I have to keep pumping my daughter full of fat otherwise she doesn’t sleep, so this isn’t a one-shot, cure-all deal but I’ll buy all the cashews in the world if it makes her sleep.
Side note for parents with newborns and young infants: Please do not try adding extra fat into your baby’s diet. Trust me, there isn’t anyone else who knows the pain of having a baby who doesn’t sleep but adding fat to your young baby’s diet or rice cereal to the bottle is absolutely not the solution.