One aspect which needs to be considered when addressing sleep is the nutritional content of your child’s diet. Whilst the body needs many nutrients, such as tryptophan, complex carbohydrates and protein (just to name a few), iron is a key mineral our bodies need to help with sleep quality!
The important thing about iron, quite simply, is it carries oxygen throughout the body and gives us energy! If your child has low iron intake or issues with iron absorption, then their body will struggle to transport oxygen around their body and this will lead to lower levels of oxygenation.
This, in turn, will affect:
Sympathetic nervous system
Low levels of energy due to low iron results in fatigue but not necessarily sleepiness and can affect the ability to fall sleep.
Low iron levels are more likely to trigger restless leg syndrome, which can make a child feel restless and fidgety, again causing issues with falling asleep and staying asleep. And finally, the quality of sleep can be lessened due to the lower levels of oxygen being carried throughout the body.
Iron is an important nutrient and is vital for great sleep quality. So, how can you ensure your child has adequate iron intake? If your child is over the age of 6 months, ensure they consume foods containing iron - include lean red meat three to four times a week, or offer meat alternatives such as dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, canned beans, poultry, fish, eggs and small amounts of nuts and nut pastes. Also be sure to include Vitamin C in their diet to help with iron absorption - include oranges, lemons, mandarins, berries, kiwifruit, tomatoes, cabbage, capsicum and broccoli.
For children who are established on solids, ensure that they do not have a milk/solids imbalance; too much milk can inhibit their ability to absorb iron properly.
So there you have it! The reasons why iron is super important for optimal sleep!
If you’d like to have a chat to me directly…
Please PM me at m.me/shereennielsen or 0419820474.
PS. If you feel like low iron is an issue for your child and you would like to further investigate this, please seek advice from your Nutritionist, GP or Pharmacist.
Shereen Nielsen is the founding director and senior consultant at Shereen Nielsen Sleep and Behaviour Consulting. She is also a lecturer and mentor for students on their journey towards becoming a sleep consultant, through her on-line internationally recognised sleep consultants course.