Most parents will agree sleep is a complete luxury that is undervalued and unrecognised until you have kids. 

Once you are blessed with kids, sleep turns into an illusive concept you dearly want to become intimate with, yet never seem to grasp!

First there are the sleepless nights as your pregnancy turns comfort into an unknown (no matter how many pillows are used for propping various body parts).

Then your magnificent baby introduces you to a whole new perspective of the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning.

And just when you think things are easing and your baby sleeps through the night, your precious little one turns into a toddler and bedtime becomes a whole new kettle of fish!

Quite often these sleep issues continue well into school aged years… then they become teenagers and yet again, the goal posts shift dramatically.

Never fear!  There is a solution to your child’s sleep problems… and it’s not what you think!

The key to a calm sleeping child – whether a toddler or a grown up school kid – comes down to one thing… Food.

Now I’m not talking about capturing that mystical moment before they’re too tired to sleep or too hungry to eat.  And it’s got nothing to do with never sending your kid to bed on an empty tummy.  I’m talking about what you use to fuel your kidlet – any time of the day.

You most likely know that chocolate before bed is not such a flash idea as the caffeine kicks in and takes over your kidlet’s personality.

But what about certain unnatural and natural food elements we often think are completely harmless or even healthy?

Did you know that a simple piece of fruit or glass of juice could mess with your child’s sleep patterns and ability to go to sleep?  Or that an innocent tub of flavoured yoghurt or a home cooked stir fry dinner can make your child restless, irritable and unable to sleep well?

Without getting too much into the nitty gritty, let’s take a closer look at what might be causing the problem with your sleepless kidlet.

Artificial colouring

Artificial colours are just simply one great big recipe for disaster that results in sleepless kids.

They can be found in just about any food kids eat – from flavoured yoghurt to breakfast cereal and almost anything in between.

Food colouring is a major contributor to unwanted symptoms such as sleeplessness, night terrors and tantrums before bedtime.

Whilst artificial colouring might be obvious in brightly coloured cupcakes and lollies, beware, as they are often also lurking in things as simple as fruit juice or store bought sauces you use in your dinner (e.g.: soy sauce or tomato sauce).


Aside from being linked to several adverse physical reactions such as breathing and skin issues (think eczema, asthma), preservatives can also cause hyperactivity – something I’m sure you will agree is far from a calm sleepy kidlet at bedtime.

Again, they can be lurking in seemingly harmless foods such as yoghurts, noodles, and the sauces you use in your dinner or the drinks you give your child.

Artificial sweeteners

Plenty of processed foods will claim they are healthy and sugar free to entice you to purchase them for your kidlets.

The problem is the artificial sweeteners used in place of sugar are far worse offenders when it comes to child behaviour.

Hyperactivity and sleep disturbance are just the tip of the iceberg here.  Such nasties will be in anything from yoghurts to muesli bars, biscuits and sauces.

Salicylates, Glutamates, Flavour Enhancers

Salicylates are a natural pesticide found in natural fresh foods, usually in the skin or in unripe fruits e.g.: tomatoes, berries, citrus and therefore jams, sauces and juices.

Glutamates are acids found naturally in some foods (such as strong cheese, tomatoes and soy sauce) or manufactured to enhance flavour in processed foods (sometimes known as MSG, flavour enhancers or fermented proteins).

So simple things such as fresh fruits, flavoured yoghurts, two minute noodles and sauces can send your child far from the land of nod.

The essence of time

The effects of these additives and natural food elements can occur almost immediately after consuming the food, or take several days or weeks to rear their ugly heads.

So the timing is not the issue, it’s the actual food your kidlet eats that creates the problem.  One or two doses of certain foods or additives in any form can send your kids down the wrong path to la la land, no matter when they eat them.

So what to do?

Put simply, how can you expect your little one (or big one!) to behave calmly, have balanced emotions and sleep well if they are being fueled with stimulants that do quite the opposite?

