Monday, August 19, 2013

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa.  – Memorial Day came and went. The Fourth of July went off with a bang. Now, it’s almost Labor Day – the tell-tale sign that it’s back-to-school season.

In between children’s requests for a new backpack and realizing that last year’s school clothes don’t fit, it’s also important for parents to start the year off on a healthy note for their children.

Back-to-School Tips: Sleep

Children ages 5 to 12 need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night while teens need between eight and nine hours, said Jennifer Davis, manager of Chambersburg Hospital’s Sleep Center.

“More research is showing that sleep is imperative to academic performance,” Davis said. “However, with large portions of the day spent on school, homework, extra-curricular activities and spending time with friends and family, getting adequate sleep can be difficult.”

Children of all ages should have a consistent bed time and wake up time as well as a relaxing 20 to 30 minute bedtime routine, she recommends. Additionally, bedrooms should be kept quiet, comfortable, and dark.

On the weekends, it’s fine to let teenagers go to bed a little later than usual and “sleep in” a few hours, Davis said. Parents should make sure they wake up within two hours of their typical wake up time though to ensure their body clock is not disrupted too much by Monday morning.

Back-to-School Tips: Lunches

“When you’re rushing in the morning to get ready for work and send your child to school, it’s easy to choose pre-packaged products for your child’s lunch,” said Jennifer Ruby, licensed dietitian nutritionist with Summit Endocrinology, an affiliate of Summit Health.

However, a few simple swaps will provide tasty and healthy options:

  • Choose 100 percent whole wheat/whole grain bread over white bread.
  • Make sandwiches with protein-packed peanut butter or lean meats, such as turkey, ham or roast beef.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to satisfy sweet or crunchy cravings.
  • Quench thirst with beverages such as flavored water, low-fat chocolate milk or 100 percent fruit juice, which all have less sugar than sodas. Juice servings should be limited to four ounces per day.

To beat the morning rush, plan ahead for the week by dividing food into smaller bags or containers, Ruby recommends.

“Also, having your child serve as your helper will not only provide quality time together, but also reinforce the idea of choosing healthy options,” she said.

Back-to-School Tips: Fitness

Exercise has been proven to improve sleep, reduce stress and depression, improve self-esteem and improve concentration – all of which are extremely important for children to succeed in school, said Julie Morgan, licensed practical nurse with Summit Weight Management Services, an affiliate of Summit Health.

During the school year, it’s important to keep kids motivated to get moving, whether through an extra-curricular activity or as part of a daily routine, she said.

Families can improve physical activity levels by having fun doing something you enjoy, doing activities as a family, making time for it and making it a habit.