Diet Detective: Back-to-School Health Tips

Make Sure Your Kids Get the Right Amount of ZZZZZZZs

According to Drs. Cheryl D. Tierney and Harish Rao at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, a lack of sleep "can cause poor academic performance due to poor concentration, behavioral issues due to irritability, physical symptoms like fatigue and headaches, or mental issues like depression."
The doctors offer the following tips for teen back-to-school sleep:
-      Gradually adjust bed and wake-up times by 30 minutes every two to three days, over a couple of weeks.
-      Do not make the mistake of letting teens catch up on sleep on the weekends. Because their internal clocks do not shift very easily, there should be some consistency. Weekend and weekday sleep and wake times should remain within a two-hour range.
-      Good light exposure upon waking helps internal clocks and brains to sync with outside time.
-      Adolescents need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. However, teens are often up until 11 p.m. or later because of sports, after-school activities and homework.
-      Parents can help by scheduling their children's activities to finish early enough so that they have time to wind down and get enough sleep.
-      Drinks with sugar or caffeine should be avoided, especially after 3 p.m.
-      Parents should not let teens take their smartphones and electronics into their bedrooms. Every person, regardless of age, should stop using these devices at least an hour before bed so that the light the devices produce does not interfere with the body's natural melatonin production.

More: How to Set an Active Schedule After School

School Time Means Increase in Headaches in Kids – How to Avoid

According to research at Nationwide Children's Hospital led by Ann Pakalnis, MD, headaches increase in children in the fall, which the researchers suspect is due to academic stressors, schedule changes and an increase in extracurricular activity. Other common headache triggers include lack of adequate sleep, skipping meals, poor hydration, too much caffeine, lack of exercise and prolonged electronic screen time.
According to the researchers, headaches can often be prevented by:
-      Eating three meals a day.
-      Getting enough sleep at night without napping during the day.
-      Drinking enough liquids.
-      Working to reduce the stresses in a child's day.
Use pain medicines such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen cautiously. They can be helpful, but they can also make headaches worse if taken too often.

More: 7 (Somewhat Irrational) Emotions Parents go Through When Kids go Back to School

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