BACK TO SCHOOL: Pediatric endocrinologist highlights the importance of healthy routines

As families begin to prepare kids for the classroom, doctors are emphasizing the need to get kids into a healthy routine. Sleep is one of the most important..
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 8:26 AM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - As families begin to prepare kids for the classroom, one doctor is emphasizing the need to get kids into a healthy routine.

Sleep is one of the most important aspects when it comes to the function of children. That’s why pediatric endocrinologist at Aspirus Health Stevens Point, Dr. Sonal Chandratre, said when families start thinking about a healthy routine, start with setting a healthy bedtime routine.

She said children aged 8 to 12 years old should be getting at least 10 hours of sleep each night.

“So what I typically suggest is, let’s say if you have to wake up at 7 a.m. to begin your day, then you make sure you have at least about 10 hours of sleep. And you teach children how to backtrack those many hours and decide the bedtime. I think this is a fun way to introduce them again back to math. And teach them how they do it,” she offered.

Next, she said no screen time two hours before the set bedtime.

“Because what screen time does is all the light coming out of those different devices, it actually reduces the melatonin secretion. Melatonin is a natural hormone, so serotonin, [and] melatonin are natural hormones that your body produces to help you sleep. And what screentime does is it kind of decreases the production and it goes on for about four hours that decreased production.”

And, if families start to think about supplementing a routine with melatonin without advice from a doctor, she said to think back to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“I want families to steer away from that because your child’s body, including your body, is really well equipped to produce the exact amount of hormone to help you sleep. Now, having said that, there are certain conditions where children really need that additional support. But what I’m talking about is if your child is healthy and your doctor has not mentioned to you that your child will need melatonin, then I would really suggest families to steer away from that exactly like you know how other multivitamins go.”

She said the best way to make sure the body is well equipped, is by eating healthy foods.

“And I see so many kids being on this medication... But for most purposes, if you are eating a healthy diet, and you’re not excluding any specific nutrition content, then you don’t need any additional hormone.”

Dr. Chandratre also explained that baby steps are key when maintaining a healthy routine, but it all boils down to setting up children for success in a new school year. She said getting children back on track can be a family effort. Instead of spending time behind screens, she said to incorporate board games, outdoor activities, or even reading a book together two hours before bedtime.

“Children will always find excuses for not reading a book, but they have all the time in the world to play a video game. So what I do is I say, Well, we are not going to read a book, we are going to write a book mentally. So we start the game of saying a sentence, you know, we just make things up. And then the game is to the next person expanding on another line,” she explained.

She said incorporating activities like that in a routine can open up a different pathway of expression for children.

“Sometimes kids take it in different ways. And it’s really nice to know how your children are thinking and what is their thought process.”

Another way to incorporate interaction is by having them prepare their lunches.

“I love doing that because that gives them accountability, first of all, and power where they choose, I give them options, and then they pick and it gives them control and, control just to this whole activity, is they actually eat it.”

In the end, she said it’s all about empowering children to help be their best selves.

“But just the basics, because again, understand that information about healthy lifestyle and nutrition coming from the closest guardian for a child really helps it stick. And it gives them an opportunity to practice it... [And] as long as you make any intervention, a fun, and an interactive intervention for children, it will most likely be successful.”

She said all of these tips together, in practice, can improve the overall well-being of children, which can then lead to a positive impact in the classroom.