Sweet Dreams, Parents

1 year ago

Healthy Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS, Diplomate, ABDSM – This column is published in the August 15, 2019 Gettysburg Times

In a few weeks, your kids will be back in school and the entire household will be establishing new routines. Mealtimes, snacks, family time and bedtimes will be an adjustment! And there is one essential key that could help unlock all of the transitions.

That key is (drumroll)…a healthy sleep routine. Going to sleep, sleeping an adequate amount of time, and quality sleep, are all vital to your child’s success while tackling a new school year. Whether your child is starting kindergarten or entering his/her senior year of high school, your guidance in helping him/her set healthy sleep habits will impact him/her academically, socially and—believe it or not— physically.

You may be wondering why, as a dentist, I’m addressing sleep health. I am learning more and more about the correlations between sleep, health and dental health, as a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. I truly believe that learning is a lifetime pursuit, so I continue studying and adding new facets to my practice. And that ties directly into my motivation for writing this column: to help area parents and children set healthy habits to start a new school year filled with learning.

If your child doesn’t seem well-rested after a night’s sleep, there are some warning signs of a more serious underlying problem, sleep apnea. Your child may have sleep apnea if he/she shows any of the following symptoms:

  • grinding their teeth at night
  • wetting their bed
  • waking up multiple times at night
  • snoring
  • behavior issues mimicking ADHD

That’s right–if your child has behavior issues, his or her sleep habits and quality of sleep may need to be evaluated. Sleep apnea in children presents differently than adult sleep apnea. During the day, the child could be sleepy, and he/she could have behavior issues similar to the over-diagnosed ADHD (such as hyperactivity and difficulty completing tasks).

How many hours of sleep does my child need? Children between the ages of 5-12 should get 9-10 hours of sleep every night. Even if your child goes to bed and gets out of bed 9 hours later, if his/her sleep was interrupted by a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, their quality of sleep is jeopardized. And here’s a shocking fact: If your son or daughter is not experiencing quality sleep that means he/she isn’t going through the different stages of sleep including “deep sleep” or stage 3 sleep, which affects  growth hormone levels. 75% of human growth hormone is released during sleep with the majority released during stage 3 sleep.

What tips can I pass along to parents? First, start with a good bedtime routine:

  • No cellphone, iPad, or any blue screen device within two to three hours of bedtime.
  • No caffeine within six hours of bedtime.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday including weekends.
  • Make sure your kids are getting 9-10 hours of sleep (ages 5-12) or 8-9 hours (ages 13-18).
  • Talk to your physician about a sleep study if your child snores, is sleepy during the day, has ADHD symptoms, is not thriving, or exhibit any of the signs of sleep apnea listed above.

Dr. Rita Tempel is a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and runs a sister company, Sweet Dreams Gettysburg, out of her cosmetic and family dental practice Gettysburg Smiles,  2018 York Road, Gettysburg.

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