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A good night’s sleep

Do you wake up with a spring in your step ready for the challenge and excitement of a new day, or do you hit the snooze alarm faster than you swat at a mosquito on an evening hike? Do your children bounce out of bed when it is time to get up, or is the threat of a bucket of ice water and no TV for a week not even enough to cause them to stir?Dear Doc,How much sleep does my son need during the school year?Setting the alarm in MinturnDear Setting the Alarm,Going back to school is like getting ready for any big event. If we don’t prepare, or more specifically help our children prepare, then they risk falling behind at the starting line, never to catch up. With that thought in mind, there is no substitute, nor better preparation than a good night’s sleep. Summer habits frequently follow daylight. Our children are more often up late followed by either sleeping in or falling behind on sleep. If they do fall behind, there is no such thing as catching up. Our bodies may feel rested, but it takes longer than one night for our minds to catch up. To be at our peak, both our minds and bodies need a full night’s sleep. Too little sleep and grades may suffer as well as athletic performance and even our emotions. We all know what monsters arise from too little sleep!The facts are astounding. Too little sleep may result in any of the following: • Falling asleep in class.• Difficulty waking up in the morning.• Inability to concentrate.• Depression. One study found that sleep may have a significant effect on grades: teens who got the least amount of sleep earned Cs and Ds, whereas teens who got the most sleep tended to get As and Bs. If you witness any of the above negative affects, recognize that your son or daughter may be sleep deprived.How much sleep is needed? Newborns sleep the most, as many as 18 hours a day. That need for sleep drops to 10 or 11 hours by age 5. This remains fairly constant until adolescence, when the sleep requirements drop to about nine hours each night. Finally, as adults, we need seven or eight hours a night to be at our peak. When considering sleep needs, first think of what time you need to rise most of the time. The time you wake up is a better determinant of the quality of your sleep What are some important habits to follow in order to get a good night’s sleep? For children and adults alike: • Don’t drink beverages with caffeine, such as soda and coffee, after dinner. • Don’t use a computer right before bed. Light signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up.• Don’t pull an “all-nighter.” For children (think sleepover parties or homework) and adults (the reasons are endless), staying up all night, or even a good part of the night, can really mess up sleep patterns, requiring several days to re-adjust.• Do exercise regularly, but not right before bed. Exercise releases hormones that energize us. That’s a good thing for the morning or afternoon, but not at night.• Do try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. We all have natural circadian rhythms, which work best if we don’t fight them.• Do get into bright light in the morning to help wake up.• Do follow good sleep hygiene. In other words, develop a regular, soothing habit in the evening to tell our bodies to get ready for sleep. Read, meditate, pray, change into something comfortable, or what ever works!• Do try to stick with your regular sleep schedule on weekends, too. Try not to vary your rising time by more than one to two hours. Again, you can’t catch up on missed sleep from the week before, so sleeping-in really doesn’t work. In addition, adults should follow these habits: • Don’t nap excessively. For adults, napping more than 30 minutes may keep you from falling asleep later, taking away from your body’s physical sleep needs and leaving you lacking on a mental and emotional level. • Don’t consume alcohol before bedtime. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it is even more likely to cause rebound insomnia. That’s a medical term, which refers to waking you up two or three hours later and making it more difficult to fall back asleep. Finally: • Remember there is nothing more important before the big event (whether it’s the first day of school, an exam, the big game or a business presentation) than a good night’s sleep! I would like to invite you to join me for a talk on West Nile Virus (17 cases in Colorado so far this year), and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome at the Eagle County Public Library on Thursday August 25 at 12:45 pm. Let me know questions you have at editor@vaildaily.com. The only bad question is the unanswered one! Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor. Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to editor@vaildaily.com or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.Vail, Colorado


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