It’s time for school to start! For those with children this can be a busy time, doing those last minute summer activities, getting school supplies, and preparing children for a successful year. Let’s take the time to get children on a good sleep schedule that will help them in school.
Why is it important to think about children’s sleep? To start, a majority of children simply don’t get enough hours of sleep. Here’s how much sleep kids need:
– children 3 to 5 years old need more than 11 hours
– children 6 to 12 years old need 10 to 11 hours
– teenagers need 9 to 9.5 hours
Looking at the school start times here in Seattle, and allowing just one hour from wake-up to being at school, grade school children should be sleeping by 9pm, middle schoolers by 9:30p, and high school students by 9:30-10pm. (If your child needs more than 1 hour from wake-up to school start time then move bedtime earlier accordingly). Are your children getting to sleep at that time? If not, your child is probably feeling the effects of insufficient sleep.
Impacts of Insufficient Sleep
Going to school can demanding, children are asked to concentrate, learn physical skills, and develop socially with their peers. Here’s some highlights:
– Only 20% of children grades 6-12 get the necessary amount of sleep (>9 hrs)! Can you believe it?! In younger children, only 47% get the sleep they need.
– Increased playground injuries in children who sleep <10 hours.
– Children with insufficient sleep are more likely to be angry, depressed, or overly emotional. Kids who sleep less take more risks, and this is especially true in teens.
– Cognitive effects include impaired memory, creative problem solving, and decreased verbal fluency, all skills that your child needs in school.
What you can do to improve your child’s sleep:
– Establish bedtimes for your children, so everyone in the household knows the standard. You may want to have a time when everyone finishes their activities and starts to “wind down.”
– Start a trend in your social group of starting activities early enough that they usually end an hour before bedtime. This gives you time to travel home safely, and wind down a little before going to sleep.
– Remove electronic media from your child’s bedroom so they are not tempted to continue with homework, TV, or texting after bedtime.
– Kids (and parents) can get excited about activities. Emphasize quality wake hours rather than quantity. Is it really fun to stay up late if you are so tired that you can’t think or are teary the next day?
– Allow your children to catch up on sleep on the weekends or vacations if necessary. The golden standard is to wake up on their own, feeling refreshed and energetic throughout the day. If your child sleeps a lot more on weekends, consider moving their school night bedtime earlier in 15 minute increments until it evens out.
Why Naturopathic Sleep Medicine?
Naturopathic Sleep Medicine joins together the knowledge of physiological sleep processes and sleep disorders with the treatment principles of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic Sleep Medicine is a developing field which is distinct from that provided at allopathic sleep centers and general care naturopathic offices. In 1997 when I began Naturopathic Medical School at Bastyr University it was my intention to develop this new field. And now it’s happening!
Why is it important to approach sleep from a naturopathic perspective?
First of all, sleep is an essential feature of the human experience. It is intrinsic, and something we can not do without. We all sleep. Because it is so essential, it makes sense to help sleep occur naturally, and not use artificial medicines unnecessarily.
Secondly, sleep can be improved using naturopathic medicine. For example, one technique to improve insomnia is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). We’ll be talking about that more in this blog in future. In research, when compared to pharmaceutical therapy, it is found that CBT-I is actually more effective. Since CBT-I is behavioral medicine, it does not have the potential negative side-effects as pharmaceuticals. CBT-I enables the patient to sleep well, naturally, and be empowered to provide their own health. Isn’t that the best way?
The Therapeutic Order
A key of naturopathic medicine is to use the least force medicine that will treat the problem. For example, take a person who is spending 9 hours in bed and sleeping 7 hours. If she will sleep better by simply reducing the number of hours spent awake in bed, that is done first. Prescribing a pharmaceutical sleep aid which may have side effects would be done after other lower force treatments were tried.
Here is the Therapeutic Order, NDs start at the top and work down as needed:
• Re-establish the basis for health.
• Stimulate the healing power of nature.
• Tonify weakened systems.
• Correct structural integrity.
• Prescribe specific natural substances for pathology.
• Prescribe specific pharmacological substances for pathology.
• Prescribe surgery, suppressive drugs, radiation, and chemotherapy.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic Medicine is a unique philosophy of medicine which is based on the healing power of nature. Naturopathic Medicine has it’s roots in the traditional medicine practiced in Europe hundreds of years ago. It is philosophically distinct from the allopathic medicine practiced by MDs in this country.
The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine are:
Vix Medicatrix Naturae – The Healing Power of Nature.
Nature acts powerfully through healing mechanisms in the body to maintain and restore health. The naturopathic physician works to restore and support these inherent systems.
Primum Non Nocere – First Do No Harm.
The naturopathic physician seeks to provide the most effective health care with the least risk to the client.
Tolle Causum – Find Cause.
The naturopathic physician shall strive to identify and remove the causes of illness, rather than merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
Docere – Doctor as Teacher.
The naturopathic physician educates the client, inspires rational hope, and encourages self-responsibility for health.
Treat the Whole Person –
Health or disease comes from a complex interaction of physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, lifestyle or other factors. The naturopathic physician treats the whole person, taking these factors into account.
Wellness is a state of being healthy, characterized by positive emotion, thought and action. Wellness is inherent in everyone. The naturopathic physician shall seek to restore, maintain, and optimize wellness.
Preventive Medicine –
The naturopathic physician promotes health through the prevention of disease for the individual, each community, and the world.
In working with sleep patients, these Principles are so important that they are posted in the waiting room, and guide my work each day.
There are many possible reasons to sleep poorly . . . stressful work, relationship conflict, pregnancy, moving, even summer heat. When your sleep is first disturbed, it can be helpful to keep in mind that everyone’s sleep is disturbed periodically for good reasons. If you’ve recovered from that initial event, but your sleep still remains poor after one month, then it is time to take steps to improve your sleep.
Insomnia is defined as spending more than 30 minutes at the beginning of the night to fall asleep, or awakening in the night for extended periods of time. When this happens most nights of the week for a month or more it is classified as “chronic insomnia.” It’s interesting to note that typically patients wait 7 years before they seek treatment for insomnia. In my clinic, the average duration of adult’s insomnia is closer to 20 years. As we’ll discuss in the future, insomnia has lots of daytime impact on mental, emotional and physical health.