By Charles Keenan l NOVEMBER 02, 2023
Thanks to the end of daylight saving time this weekend, kids will have less time to play outside while it’s light and many will start commuting home from after-school programs in the dark. They’re also liable to lose sleep with the time change, putting additional strain on parents. But the time change can also serve as an opportunity to take stock of sleep hygiene for kids.
“Good sleep hygiene is so important for children,” said Dr. Teri J. Brown, M.D., medical director at Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan. “It helps them grow, learn and form memories, repair cells and tissues, and lowers their risk of getting sick.”
The flux in and out of daylight saving time in November and March always seems to creep up quickly, catching many of us off guard. In the switch back to standard time, clocks in California and most of the country will “fall back” to 1 a.m. in the early hours of Sunday, Nov. 5 when the hour strikes at 2 a.m., giving most Americans an extra hour in the day.
That may seem like an advantage, but the change will still wreak plenty of havoc for sleep schedules, and especially for kids, who need much more shut-eye than adults. The experience for parents will vary depending on your children’s ages. For example, young kids tend to get up before their parents, so a toddler who typically rises at 6 a.m. might wake up at 5 a.m. after the time change, if no shifts are made in the schedule in advance. Teenagers tend to benefit, as they go to bed and get up late, so the extra hour in the morning helps.
But with preparation, the shift can be made a little easier, and can serve as a reminder to ingrain good sleep hygiene habits in kids. Here are some tips and sources to build strategies to improve your children’s sleep:
Keep a routine.
“Routine is really key,” said Dr. Mario Bialostozky, M.D., associate chief quality officer at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “Children thrive on routines and consistency. They do best when they go to bed at the same time every single day, including the weekends.” This year, in partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital, Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan sponsored a five-month series of “Community Doc Talks,” a health-education program for low-resource families with children 5 years and younger across San Diego County.
Take quiet time before lights out, and turn off screens.
Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of quiet time before bed, notes Children’s Hospital of Orange County. “Both kids and adults need a calming bedtime routine to quiet their brains to promote better sleep,” confirmed Dr. Brown. “It takes practice to find out what works. So keep at it, because the results of this practice are well worth it.”
Certainly also limit screen time before bed. The more time spent watching a screen, the more likely children are to have trouble falling asleep or have an irregular sleep schedule, notes the Mayo Clinic Health System. Consider the example you set for your children with your own screen use, and use guidance such as “Family Media Plan,” a tool sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics that considers children’s developmental stages to tailor an appropriate balance for media time.
Shift your child’s schedule before the time change.
Since the clock will “fall back” by one hour on Sunday morning, start to prepare three or four days before the shift by keeping your kids up a little bit past their previous night’s bedtime, by 15 minutes to 20 minutes each night. “That’s the maximum that you want to shift so they can adjust,” Dr. Bialostozky said. If you miss the opportunity for a gradual shift, it’s not a big deal. Most important is to adhere to a routine.
Get them enough sleep.
Kids need much more sleep than adults. Children who get enough sleep tend to perform better in school, be in better physical shape, and struggle less with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges, notes an article on Psychology Today. And insufficient sleep negatively affects brain development, according to a two-year study of about 12,000 kids ages 9 and 10, highlighting the value of early sleep intervention. Depending on the reference source, the hours children need to sleep vary slightly, but know that it’s a lot. Toddlers sleep 12 to 15 hours a day, while children ages 6 to 12 and adolescents need nine to 12 hours, notes University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Get them exercise.
Regular exercise is for everyone, and has been proven to improve sleep. Most children should get at least an hour of exercise a day, notes the Sleep Foundation in a tally of sleep strategies for kids. Just make sure to avoid physical activity within two hours of bedtime, as it takes time for the body to wind down from the stimulation.
Be wary of sleep supplements.
Some parents have turned to supplements like melatonin, a natural hormone that helps regulate our sleep timing, to help their child’s sleep. However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine last year issued a health advisory for melatonin. Over-the-counter melatonin is classified as a dietary supplement, meaning it’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine advises parents to speak with a healthcare professional if they do use melatonin, and to select a product with the verified mark from the United States Pharmacopeial Convention. But address behavioral issues first: “Practice regular sleep hygiene before going to a substance,” Dr. Bialostozky said. “And you should talk to your pediatrician before starting any medication, including melatonin.”
Above all, just use common sense to get your kids the sleep they need. “Focus on sleep quality, so that your kids feel awake during the day and are alert enough to do their normal activities,” said Dr. Brown. The loss of daylight saving time might be a bummer for children wanting more light after school, but using the time switch as an opportunity to improve sleep hygiene will pay dividends for your youngsters.
A Healthy And Balanced Diet Improves Oral Health
CVV News | March 2023
(NAPSI)—Oral health is linked to whole-body health, which means that not caring for teeth and gums can contribute to other health issues such as heart disease, stroke, and more.
To help improve health, March is National Nutrition Month, spotlighting nutrition education and focusing attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. On World Oral Health Day, March 20, the world unites to help reduce the burden of oral diseases everywhere.
The dental community hopes these observances raise awareness about issues affecting people in every country and at home.
Eat Well, Smile Bigger
A healthy lifestyle begins with making better nutritional choices. Choosing to eat healthier helps promote overall wellness. Making healthy choices also positively impacts oral health.
Foods high in calcium and nutrients such as low-fat cheese, milk, yogurt, and leafy greens can all provide nourishment and promote healthy teeth. Foods high in protein such as eggs, fish, meat, and poultry can also help protect the enamel on teeth and improve bone density. Even certain teas are good for oral health. Ditch sugary sodas for unsweetened black and green teas which contain plaque-inhibiting ingredients.
Foods that promote oral health also benefit the rest of the body. Most importantly, drinking plenty of water not only helps the body stay hydrated, it helps keep the mouth clean and healthy. One sign of good health is a healthy smile.
“Many patients usually only think of brushing and flossing as ways to keep their teeth healthy, but there are other factors that affect oral health,” said Dr. Gregory Theis, DDS, vice president of dental services at Delta Dental of Wisconsin. “Eating a balanced diet is important to maintaining a healthy smile, just like brushing and flossing.”
Be Mindful; Snack and Shop Smarter
There are many different snack choices that are satisfying to eat and better for long term oral health. Fruits and vegetables, such as apples, carrots, and celery, help scrub plaque from teeth and freshen breath.
There are cost effective ways to stock fruits and vegetables at home. Buying in-season whole fruits and vegetables, buying in bulk, or opting for canned and frozen varieties are great ways to get more produce on a budget. Canned and frozen foods will last much longer and are usually just as nutritious.
Being proactive by keeping healthy snacks on hand will help stop the urge to reach for starchy or sweet junk food.
Sticky sugary candy, starchy foods, and carbonated soft drinks are some of the worst snack choices for oral health. When sugary foods are consumed, bacteria in the mouth produce acid after breaking that sugar down. This is what causes damage to the teeth.
There are ways to help reduce the damage sugar can cause. Dr. Theis recommends pairing dessert with your meal to help reduce the effect of acid on teeth and their enamel, as the mouth makes more saliva when eating a larger meal. “When sugary cravings strike, this trick helps to reduce the effects of acid production,” said Dr. Theis. It’s also helpful to limit snacks between meals when possible.
Being mindful of how food choices affect overall oral health is an investment in a healthier future. It’s never too late to start building healthy habits. This March and always, make a commitment to good oral health and better nutrition.