Back-to-school sleep tips

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Summer vacation is almost over, and whether kids break from summer, winter, spring, or even a long weekend, they seem to want to stay up later. Late nights can lead to difficult mornings transitioning back into their normal school routine. It is important for parents to put healthy sleep on the back-to-school list of necessities. Here are some helpful tips to get kids prepared to go back to school.

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  1. First, calculate how much sleep your child needs. Preschoolers need 11 to 12 hours of sleep. Ages 5-10 need 10 to 11 hours, and teenagers 9 to 10 hours.

  1. About 10 to 14 days before school starts, parents should gradually start adjusting their child’s bedtime schedules. Have them go to bed 15 minutes earlier each day before school starts. This will help set their circadian clock to school time. Try to also keep the same sleep schedule, even on weekends, to keep sleep rhythms regulated.

  1. Stick to an age-appropriate bedtime routine to help them wind down. For younger children this may consist of taking a bath before bed, brushing their teeth, or reading a bedtime story. For older children, they may want to read a book to relax or find a relaxation technique such as meditation, yoga, or deep-breathing exercises.

  1. Control the sleep environment by keeping the room cool, quiet, dark, and comfortable. Electronics such as, cell phones, televisions, video games, and computers should be turned off an hour before bedtime.

  2. Limit caffeine intake after lunch or at least 6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and inhibits sleep. Healthy meals and regular exercise can help promote quality sleep.

  1. Avoid food close to bedtime, especially spicy foods that can cause acid reflux and raise body temperature, both of which inhibit sleep.

  1. Practice what you preach. Studies have shown that parents who set rules and abide by them themselves are more likely to have children follow their example. The right amount of sleep every night can help your child do better in school and help with mood and anxiety. 13717923_10205279444144540_1107853922_o.jpg

    These strategies can help you and your child have a healthy, successful upcoming school year.

Put a Spring in Your Step! 4 Ways to Curb Allergies This Season

 

exclusive - allergy concept in spring

Spring is here! The sun is bright, the flowers are blooming, and I finally feel like I can venture outside again as the winter chill subsides.  Then it happens…my eyes start to water, my nose starts to itch, and all of sudden, I sneeze. Spring is definitely here and with all the beautiful blooms and lush greenery, it ushers in allergy season. Allergies are like the awkward photobomber in the background of a perfect “besties, night-on-the-town” selfie. They are just so disappointing. My days should be full of long hikes in the woods, picnics at the park, and I should not be afraid to take a long, deep breath of fresh air each time I walk outside.

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There are many ways to control your spring allergy symptoms. It usually entails going to the drugstore and perusing aisles and aisles of medications in search of the one pill or syrup that will soothe your symptoms without breaking the bank or transforming you into a character straight out of The Walking Dead. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to get relief from spring allergy symptoms, many of which have the added benefits of boosting your energy and your immune system.

Saline solution is an affordable and easily attainable natural option to combat nasal allergy symptoms. Most saline sprays are isotonic, which means the solution is the same saline concentration as in your body. It can help clear the nasal passages of mucus without harming the cilia (the little hairs in your nose that humidify air entering your lungs), trap bacteria to prevent them from entering cells, and aid your sense of smell. Using a saline spray or flushing your nasal passages with a neti pot on a regular basis can reduce inflammation and the risk of infection.

Steam is another great natural solution to spring allergy symptoms. A hot shower is probably the quickest way to clear your sinuses. You can also add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water, cover the back of your neck and head with a towel, and breathe in the vapors. The steam helps moisturize dry nasal passages while the essential oils alleviate sinus congestion and respiratory symptoms.

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Diet can play a big role in controlling and/or eliminating allergy symptoms, as well. There are many foods with properties that can help your body rid itself of histamines. The body reacts to an allergy stimulus by releasing histamines, which can cause inflammation of the nasal tissue, runny nose and eyes, and an itchy nose or mouth. Vitamin C is a natural and gentle antihistamine. It is found in leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and most fruit. Flavinoids, especially Quercetin, are a group of plant pigments that give many fruits, vegetables, and flowers their colors. They work to block the production of histamines and eliminate them in the body. Great sources of flavinoids are citrus fruits, onions, garlic, apples, parsley, tea, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, legumes, berries, and wine. Bromelain is found in pineapples and is another great anti-inflammatory. Spicy foods, especially those with cayenne pepper or chili powder, help to reduce nasal congestion and stuffiness. Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, grass-fed meat, flax seed oil, hemp seeds, and canola oil have many anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce allergic reactions, too.

