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Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Teach children good sleep habits early so they can learn in school

Get them in a routine!

Dr. Christopher Manganaris uses his training as a sleep physician and as a dad to help parents make sure their preschoolers snooze sufficiently. 

“I didn’t know about sleep deprivation until I was in medical school,” said Dr. Manganaris, a pulmonologist with Pulmonary and Sleep Associates of Marshall County.

He saw similarities between the way he suffered from too little sleep and the way his four children behaved when they didn’t get to bed earlier enough.  

Speaking to about 50 parents of preschoolers at Albertville City Schools’ Pre-K program, he recommended 4-5-year-olds sleep 10 to 12 hours every night. 

“It’s tough to do,” he said. “I know that.”

But it’s very important for many reasons, including:

  • Metabolism – sleep deprived adults and children tend to eat more. Studies show they take in more calories during the day.
  • Growth – the body releases growth hormones while we sleep. 
  • Mood – sleep deprivation is associated with mood disorders. Think about a child who misses his nap. 
  • Memory – Sleep is necessary to consolidate a memory (make it stick) so that it can be recalled in the future.

The best thing to do to help children become good sleepers – so parents can be good sleepers – is to get them into a routine. Get them in bed early and stick to the same bedtime every night, even on weekends. Make a routine out of bath time, brushing teeth and quiet time to wind down. 

“Try to stay away from things that get them hyped up,” he suggested. 

Other good sleep tips for kids:

  • Get 20-30 minutes of exercise every day.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry – Dr. Manganaris suggests a snack such as pretzels and a cup of milk. 
  • No electronics before bed – the brightness of screens affects melatonin levels.
  • No caffeine after lunchtime. 

All students – from pre-schoolers to medical students – need sufficient sleep in order to absorb instruction and information. Lack of sleep has been shown to impair a person's ability to focus and learn efficiently. 

“Students who are well-rested perform better and function better,” concluded Dr. Manganaris. 

Pulmonary and Sleep Associates of Marshall County has offices in Guntersville and Boaz. Both can be reached by calling (256) 840-4653.

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