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Foods That Can Keep Children Awake

Foods That Can Keep Children Awake

Foods That Can Keep Children Awake

The saying “you are what you eat” has a good deal of truth to it. The foods we eat play a big role in determining how we feel physically and mentally. 

For children of all sorts, diet is an essential factor to consider when it comes to managing energy levels throughout the day and night. Children with special needs may especially benefit from including and avoiding certain foods in a daily routine, especially those that significantly impact energy.

Understanding what types of foods have this effect and why is the first step toward change. Fortunately, there are a few key details that you can keep in mind as you determine what sorts of foods may or may not have a place in your child’s life, and many of them are more obvious than they may seem.

A child jumps on the couch while her mom tries to work

How Can Food Keep Children Awake?

The purpose of food is to provide our bodies with the energy they need to function, so it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that certain types of food tend to make us feel awake and ready to go.

While this reaction to food can be advantageous in some situations, in others, it can become problematic. If your child struggles to fall and stay asleep, for instance, food and drinks that tend to make them feel energized can cause more harm than good.

Different elements of any given food can determine how our body breaks down and processes it. Having a good understanding of what goes into the foods you eat and give to your children can help you avoid those that tend to cause issues (whether it be related to sleeping too much or not enough).

A child scribbles on a notebook while her parent works next to her


Sugars provide the body with the energy it needs in a form that’s easily and quickly absorbed. Foods with lots of sugar may cause some children to feel hyper, but these feelings of increased energy are usually temporary and fade quickly.

Eating lots of sugar close to bedtime may cause a spike in energy that makes it hard to fall and stay asleep. Alternatively, choosing foods high in sugar during the day may cause fluctuating and inconsistent energy levels (making it hard to stay consistently energized and focused).

Sugar isn’t just limited to the white cane sugar we find in sweets or drinks, either. Sugars of all sorts can be found in various foods, especially carbohydrates like pastries, breads, cereals, and more.

A pile of desserts


Unsurprisingly, caffeine and foods or drinks that contain it can have a large impact on a child’s energy levels.

It’s generally wise to avoid giving caffeine of any sort to children, even if getting your child to feel more awake and alert during the day is your goal. However, some foods and drinks -- such as tea and some types of chocolate -- naturally have caffeine in them and can be hard to avoid.

If your child does encounter caffeine at all, be sure it’s as minimal as possible. Caffeine’s effects can linger long after its source is consumed, and high levels of caffeine can cause feelings of anxiety alongside insomnia.

Coffee falling into a mug

Essential Nutrients (or Lack Thereof)

Nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, fats, and more all play an essential role in determining how much energy a food grants its consumer.

Foods rich in protein and fiber, for instance, can provide energy that’s much more stable and long-lasting than the energy provided by something like a sugary bowl of cereal. 

Those looking to help children feel awake all day long should take a second look at their children’s diet. Does it consist primarily of processed foods that lack important macro and micronutrients, or does it include a mix of foods that growing bodies need?

Even if you’re looking to help your child sleep more rather than less, ensuring that they’re eating what they need on a regular basis means that their bodies will be better equipped to handle stressors and sleep-inhibiting challenges.

What Can Kids Eat To Stay Awake?

If keeping your little one moving all day long is your goal, there are indeed some foods you can focus on to help them out. These would be great additions to breakfast, or even just for snacks throughout the school day or before a sports practice.

Foods that are great for promoting stable energy levels might include:

  • Lean proteins like chicken, fish, and turkey
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Whole grains (brown rice, oats, etc.)
  • Beans and legumes
  • Berries
  • Greek yogurt, specifically those products without added sugars

A healthy breakfast of fruits and juices and tea

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to look for foods that pack a solid amount of protein or fiber. These foods tend to make children feel full and satisfied for longer than those full of fast-acting carbs and sugars.

Simple carbs and sugar tend to make a child’s blood sugar rise and fall pretty quickly, meaning they only feel energized and alert for a limited amount of time before hunger and sluggishness return.

As mentioned above, it’s best for children to avoid caffeine or foods that include it. Though caffeine is a temptingly simple way to address drowsiness, it’s not recommended for children under the age of 12 to consume it.

Good Bedtime Habits for Children 

Once you’ve gotten a better feel for what sorts of foods can help your child stay awake, it’s much easier to incorporate said foods into an appropriate night time (or day time) routine. 

For children with special needs, great sleep hygiene, including food choices, is an especially important part of getting a good night’s sleep.

Autism and Bedtime

Conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD), among others, tend to impact sleep patterns and energy levels for children and adults alike. Incorporating foods that promote energy at appropriate times in a child’s daily routine can, therefore, be beneficial.

Likewise, avoiding foods that tend to be stimulating as the day winds down can be a wise decision. Tiring a child with autism can look different for each individual, but in general, it’s best to avoid foods high in sugar or those that might leave your child feeling hungry very soon after consumption.

Bedtime Snacks For Kids

A good bedtime snack for children is one that fills them up, tastes yummy, and gives the body the nutrients it needs to promote restful, healing sleep.

As discussed, nutritional foods tend to pack way more of a punch than their processed counterparts. Find ways to incorporate these foods into your child’s bedtime snack, if they have one, to further support their wellbeing.

Ideas for filling and healthy (but still fun!) bedtime snacks for children might include:

  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc.
  • Lean proteins: turkey, chicken, and other similar proteins can be found in snack packs or given to children independently
  • Cheeses and eggs
  • Fibrous veggies and fruits
  • Nut butter with veggies, crackers, etc.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with snacktime! It’s a great opportunity to get your child excited about and involved in their bedtime routine, and the chance to boost their physical health shouldn’t be overlooked, either.

A rope bag filled with snacks

Sleep All Night Long With The Cubby Bed

Alongside any good bedtime routine and snack should be a sleep environment that feels safe, secure, and comfortable. The Cubby Bed can go a long way in terms of achieving this goal and more.

The Cubby Bed’s comfort and safety features combine to create a product that’s truly one-of-a-kind (and a lifesaver for many families). Padding and a 360 canopy enclosure can keep your little one safe from harm, and the bed’s ability to produce white noise or light can curate an atmosphere that feels truly special.

With devices like the Cubby Bed by your side, finding a routine that keeps your child asleep when they need to be and awake when they don’t is more approachable than ever. Multiple financing options are available to help families of all backgrounds find a way to make the Cubby Bed fit for them.

A big part of staying awake during the day is getting the sleep you need at night consistently. Let the Cubby Bed bear the brunt of this never-ending challenge for both you and your child, and discover all that a good night’s sleep really has to offer!

If you have additional questions, send them our way!

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