If you are after a calm happy kidlet that goes to bed easily and sleeps well throughout the night, the key is to change the way they eat.

Start checking labels, stick to fresh whole foods and eliminate the additives from your child’s daily intake.  If you’re still not seeing the results you want, dig a little deeper and look at the ‘good’ foods they are eating (e.g.: salicylates in fruits).

Make sure the majority of your child’s food consists of fresh vegetables and clean pure foods, and not only will you have calm happy kids who sleep well at night, but you’ll rediscover the lost art of sleeping too!  It’s a win win!

Wishing you healthy happy kids and sweet dreams!

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  • I’ve been convinced for some time that my son’s behaviour (and possibly sleep issues and bedwetting (he is 8)) are related to food. But that said it’s so overwhelming that I never manage to get anywhere with it and end up giving up. I know he reacts to artificial colours – and almost instantly. As soon as he has some he goes crazy. Also 160b too. But trying to eliminate other additives, preservatives and not to mention Salicylates, Glutamates, Flavour Enhancers seems to have been put in the too hard basket for me.

    • Do you let your son have fizzy drinks at all? That can cause bedwetting. Some fruit juices may be a problem too.
      When you are buying products check the labels…..every time. A friend of ours is highly Gluten intolerant. He bought a product which was previously gluten free, only ate a few mouthfuls and had a crook stomach for nearly a week. On that occasion he didn’t check the label because the one he bought a week before was labelled gluten free.
      Some products are labelled -may contain traces of…….a trace of some products is enough to affect some people

      • Hi Mom72550. Yes it can be so overwhelming and many people end up putting it in the too hard basket – you’re not alone! The most important thing I’ve discovered is that the change itself is the hardest part – there are so many things to learn and think about and combine that with a whole new way of eating and shopping and suddenly it’s very difficult. That’s why I developed a program to help families with all the hard bits so it is manageable – guiding you to learn the things that are best for your family at a pace you can handle, whilst still focussing on making it a lasting change. The benefits are so worth it! Especially as it means you end up with kids that are calm and happy and show far more manageable behaviours :-) If you would like some help, please feel free to contact me or check out my website consultation page, which outlines how I tailor programs (far more than just what to eat and what to buy) to make the change easier (links and details for my website are at the bottom of this article). You have overcome one of the biggest hurdles already by recognising there is a link between your son’s behaviour and food. That awareness and motivation is a great start! Good luck with your journey and please know I am happy to help if you need! Thank you so much for sharing! Loren x
        PS thank you to June11 also for your very informative comment! Deciphering labels is an art form and the number one rule is definitely don’t believe the front of the package, always read the ingredients and warnings (and even then know they can be missing key ingredients if less than 5% of the product)! If in doubt, don’t buy it, or stick to certified (by reputable processes) products or eat fresh whole foods :-) I have an eBook coming out shortly on gluten free eating so keep an eye out on my social media or website pages for more info if you need! Thanks again June11. Loren x


  • A very informative article – thank you for the tips!


  • Interesting read but it might take a while for me to find exactly what is the cause is when it can be basically anything they eat. Exhaustion doesn’t much help me either….. they just seem to be MORE energised by running around.

    • Hi SkboU. Yes it can be hard and a long journey when there are so many places sneaky additives can be found! A good place to start eliminating the options is to pick the main things your child eats and check them first. Some clients of mine have also found it helpful to keep a record or make a note of when their kids seems to be most experiencing problems and work backwards to see what they ate in the last few meals. Quite often the effects can be pretty quick so this method can help track down the culprits a bit easier. Good luck on your journey and if you need any further support, please feel free to contact me or check out my website (details and links at bottom of article). Thanks for sharing! Loren x


  • Oh so instead of the fight we have about bedtime, I will be having the no you can’t eat anything you like because it will keep you awake. I am a bad mother because my children don’t just eat green vegetables and seeds. Moderation is the key to everything. Having said this I do agree there are connections to what they eat, but unless you have a very bland diet it is near impossible to live 24/7 on it.

