Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekend wonderings: MSG and night wakings

Little boy has never been a good sleeper until some time ago, when we finally managed to get him to sleep on his own in his room (after a period of night-weaning).  For the past few months, there have been some peaceful nights where he would wake once a night, or sometimes none at all, interspersed with some nights where he would wake up a few (or many times!) screaming and crying.  So far, we attributed most of these night-wakings to him falling sick or teething.

However, we also noticed another trend: if we fed the boy outside food, there was an increased likelihood of him waking up at night.  Make it Asian food (especially Chinese restaurants), and the likelihood increases even further.  So we suspected that the consumption of MSG (Monosodium glutamate, or what is sometimes known as Ajinomoto) might be the cause of some of these night wakings.  Initially, I thought it was just paranoia on my part, but we started being very careful about the stuff we fed the boy when we ate out.  I would try to either bring out home-cooked food for the boy when we ate out, or would try to avoid food that had a higher likelihood of containing MSG.  The problem seemed to improve somewhat, and the frequency of nights having the boy wake up 6-8 times a night screaming his head off decreased.

The hubby and I in general seem to also react to MSG as well.  For the hubby, consuming MSG in food makes him thirsty, and sometimes results in him being unable to sleep (which seems to be a known effect of MSG).  I too, get extremely thirsty and start getting headaches after an MSG-laden meal.  So it probably comes as no surprise that the boy too may react to MSG.  Not only does it seem to affect his sleep, it also seems to make him hyper.  Just this weekend, we had sandwiches and soup at a eatery (we assumed MSG was not added to their food, as they sold all the healthy stuff!).  However, hubby and I ended up feeling really thirsty after the meal, and the little boy got extremely hyper (and was so revved up, he couldn't go down for his afternoon nap!).  That day, hubby had to babysit the boy as he bounced off the walls while I took a nap, and henceforth has concluded that yes... we'd better stay far away from MSG in the boy's case if possible!  (He used to say I was paranoid, heh.)

The odd thing is, it seems that most scientific research on the effects of MSG have been inconclusive (click here for a pretty comprehensive discussion on the topic), and most of the evidence has been anecdotal (for example, this parent's sharing on how MSG seemed to trigger off night terrors in her daughter's case).  We've had a close friend who has also observed the same trend, as her daughter would wake up over 6 times a night after eating out at eateries serving Asian food (to the point that she orders sandwiches now when she eats out), so we're not ditching our theory as of yet.  Of course, the grandparents all tell us the boy needs to get his chicken rice and other local yummies, to build up some tolerance to MSG, but then again, they don't have to stay up with the kid while he thrashes around in bed and cries through the entire night!

So I'm curious... do any of your kids experience night wakings, or get really hyper after eating a meal containing MSG?  Do share!


  1. Too much MSG (e.g. Drinking the soup with it) makes me thirsty thus unable to sleep well at night. The Chinese food in western countries might have more msg than the ones here (at least it is so in NZ). Hence if it is my first time eating at that eatery, I'll avoid consuming too much of the sauce or soup especially if it tastes really nice hehe... As for the kids, I haven't thought of that. Will start to observe.

  2. Hmm, this is very interesting indeed. Sean has been waking up crying inconsolably a few times a night lately (and other nights, he just sleeps through)! I thought it had something to do with him being overtired or heaty. But will monitor if it's diet-related!

    My husband and I concluded that eating the food from some of our usual eating haunts (even though they taste very good) make us feel a bit sick after. So we are definitely not patronising these places again!

  3. Hi

    I have been enjoying reading your blog.
    My 3 yr old gal also has night terror and I can't pin point to any trigger point. She can cry bitterly for abt 20 mins non stop and there is nothing I can do. However I do notice that if she does not have her afternoon nap or something unpleasant happen during the day, the likelihood of night terror increases. I will observe if msg has an impact on her n keep u posted if any. Thanks for your sharing, have benefitted a lot.


  4. CE: Thanks for the tip, especially since I think we'll be eating alot of Asian food over in Europe... hubby can't do without his noodles!

    Olimomok: Oh yes, overtiredness sometimes can lead to nightmares, we've also have nights where the boy gets nightmares after having a very "exciting" evening. Ergh, I think I know what you mean, sometimes we end up feeling so thirsty and regret eating those dishes!

  5. Summerbliss: Thanks for leaving a comment! Oh dear, hope those night terrors will also reduce with time! And it would be great if you could keep us posted... thanks so much!

  6. Msg is naturally occurring but coz it tastes good so people concentrate and add it to food. When it is in excess, that's when trouble starts.

    E does bounce off the walls with msg and too much sugar. We try to keep the exposure to a minimum especially since I get whole body aches with too much msg.

  7. Here in KL, there're tonnes of local "yummy" food. But I've never liked salty or black-sauce laden food, so we steer quite clear of them. Definitely would restrict son's sugar intake 1-2 hours before nap or bedtime, including fruits like grapes, to prevent him from turning hyper.

  8. The part time domestic goddess: You have a good point there... J also goes a lil nuts if he gets too much sugar, so we do try to watch that as well, especially since the boy has a sweet tooth and tries to eat up my dessert! :p

    Mievee: Oh yes, eating out in M'sia is sometimes challenging wrt to the sauces and stuff added! Usually I end up cooking for the boy when we cross over...



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