Why Letting Your Child Snack All Day Can Damage Their Sleep Quality


I wanted to make the title stronger, more click-able.  But in the end, I am not writing this blog to grab views.  I am writing it to help people support children’s health.  So I couldn’t use words like “destroy” or “torpedo”.  But I wanted to.  Because something as simple as snacking every hour or so when you are over 12 months old, or not on a feeding tube, can really mess with your sleep.  And bad sleep can really mess with your health.  Even if you are a kid.


Because our bodies, our organs, need rest.  Asking our body to be constantly in ALL the active stages of digestion AT ONCE doesn’t allow the system to do its best work.  The hormones released, the energy required, and the ways that digestion and thinking and moving all need to be sequenced for best performance tells us that grazing isn’t a good choice unless there is a medical need for it.  That does happen, but it is far more rare than you can imagine.  I will spare you the physiology, because you don’t need it to know this is true.  The logic is too solid to counter this argument.

It is difficult for you to sleep well after a huge late meal.  As tired as you are, that food is just sitting there.  And if your body needs to poop more than a few times a day to manage the steady flow of food, that doesn’t work very well for being out and about, doing life.  The healthy rhythms of 3-squares-and-a-snack allow bodies to work well, and minds to work well too.

Too often kids either have something else they’d like to do rather than eat.  Or they want to eat while watching their show.  Or while waiting with you in the pick-up line to get their brother from school.  Or…anything else.  Snacks are almost always more appealing and more portable than meals.  Why would ANYONE prefer a meal to a snack?  Because it is healthier.  Meals include a combo of types of food that allow enough time in the stomach to trigger satiety and slow transit enough so we don’t get super-hungry in between.  Growing kids often do need a snack, and the best kind still leave them hungry by dinnertime.


What does this have to do with sleep?

A full day, with healthy elimination and enough food for energy, is essential for good sleep.  Hungry people, overstuffed people, and people who have been digesting all day long aren’t experiencing body rhythms that are conducive to a solid night’s sleep.  They can be exhausted, but they don’t wake refreshed.  This is not going to make for a great day.  It could be a day where they think they need more bunny crackers to fuel them until nap.   And more crunchy snacks to stay awake for their show.

You get it now.  Grazing isn’t the way to go if you want bedtime and daytime to be a great time.


By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: