Sleep and eating problems go together
Parents who have a hard time getting their toddlers to sleep may also have trouble at mealtimes.
So-called behavioural insomnia, where a young child regularly resists bedtime or has trouble staying asleep, is common and seen in up to 30% of children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.

A similar percentage have problems at mealtime, ranging from being an overly fussy eater to having a full-fledged "feeding disorder" - in which, for instance, parents can't get their child to follow any regular eating schedule, or the food refusal affects a child's weight.

It might not be surprising to many parents that sleeping and eating issues often go hand-in-hand.

Among parents of 681 healthy kids 6 months to 3 years old, researchers found that those whose child had behavioural insomnia were more likely than other parents to say their child had eating issues as well.

And parents whose children were diagnosed with a feeding disorder were more likely to say they had trouble getting their child to sleep at night.

When asked if mealtime was a "problem," one-quarter of parents of children with insomnia said that it was; that compared with nine percent of other parents.

Similarly, 37% of parents whose children had an eating problem said that sleep was also an issue. In contrast, only 16% of other parents said the same.

Young children's eating and sleeping habits are the two most common concerns parents bring to their paediatricians.

The current findings, suggest that doctors should be aware that the two issues commonly go together, and help parents find ways to manage both.

The standard way to address behavioural insomnia is for parents to change their children's night-time routine. That usually means setting a regular bedtime and certain rituals, like reading a story that lets a young child know bedtime is coming.

With eating problems, experts generally suggest that parents try to get kids interested in mealtime from an early age, gradually introducing a variety of healthy, colourful foods, for instance, and making the eating environment pleasant but without any distractions like TV.

Are you having trouble with bedtimes and mealtimes?

Read Parent24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.


Want to know what your baby looks like and what you can expect at this stage?




Play creatively

Don’t let your little one’s frustration with wanting to ‘get things just right’ stop them from playing creatively.

See more >


Everything from parties to pre-schools in your area.