Healthcare News: Helping patients help their loved ones grow old gracefully

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As a healthcare provider, you’re likely no stranger to the effects sleep has on childhood health and development. New studies are released regularly, touting the correlation between poor sleep and social-emotional and cognitive problems, poor academic achievement and obesity.It is during sleep that energy is restored, tissues grow and repair, and hormones are released for growth and development. Yet most experts agree kids aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, studies show between 25 percent and 50 percent of preschoolers fall short of recommended sleep, and children ages 5 through 12 are getting 30 to 90 minutes less sleep than what’s recommended; To combat this problem, here are some tips you can share with parents and caregivers to establish healthy sleep habits for their children.

Tips for healthy sleep habits

  • Stick to a schedule. A regular sleep schedule with consistent naptimes, bedtimes and wake-up times can help the body fall asleep faster and wake up more easily. Of course, life happens and interruptions to schedules occur. Let parents know that’s okay as long as it’s not the norm.
  • Adopt a relaxing bedtime ritual. A multinational study found children with bedtime routines fall asleep faster, wake less during the night and sleep longer. Bedtime routines can include taking a bath, brushing teeth, singing lullabies and reading bedtime stories. Consider providing new parents with a bedtime-routine starter basket. Toss in a list of sleep tips, a Rubber Duck and a copy of a beloved favourite bedtime story. Or post sleep tips to social media and ask followers to reply with their own bedtime best practices. Hold prize draws for a Chenille Blanket or snuggly bedtime bear.
  • Get those wiggles out. Physical activity not only helps kids build strong muscles, bones and joints, it can lead to a better night’s sleep. Just 60 minutes of physical activity a day (not too close to bedtime) can help kids fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer; Sport flyers and boomerangs are great places to imprint your “get active” message.
  • Ditch the electronics. Watching television, surfing the Internet, or playing on their iPad® close to bedtime can lead to bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep and disruptions during sleep.  This occurs for several reasons. First, electronics provide cognitive stimulation, which is counterintuitive to sleep. Second, the glow emitted from electronics may delay the release of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. And third, activities like gaming can cause tension and stress and even evoke our primordial fight-or-flight response—not a good start down the path toward a restful night’s sleep.
  • Ask for help. Of course, if you suspect a sleep disorder or medical problem, encourage patients to seek help through their pediatrician or an accredited sleep centre. Parents may appreciate being directed to the Canadian Sleep Society’s Sleep Clinic Finder. Imprint the link on bottles of lavender essential oil, a known sleep promoter, and hand them out in your clinic.

A well-rested child makes for a happier, healthier child. Share these healthy sleep habits with your patients to promote a better nights’ sleep for all.

Bonuck, Karen, PH.D. “Getting the Word out About Children and Sleep.” The Doctor’s Tablet. N.p., 22 Oct. 2015. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

“Children and Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

“NIH Awards Einstein $2.9 Million for Child Sleep Research.” Albert Einstein College of Medicine. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

“What Sleep Is and Why All Kids Need It.” KidsHealth. Ed. Rupal Christine Gupta. The Nemours Foundation, 01 Aug. 2014. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

“How to Get on a Sleep Schedule.” Sleep.org. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

“Study: Bedtime Routine Offers Kids Many Benefits.” The Kid’s Doctor. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

“Exercise & Sleep.” NIH MedlinePlus.  Friends of the National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

Griffin, R. Morgan. “Your Kid’s Brain on Exercise.” WebMD. WebMD, 08 May 2013. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

Hatfield, Heather. “Power Down for Better Sleep.” WebMD. WebMD, 01 Jan. 2008. Web. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2015.

“Help Kids Sleep All Night.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. Retrieved 10 Nov. 2015.

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