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In a Heartbeat

Turn off electronics well before bed to ensure good night of sleep

| Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Does back to school mean a lack of sleep for kids? We asked Dr. Angela Hollis, area medical director for MedExpress Urgent Care, to offer some tips in helping children get enough ZZZs to achieve As in school.

What is an effective way to help children get back into a good sleep routine?

The back-to-school bedtime blues are not at all an uncommon challenge for families with school-age children. The reality is, though, that kids need more sleep now than ever to maintain a healthy immune system and keep up with rigorous class schedules, late-night practices, and extracurricular activities.

The good news is that there are ways to get kids' sleep routines back on track now that school has started. A good way to start is by scaling back your family's bedtime gradually over a period of time. Head to bed 15 minutes earlier every night until you hit your family's ideal bedtime. It can also be helpful to plan your evenings with that ideal bedtime in mind — eat dinner earlier and avoid big meals and desserts before bed. And, when it's time for bed, help your kids' brains prepare for sleep by dimming the lights, turning off electronics and winding down with a calming activity, like coloring, reading or listening to quiet music.

Is there an optimal bedroom temperature for a good night's sleep?

Most experts suggest that a cool room, somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees, makes for the best night's sleep. Your body temperature actually gradually lowers as you sleep throughout the night, so a room that's too warm may interfere with your body's natural thermometer and make you restless. A temperature that's too high or too low can also affect the quality of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the stage of sleep where the brain is most active. REM sleep is important, since it is the most restorative part of the body's natural sleep cycle.

How does the use of electronics, like tablets and smart phones, hinder sleep?

Technology has become part of almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives — and the evening hours are no exception. But, unfortunately for tech-lovers, experts say that light from electronics can actually make it difficult for people to fall asleep or stay asleep. Our bodies are particularly sensitive to what's called blue light, which is given off by the sun, fluorescent and LED lighting and — you guessed it — computers, cell phones, TVs and tablets.

The small amount of this light given off by our devices passes through the retina and into the region of our brain that controls sleep, ultimately delaying the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. To avoid blue light's effects, turn off all electronics for at least an hour before bedtime, and consider disconnecting completely by leaving them outside of the bedroom at night.

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