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Health and Wellness: Better sleep for a better school day

By Amy Osmond Cook - | Sep 11, 2021

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Less than half of children get nine hours of sleep most weeknights. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, those who do “are significantly more likely to show a positive outlook toward school and other signs of ‘childhood flourishing,’ a measure of behavioral and social well-being.”

We all want our children to flourish, but between extracurriculars, homework, social engagements and other pursuits, sleep can take a back seat. So here are five simple things you can change to help your child sleep better and flourish the way you know they can:

1. Try Light Therapy

Your circadian rhythm helps your body respond to sleep and waking cycles — and light therapy taps into that. To try it, have your child sit near a light therapy box for a certain amount of time each day when they can’t be outside.

“When used consistently and as recommended by a doctor, exposure to this light helps reset your circadian rhythm,” said Sleep Foundation. “As a result, individuals undergoing light therapy are better able to fall asleep earlier at night, or sleep in later in the morning, depending on what they need.” Light therapy is designed to use visible light while filtering out ultraviolet rays.

2. Time Their Diet

There’s nothing like a bowl of cold cereal right before bed, but that sugar can be a nightmare for your winding-down routine. To avoid blood sugar control problems and weight gain, “Choose mostly snacks that pack protein, fiber and healthy fat,” said Lainey Younkin, a registered dietitian. “This combo slows the rise of blood sugar and is digested slowly, which will keep you full.”

3. Help Them Identify Stress Triggers

Even small children can toss and turn when something’s bothering them. Johns Hopkins has a few tips for helping kids cope with stress so they can have a better night’s sleep. Here are a few:

  • Comment briefly on the feelings you think your child is or was experiencing.
  • Listen to your child talk about their feelings.
  • Help your child think of some ideas for dealing with certain stressful situations.
  • Limit stress if possible.

4. Make Their Bedroom More Sleep Friendly

While your kids may enjoy doing homework while lying in bed, that may be contributing to poor-quality sleep.

“An essential tip to help fall asleep quickly and easily is to make your bedroom a place of comfort and relaxation,” according to Sleep Foundation. “Though this might seem obvious, it’s often overlooked, contributing to difficulties getting to sleep and sleeping through the night. In designing your sleep environment, focus [on] maximizing comfort and minimizing distractions.”

Prioritize a comfortable mattress and pillow, get blackout curtains, keep the house quiet after bedtime and don’t let the temperature get too warm.

5. Buy Them an Alarm Clock

Does your child use their smartphone as an alarm clock? Many young people are connected to their cell phones all day, every day. But if you want them to have a better night’s sleep, invest in a simple alarm clock and have them charge their cell phone in another room.

Charging your phone in another room “makes it easier to avoid prolonged use when you should be transitioning to sleep. It also prevents compulsive checking should you wake in the night,” said Dr. Brandon Peters. “If you wake and read something upsetting, it may be difficult to fall back asleep.” A 10-dollar investment can lead to a priceless night of healthy sleep.

Going to school takes a lot of energy, so when it’s time for your child to relax and settle in for some life-sustaining sleep, light therapy, controlling diet and limiting stress and distractions can pull the blinds on insomnia.

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