Tea, specifically green tea, rooibos, and those containing yerba mate are good choices for allergy sufferers. A recent study in Japan showed in lab tests that EGCG, a in green tea, helped prevent allergic reactions. Rooibos tea is a naturally caffeine-free herbal tea that contains two flavinoids, rutin and quercetin, that block histamine production. Yerba mate is a South American herbal bush or tree that stimulates the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, which suppress autoimmune reactions in the body, decrease inflammation, and open respiratory passages. Make sure to avoid chamomile tea if you suffer from hay fever, as its properties can increase the severity of your symptoms.

Power in nature

Now you have a good list of natural ways to fight spring allergies! Don’t be afraid to enjoy the blooming trees and flowers and breathe in all the beautifully-scented air you would like. Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ways to Start the School Year Off Eco-Friendly

7327146800_b2e65d6bf3_oSummer is coming to a close. That means it is time to prep for the new school year. which means back to school shopping for supplies, backpacks, lunch pails, clothes, and the list can go on and on. Before you head out to the store to purchase everything, here are some great tips to keep those back-to-school purchases as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.

  1. Take Inventory

    4588535631_486542047c_oClean out those desk drawers, dressers, and closets and you may find hiding treasures like packs of pencils, notebooks, or clothes you bought on sale that haven’t even been worn yet. Now that you have gone through all that you have, you can make a list of what items are needed. The list will guide you. When you hit the stores, so you won’t buy duplicate items or spur or the moment purchases.

  2. Reuse What You Can

    5093615082_3df15d285f_oLook through what you have to see if any items can be reused. Often there are many items that are still in good condition and can be used for another year. The backpack from last year may be in great shape and just need a quick cleaning to be school-worthy.

  3. Healthy Lunch Options!

    9350757417_4bf3167767_oA bento box makes a great reusable and waste free lunchbox option- no plastic baggies required! Many bento boxes have multiple dividers or containers that allow you to pack a healthy and fresh lunch. If a bento box doesn’t suit your needs, there are many other great reusable containers that allow you to pack delicious and nutritious options.

  4. Reusable Bottles

    6959989243_b5a94e95a5_oRather than packing bottles of water or juice boxes daily, send your child to school with the healthy drink of choice in a reusable bottle. There are many great designs; no need for juice boxes!

    There are many great options when it comes to reusable containers, bbut be sure to check that they are made with recycled material and are BPA-free.

  5. Buy Recycled or Sustainable When Possible

    creative-desk-pens-schoolMake your list so you know the school supplies you need, now it is time to buy. Most retailers now offer many options of recycled and sustainable materials, such as pencils made from certified sustainable-harvest wood or pens, paper and notebooks. made from recycled materials. Every little bit helps eliminate waste!

  6. Eliminate Paper Waste

    apple-desk-working-technologyRather than having many pieces of paper float around ask to be emailed important notices from the school. Every bit helps and this will save many sheets of paper that get lost in the bottom of backpacks. This also allows you to put important dates in your digital calendars rather than keeping stacks of paper around the house.

Here’s to another great school year!

Mr. Sandman is MIA: Modern Kids Lack Sleep

It’s 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night. Your eyes are heavy, and you’re reading your bright-eyed 3-year-old the fifth (or is it the sixth?) storybook before bed. Your teenage daughter, who just arrived home from a play rehearsal that went late, peeks in and asks if you were aware that your husband fell asleep in front of the TV while your 7-year-old is still up watching cartoons on her tablet. If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep in America poll, many American children are missing out on much-needed sleep, especially on school nights. Now that summer is coming to a close and school is about to start again, this may be a good time to reevaluate whether your family is getting enough sleep each night.

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According to the NSF poll, parents estimated that their children slept less than the recommended amount, logging 8.9 hours for kids aged 6-10, 8.2 hours for kids aged 11-12, 7.7 hours for kids aged 13-14, and 7.1 hours for kids aged 15-17. The NSF recommends 10-11 hours per night for kids 6-10 years old, and 8.5-9.5 hours per night for kids 11-17 years old. 1-2 hours of lost sleep per night can add up pretty quickly.

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So what is causing later bedtimes and the lack of quality sleep for our kids? How is this lack of sleep affecting them? There are many variables causing less quality sleep for the modern family. The use of technological devices leading up to bedtime, school night homework and activities, and even diet affect sleep. The NSF poll states, “Parents report that nearly three out of four (72 percent) children ages 6-17 have at least one electronic device in the bedroom while they are sleeping.” That statistic isn’t even counting the toddler and preschool age groups, or the parents, whose sleep is probably affected as well. A study reported in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that using technological devices with a bright display for an “exciting task,” such as playing a video game or watching a suspenseful movie, decreases the body’s melatonin production. Melatonin is a natural hormone in the body that is responsible for stimulating and regulating sleep patterns so it is probably best to limit the use of tablets, electronic readers, computers, televisions, and cell phones before bed.

