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Vail Dear Doc column: Early to bed, early to rise

Dr. Drew Wernernewsroom@vaildaily.comVAIL CO, Colorado

I know, it does not seem possible, but school is almost here. In Eagle County, both our public and private high school and middle school students will be up bright and early beginning this week. If you are in school, or have school-age children, it is time to start getting ready! No, I’m not thinking of back-to-school shopping. I’m thinking about other things that we to do need to get off to a great start.Going back to school is like getting ready for any big event. If we don’t prepare, or help our children get prepared, then they risk falling behind at the starting line. The bottom line is there is no substitute for 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, we need a full, restful night’s sleep every night. Too little sleep and grades may suffer as well as athletic performance and even our moods and emotions. We all know what monsters are created with too little sleep!The facts are astounding. Not enough sleep may result in any of the following: falling asleep in class, difficulty waking up in the morning, inability to concentrate, and even depression. One study found that sleep does have a significant affect 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 poor school or athletic performance, irritable moods and bad behavior, recognize that your son or daughter may be sleep deprived.How much sleep is needed? Newborns sleep the most, as much as 18 hours a day. That need for sleep drops to 10 or 11 hours by age five. This remains constant until adolescence, where kids require about 9 hours of sleep. Then as adults, we need seven or eight hours a night to be at our peak.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. Again, you can’t catch up on missed sleep from the week before.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 & 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.Dr. Drew Werner is a medical staff leader at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, a family physician at TotalHealth Care and the Eagle County health officer. He lives in Eagle with his family. Email comments about this column to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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