By Nasira Malik, M.D.
The new school year has arrived in Tennessee, which means the lazy days of summer are being replaced with hectic school mornings, homework and after school activities. Many kids have been staying up late and sleeping in during the summer break, so getting them back to a healthy sleep routine may be a challenge. Tennova Healthcare has tips to help parents and their kids get the quality sleep they need.
“Lack of sleep is not just an issue of motivating children in the mornings,” said Dr. Nasira Malik with Tennova Healthcare. “Studies have shown that lack of quality sleep increases the likelihood of anxiety, depression, poor academic performance, and even physical pain.”
According to Dr. Malik, children need more sleep than you may think to function adequately during the day.
“Knowing how much sleep your child needs is the first step in establishing an appropriate bedtime,” Dr. Malik said. “You may find you need to adjust bedtime—a little earlier or later—until you’re confident that your child wakes fairly easily in the morning, and appears alert and refreshed. Some children have shorter sleeping cycles than others but I recommend a minimum of 7-9 hours each night.”
It’s no surprise that the effects of poor sleep are very similar for children and adults. Perhaps your own sleep patterns have shifted over the summer, and it’s time for the whole family to undergo a sleep tune up. The following recommendations are widely agreed upon by sleep experts, and can be used to prepare your family for the faster pace of the school year:
1. Consistency is key.
It’s important to stay consistent with your bedtime schedule, including weekends. Allowing kids to stay up late on the weekends can damage the routine you’re trying to establish.
2. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine.
A relaxing bath or a walk after dinner—followed by a book with a parent for younger kids or silent reading time for older kids—are good ways to wind down to sleep. The body becomes accustomed to these routines, and will eventually find an easy rhythm as the sun starts setting earlier and earlier.
3. Turn off electronics.
All electronics (e.g., TVs, computers and mobile devices) should be shut down at least one hour before target bedtimes. Not only is digital content mentally stimulating, but the artificial light emitting from them tricks the brain into thinking it should be awake.
4. Create an ideal sleep environment.
We should associate our beds only with sleep—not reading, checking email or watching TV. Make sure the sleep space is quiet, dimly lit or dark, and cool (between 68 and 72 degrees). White noise from a fan or sound machine is helpful for those who struggle to fall asleep quickly. Parents should be
mindful that some kids struggle with sensory issues, so ensure comfortable and familiar sheets, pillowcases and blankets are available.
5. Opt for healthy food and exercise.
Kids should get plenty of physical exercise during the day, up to an hour or so before dinnertime. Avoid feeding children fatty or processed foods, and keep sugar and caffeine intake to a minimum. Poor nutrition is the most likely cause of sleep disturbances, for both children and adults.
“Remember the impact of a positive role model,” Dr. Malik said. “Parents who eat well, prioritize physical activity, and invest in their own proper care and rest, raise healthy children who prioritize these things as well. And if someone in your family is struggling with sleep problems, don’t assume it’s insignificant. There are many sleep disorders that can affect both adults and children, that are easily treatable with the partnership of a qualified physician.”
For more information or to find a doctor, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit Tennova.com.
About Tennova Healthcare
One of the state’s largest health networks, Tennova Healthcare includes 16 hospitals and more than 115 physician clinics. The combined network has approximately 2,600 licensed beds, 2,800 physicians on the combined active medical staffs, and 9,000 employees, with more than 70,000 admissions and 465,000 emergency department visits each year. Learn more at www.Tennova.com.