Q: "Are there diets to help children sleep and improve hyperactivity? Does the Fail-Safe Diet work?"
R. Johnston (Grafton, NSW)
A: The Fail-Safe Diet from Sue Dengate is similar to the Elimination Diet developed by RPA in Sydney. It aims to minimise salicylates, amines and glutamates – natural food chemicals that are responsible for much of the flavours of foods, eg parmesan, tomatoes, most fruit except pears, most vegetables except iceberg lettuce and peas. You also eliminate additives, particularly colours, preservatives and flavour enhancers like MSG. The Elimination Diet is used to test which food chemicals the child is sensitive to and is done under medical supervision. It can be quite an elaborate and confusing process. Some families notice improvements simply by cutting down preserved, coloured and highly-flavoured foods (like replacing cheese-flavoured chips with plain chips).
There are lots of simple things you can try to help your children sleep better. Stick to quiet activities before bed such as reading rather than TV or physical games. A warm bath and a cup of hot milk with honey are old-fashioned but proven techniques. Keep their room cool, dark and quiet and stick to a regular bedtime so their body clock gets into a 'routine'.