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Sleep Deprived in Seattle (And Everywhere Else)

There are many things we do less of now than in the past, and sleeping is one of them. In fact, studies show that people sleep an average of 20-percent less today than they did a century ago. Then, nine hours of sleep a night was typical; today it is closer to seven and a half hours spent in bed, with considerably less spent actually sleeping. And it’s not just adults that are sleeping less. The National Sleep Foundation’s annual survey in 2004 found that children were also getting less sleep than they needed, including infants.

“A few reasons we are sleeping less include the invention of electric light, jobs becoming more urban in nature, and an increase in technology in the home,” explains Darius Zoroufy, M.D., medical director of the Lake Sammamish Sleep Center.

Technology is one of the most glaring reasons behind American’s lack of sleep. “A 2009 study reported that TV is the number one factor keeping adults awake,” says Dr. Zoroufy. Computers, iPods, and cell phones are similar culprits.

“Not only are these things taking up our time, but they are stimulating us mentally, making it difficult for us to shift gears and fall asleep.”

Swedish Pediatric Sleep Specialist, Preetam Bandla, M.D., agrees. “Light from screen media can activate the light-sensitive circadian cells in our brains that regulate when we are maximally alert and maximally sleepy,” he explains, “So our TVs and computer screens can keep us from wanting to sleep.”

Technology is not solely to blame for our lack of sleep, however. “The majority of sleep problems result from self imposed and externally imposed factors,” says Dr. Zoroufy. “There are simply too many opportunities and pressures to stay awake.”

The demands of work, school, family and social activities are causing people to become overscheduled and the first thing people give up is sleep. “The idea that we can sleep less and still function well is a misperception,” says Dr. Bandla.

So how much sleep do we need and what can we do to obtain it?

Celebrate Child Life Month – What is a Child Life Specialist?

Child Life Specialists are teachers, support, advocates, therapeutic touch, art buddies, child development specialists, story tellers, positive influences, toy drive organizers, de-coders of medical language, empathizers, distraction providers, cartoon experts, volunteer managers and skilled listeners.

Child Life Specialists aim to reduce any negative effects of hospitalization on children and their families by reducing stress and anxiety. When I asked one of Swedish's child life specialists about their work, she said they feel very lucky to work in a healthcare system that cares so well for our young patients and families.

To help illustrate the work of Child Life Specialists, enjoy this poem (by Steve Slowinski).

What I’m not:

A nurse.
A doctor.
A social worker.

A “Keeper of the Toys.”
A magical “make-this-kid-not-cry” person.
Only someone to play with the kids.

I’m not superfluous.

What I am:

I am a teacher,
A helping hand,
A support,
An advocate,
An active listener,
A therapeutic touch,
And a child development specialist
Every.
Single.
Day.

I am an OR prep-er,
An IV teacher,
A de-coder of PICC, VCUG, MRI and NG,
A distraction provider,
An inpatient support,
And a guide and voice for siblings
All in the same day.

I am calm despite cancer, CAT scans, and catheters.
I am strong in the face of syncope, sickle cell, and surgery.
Kids can’t always do these things for themselves.
That’s why I’m here ...

Are You Ready?

When we imagine having children, we have these images of ‘having a baby’. The sweet bundle all swaddled, snuggling, and sleeping peacefully in their crib whilst we gaze lovingly, and then we quietly tip-toe out of the nursery and off to our own bed.

Then reality hits. Babies cry. Diapers explode. Breasts leak. Exhaustion hits. And just when we think we’re getting the hang of it, they grow. Their abilities change. Their needs change. Their brains develop. That sweet baby turns into a defiant toddler, that turns into a messy child, who then turns into a smelly teenager (it’s just the hormones, it’ll pass).

We give our lives over to our children. Every thing we do, every decision we make, we take them into account. There is a fantastic quote by Sophia Loren, “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives. A mother always has to think twice: once of herself and once for her child.”

Now, we could debate parenting styles but the more important point is how do you know if you’re ready to potentially live your life for that little baby? How do you know, before you have a baby?

Organized sports activities: safety and benefits

A lot of children are now enrolled in organized sports activities, and more and more children are starting at a younger age. Children are enticed by successful professional sports players and strive to be like them. Many parents enroll their children in organized sports activities with the hope that their child would get an athletic scholarship for college and go on to become a professional player. However, parents must realize that only a few children end up becoming successful professional players.

It is important for children to be physically active, and organized sports can be a part of this healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that children and adolescents who are physically active do well academically in school, have greater self-esteem, sleep well and have less behavioral/emotional problems. Children and adolescents who are active every day tend to develop less health problems like hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia , and grow to become healthy adults.

Here are some important ideas to keep in mind when your child is enrolled in organized sports activity:

Sweet Dreams?

Sleep is just as important to child development as a healthy diet and exercise, although it is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of a child’s life.

As adults, most of us can mutter through on little sleep for a day or so before we get unbearably grumpy, but with kids, their bodies are growing and connecting neurons in the brain all the time. Sleep is absolutely critical for healthy development.

While they sleep their brains are processing and sorting everything they learned that day, and that’s not just the stuff they learned at school; their bodies are honing their fine motor skills and processing the social interactions of the day.

To make sure your child is getting the proper amount of quality sleep, here are some tips:

Car seat safety

Thousands of Americans are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year. Motor vehicle crashes kill more people ages 5 to 34 than any other cause of death.

We, as parents and caregivers, can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries due to motor vehicle accidents by making sure children are restrained in their seats, car seats, or booster seats appropriately every time they ride in a motor vehicle.

Here are a few recommendations regarding appropriate use of restraints in different age groups:

Childhood obesity

Eating healthy and being physically active are important things to keep in mind during and especially after the holidays when an abundance of food is present.

Parents often have questions about their child’s weight such as: Is my child’s weight appropriate? Is there a difference between being overweight and being obese? When should we be worried about his or her weight? If I am overweight, what is the risk that my child may become overweight?

Physicians often use the term BMI (body mass index) to define the terms overweight and obese, and this provides physicians and parents with a guide to monitor weight in children. BMI can be calculated using the weight and height (weight in kilo divided by square of height in meters; this can also be calculated using the BMI calculator. A child is considered overweight if the BMI is greater than the 85th percentile and obese if greater than 95th percentile. Once a child is obese, they are at risk of developing complications like hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, etc.

Physical activity should be a significant part of everyday life of your child. Each child should aim to be active for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. They can be enrolled in an organized sports activity program like football, soccer, baseball, or swimming, or they can remain active by riding a bike, jogging and so on. Parents need to be aware if their child is playing video games for hours at a time and restrict the amount of screen time if necessary. Reduced television watching and computer use may reduce BMI and sedentary behavior.

Eating healthy plays an essential role in the well-being of every child. Studies have shown a lower prevalence of obesity in children who eat a healthy breakfast every day. Parents need to provide children with healthy food options at home so that they can develop a habit of eating healthy. It is important for children to try to eat all food groups, including grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat or fish. Fats, oils and sweets must be consumed in limited amounts. Lifestyle modification involving the whole family is a key factor in maintaining healthy weight in children.

What if my child is obese or overweight?

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