Wellness Club — Promoting Restful Sleep for your Kids

Wellness Club — Promoting Restful Sleep for your Kids
Abingdon, VA. - Thursday, Aug 1, 2019.

Food City's Registered Dietitian Elizabeth Hall interviewed David Suhrbier, DO for this month's Wellness Club.

Sleep is an important part of healthy living for adults and kids! With the new school year fast approaching, many of us will start to focus on getting back into the swing of routines and sleep schedules. We sat down with David Suhrbier, DO, who specializes in Pediatric Neurology at Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, to find out to dos and don’ts of promoting restful sleep for your kids.

Question: Is it best to keep bedtimes and wake-up times consistent, even on weekends?
Answer: It is important to get back into a routine that has not changed too much over the summer. I usually advise my patients to get back into a sleeping routine about two or three weeks before the start of the school year. Depending on the age of the child, pre-teens will need at least eight to nine hours of sleep each night, teenagers need a full nine hours, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Question: Is it best to stop all electronics (TV, iPad, video games, and cell phones) at least one hour before bedtime?
Answer: Yes, the light from these devices is actually suppressing your body’s mechanisms by which you fall asleep. We are creatures of the sun. When the sun is up, the light that goes into our eyes is suppressing our melatonin production. Therefore, when the sun goes down, we are supposed to go to sleep. Our body is producing this chemical to help us sleep better. If you are on your phone or other device, you are artificially suppressing melatonin. Many times, parents must confiscate the devices to make sure their child goes to sleep.

Question: Should kids have a TV in their rooms?
Answer: Take the television out. The idea is that white noise from a TV can be soothing. That noise is what people are using to fall asleep. The problem once again is the light that is coming from the TV. It’s doing the exact same things that your phones or video games are doing.

Question: What role does a healthy diet play in sleep?
Answer: Parents need to pay close attention to what the child eats before bedtime. You would be surprised at how much caffeine and sugar children consume late at night. Avoid all caffeine products four to six hours before bedtime. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, which means it promotes the production of urine. Also, a heavy meal will mean that your child’s stomach will not be able to digest all that food before bedtime and will continue to work the system while he/she is trying to sleep. Try cutting out greasy, high-salt and fat content foods. If you can, include foods that are high in ‘tryptophan’ which helps promote sleep, including dairy products. A warm glass of milk is not just an old wives tale.

Question: Do parents need to watch out for depression and anxiety when it comes to children and sleep problems?
Answer: Some of the biggest factors you see in adolescents are the issues of depression and anxiety. More than 50% of young people with mental health issues have insomnia. A lack of sleep only exacerbates the problems. Try working with your child on proper time management. Procrastination leads to staying up late many nights in order to catch up or keep pace. Help your child in organizing their schedule to prevent overbooking with too many extra-curricular activities, which prevent them from getting home, finishing homework and getting a good night sleep.

David Suhrbier, DO specializes in Pediatric Neurology at Erlanger Health System, Chattanooga