Sweet Temptation

Not long until Easter.  While it’s not exactly like other years, there’s still lots of little ones who are going to be excited about seemingly living off nothing but chocolate for a day or two (or is that just in my house?…).

Nowadays, we’re all pretty aware that letting our little ones gorge on sweet treats isn’t the best thing to let them do for their teeth or waist line, but what about how it affects their sleep? 

It’s not just about physical health

Did you know chocolate has caffeine in it, although fairly small amounts, with white and milk chocolate having the least.  Obviously, these small amounts don’t really affect us as adults who are pretty used to the stuff in tea and coffee but it can make a really big difference to our little ones who wouldn’t usually have caffeine in anything else.  (If you haven’t already, why not check out my blog from a few weeks ago about caffeine?)

But is it just the obvious culprit of caffeine that plays havoc with our sleep?  Well, no actually there’s a few things, but all the refined sugar is a pretty big deal too and can keep us tossing and turning when we should be happily slumbering.

Just a little…

I think we’re all guilty occasionally of reaching for a sugary something to help perk us up a bit, especially in the afternoons and evenings the day after our little ones have been keeping us up all night when we feel like our energy levels are low. Obviously if it’s just occasionally it’s not a big deal, but if it becomes more of a habit, then it can become a bit of a problem. You see, eating refined sugar too close to bed can actually stop us gaining the deep restorative sleep we need (which especially at the moment is really important as that’s the stage of sleep that helps our immune systems!), so even if you do get your 7-9 hours sleep at night, you may still wake up feeling as if you haven’t slept that well.  And that’s because you haven’t.

I guess common sense tells us that having sugary treats close to bedtime could keep us awake because of the sugar high we know (and sometimes love), but actually, research suggests that especially high sugar/high saturated fat foods (like chocolate) can cause multiple night wakings for us too, and not just if it was close to bedtime.  Even if we’re not aware of those awakenings, our bodies are still being dragged out of our much needed deep sleep all as a result of the sugar we consumed earlier in the day. And unfortunately, the more sugar we have throughout the day, the more times we are likely to wake. Boo!

A vicious cycle

If there’s something preventing your body from scrolling through it’s set stages of sleep the way it’s supposed to (whether that’s a little one demanding attention in the middle of the night, or our body letting us know it’s not too happy with us because we’ve had too much sugar), we aren’t going to feel our best in the morning.  And this is where the vicious cycle starts, because much like with a reliance on caffeine, we can then start to use sugar more and more to help perk us up. But the difference between sugar and caffeine is that a sugar high doesn’t last as long, as sugar is metabolised pretty quickly within an hour or two, compared to caffeine which is approximately 3 times as long.  And as I’ve already said, the more sugar we have, the less deep sleep we’re going to get.

Obviously, I’m not preaching here, I’m guilty of occasionally giving in to sweet temptation now and again, and so are my kids (in fact, I never would have got through potty training without using sweets as a bribe!), but, as my dear old Mum used to say, everything in moderation.  But hey, it’s Easter so why not let them (and us!) enjoy it…but at least now you know what to expect!

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