Pediatrician gives health tips for students

VAN WERT – After a nearly three month summer break, area schools are back in session. For students, this means making sure enough sleep is acquired, the proper diet is maintained, and stressed is managed.Van Wert Medical Services pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Hohman said that sleep, diet, and stress management are all key factors for a healthy student. Hohman suggests a variety of tips to keep students well-rounded.

“I recommend that students be on a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends,” said Hohman. “That means going to bed at the same time at night and waking up at the same time in the morning. I know that can be challenging, especially the older kids get, but they will get better quality sleep and be better rested, as well as better able to maintain their school schedule during the week if they stay on the same sleep schedule during the weekend.”

Elementary age children are recommended to get nine to 11 hours of sleep depending on the child. As they grow and become teenagers, Hohman recommends they still get eight to nine hours in order to feel fully rested.

With school back in session, parents should ensure that their kids are getting adequate sleep, a proper diet, and managing stress in order to be maintain health during school time. (DHI Media/File Photo/Kirsten Barnhart)

“I recommend that they not have a TV or any kid of electronic devices in the bedroom,” said Hohman. “The devices can make it harder for them to fall asleep.”

Staring at the screen of a television or cell phone can prevent the brains of students, and adults, from producing the hormone melatonin, which tells their bodies it’s time to sleep, resulting in both less sleep, and a poorer quality of sleep.

“They really shouldn’t have any screen time for an hour before bed,” suggested Hohman. “Also, doing the same bedtime routine every night is helpful as well [to get quality sleep].”

Hohman noted that doing low key activities to get the brain ready for bed can be helpful in getting quality rest. Activities like showering, reading or being read to, coloring, and doing puzzles are good low key actives to do before bed.

Stress can have a direct impact on the quality of sleep a student gets. Hohman noted that it’s important for children to find activities that help them manage stress like talking to a trusted friend about their feelings, journaling, exercising, doing yoga, and even practicing meditation.

“There are a lot of really good apps out now for meditation,” said Hohman. “‘Headspace’ is one of them that can help with daily meditation and can help get into that routine of using mediation as a tool for stress relief.”

“Another good option for kids is journaling,” added Hohman. “Just writing down what they are feeling and what they are stressed about is helpful as well.”

Hohman noted that Martial Arts is a positive form of exercise that can help students channel their extra energy while relieving stress.

A tired student may also be the result of a poor or non-existent breakfast.

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, Hohman said. Getting a well balanced breakfast can provide students with the energy they need throughout the day.

“Not eating breakfast can affect your concentration at school and can make it harder for your brain to stay on task” said Hohman.

Starting the first meal of the day with proteins like eggs or yogurt is recommended. It is also recommended to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which means that students should be eating one to two servings with breakfast.

Hohman agreed that if just one of the three topics (diet, stress, and sleep) are out of line, it can have an affect on the other two. Her biggest suggestion when it comes to managing stress, which will have an effect on the quality of students’ sleep is maintaining structure.

“Homework can be a big source of stress for students and parents,” said Hohman. “Structure is an important part of trying to manage that. Having a structured part of the day, at the same time every day, and in a quiet location, can help them focus and be able to complete their homework.”