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As a parent myself, I can attest to my children’s weekday extracurricular activities and homework causing later bedtimes for all of us, not just for them. Extracurricular activities following school can postpone dinnertime, completion of homework, and previously established bedtime routines. My fourth grader usually gets to bed 1-2 hours later on nights she has dance class. My 13-year-old nephew has weeknight baseball games that last sometimes past 10:00 pm.

Sleeping_while_studyingSleep is very important for healthy brain development and maintenance. Our brains are still developing through adolescence. No matter what our age, our brains need to mentally detoxify and recalibrate during sleep in order to maintain good mental health and efficiency. If children and teens do not get enough quality sleep, they risk decreased academic performance and concentration, i.e. falling asleep in class or falling asleep while driving. Many behavioral problems, like ADHD, and mental health problems, like anxiety and/or depression can also be linked to sleep deprivation.**

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So what can we do to improve our kids’ amount and quality of sleep?

1.  Talk to your kids and/or your partner about the importance of sleep and the benefits it provides.

2.  Set bedtimes for everyone in your household, including you.

3.  Limit use of technology at least an hour before bedtime.

4.  Provide your kids with a comfortable sleep environment (comfy bed, dim light or no light, and cooler room temperature).

5.  Do not overbook your kids with multiple extracurricular activities, and try to schedule activities earlier in the evening, or try to do homework earlier in the day.

6.  Most importantly, set a good example for your kids. If you have good sleep habits, they will most likely follow suit.

For more information on the effects of sleep deprivation, check out my previous blog post, “Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence.”

** Refer to the following links:

http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/adhd-and-sleep

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood

Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.

Lavender

lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.

 Bergamot

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Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.

Vetiver

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This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Fried Greens Meatlessballs, a Delicious and Healthy Summer Snack

Photo Courtesy of food52.com
Photo Courtesy of food52.com

Summer is a fantastic time to visit the farmer’s market and buy all fresh and in-season produce! When I go to the farmer’s market, I will leave with armloads of delicious, fresh produce. Sometimes, I purchase more than I can use. To fix the problem of excess produce, I have taken to the internet in my search for recipes as to not let them go to waste. I stumbled upon a fantastic recipe from Food52, Fried Greens Meatlessballs. This recipe is great for using any leftover greens and turning them into a yummy snack or appetizer.

Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 bunch greens
  • 3
 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1
small yellow onion, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • 2
 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 
cup cilantro
  • 1 
tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1
 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 
cup crumbled feta
  • 1 or 2
eggs
  • oil for frying

Pulse greens in a food processor or finely chop with a knife—they should be small but not puréed or mushy. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil, onion, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cilantro, and cumin seeds. Stir for 30 seconds.

Add greens to pan and sauté for a 1-2 minutes, until they have wilted. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.

Let cool for five minutes, then add the breadcrumbs and feta. Mix well, then taste for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Crack one egg into the bowl and mix. Squeeze a small ball of the mixture and if it holds together, begin portioning out the remaining mixture into small balls. If the balls do not hold together well, add another egg.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add balls to pan—they should sizzle when they hit the oil—then turn heat down to medium or medium-low. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a fork to flip the balls to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes or so.

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence

Excitement

It is 8:00 am, pre-coffee (if that’s your thing), and you’re getting ready to walk out the door after a night of staying up with your sick spouse, child, or roommate. You’re starting to feel super-human, juggling all your pre-work morning responsibilities with a heavy head and groggy eyes, when your spouse/child/roommate walks up to you and asks an innocent question: “I’m hungry. What are we having for breakfast?” You look at their cheerful face and take instant offense. You think, “What do you mean, what’s for breakfast? Can’t you see I’m simultaneously feeding the dog, prepping the beans for tonight’s slow-cooker dinner, and reading Junior’s school newsletter?

According to a new U.C. Berkeley study published in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this week, there is a strong link between a lack of quality sleep and decreased ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotional facial expressions in others. Researchers viewed brain scans and monitored the heart rates of 18 adult participants while they randomly viewed 70 images of faces with random expressions: positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Each individual viewed the facial images twice, once when they were fully rested and once after they had been awake for 24 consecutive hours. The study noted a neural link between the quality and amount of sleep a person gets and his or her ability to correctly process others’ facial expressions. The results of the study inferred that there is “a role for REM sleep in affective brain recalibration” and “the next-day success of emotional discrimination…” Sleeping_angel All the more reason to get a good night’s sleep!   For more information on the study, you can refer to the following articles: http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/brain-facialexpressions/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/15/sleep-brain-emotions_n_7801726.html