    • Hi Deangunna. I certainly don’t think you are a bad mother! And I agree that finding the right balance that works for your family is most important. We are all wonderfully different and what works for some, may not work for others. We have been additive free for over 12 years now and whilst we definitely aren’t 100% all of the time, we do our best to eat healthy as much as possible. And we aren’t eating bland food, veggies and seeds only – there are heaps of yummy options and recipes out there! There are many reasons kids have trouble sleeping and based on my background and experience, I wrote this article in the hope that it helps some on their journey as parents and wish you all the best with yours. Loren x


  • Such wonderful tips here and some things for me to look into for getting 1 off mine to sleep

    • Hi Pakeko. I hope they help and thanks for sharing! Loren x


  • Great informative article and interesting read with wonderful tips and points. Thanks for sharing.:-)
    I find my sleep is poor when I have consumed too much sugar in the day.

    • Hi Cherz. Thank you for your kind words and sharing what effects your sleep. Loren x


  • They are helpful tips for little ones

    • Hi Aliceou. Thanks for your lovely comment! Loren x


  • Thanks for sharing. Thanks to the other mummies for your comments too. Some great ideas.

    • Thanks Mummy1214! I am loving the great ideas and comments too :-) Loren x


  • An interesting read thanks for sharing. my canvas prints

    • Thanks for reading and commenting AmyAbby4! Loren x


  • This has been a little helpful… I have been trying to read labels looking for numbers (additives) to reduce in my sons diet as I don’t want him to have all these nasty chemicals and the added side effects.

    So hard when you don’t know what to look for to avoid and no matter what all foods are going to have something in it whether it be one nasty or the whole ingredients listed.

    But I’m still working on trying to reduce the nasty ingredients.

    • Hi Mom90771. I am so glad my article helped a little. It is a very complex and overwhelming world when starting to eliminate additives and read labels. I’ve just touched on the surface here – feel free to check out my website (links/details at bottom of article) for more information on particular numbers to look out for or eliminate. I found a good way to begin was to pick the top 3 things you find you are regularly using every day and replace them with healthier options first – you can’t go past whole fresh foods as a substitute for just about anything that’s in a packet and it’s a great way to guarantee there’s no additives! :-) Good luck with your additive free journey and thank you for sharing! Loren x


  • Running them ragged always seems to help my kids sleep better!

    • Hi Mom57522. Yes! Works a treat for us too! Thanks for sharing! Loren x


  • Interesting article, we have found that the children have eaten well during the day and haven’t had enough outdoor play is when they don’t sleep well. If they have spent a couple hours playing, exercising and generally having fun outside that seems to make them sleep easier that night, having said that though, conditions such as change of weather, sickness can also affect their sleep patterns.

    • Hi Mom 73211. So true! An exhausted little one is always a great sleeper! And there are definitely other factors to consider – we are not usually fortunate to find one solution fits all problems, but hopefully eliminating additives can help some find a peaceful nights sleep. Thank you for sharing! Loren x


  • I agree, to an extent. Food additives can definitely have a negative impact on a child’s health and sleep patterns and it is most definitely worth investigating if you have a child with sleep problems.
    But, it’s also worth noting that we’re all different. Sometimes sleep problems have other causes. It might be environmental, it might even be genetic or any number of other reasons.
    Personally, I think that minimising additives is a wise course of action even if your child doesn’t have sleep problems.

    • Hi Bela. I totally agree with you – there could be a heap of different reasons for sleep problems – we are complex individuals! I find that food additives are not always thought of when investigating sleep issues, so my article is hopefully helping some readers to find another avenue to check out. And yes, as you mention, regardless of your child’s sleeping habits, it’s always best to avoid additives whenever possible! Thank you so much for your comment! Loren x


  • Ahhh sleep is something I have bot had in four years but I will certainly try these tips

    • Hi Mom92217. Haha! Yes, it’s a rarity with little ones. Good luck – I hope the tips help and thank you for sharing! Loren x


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