As the summer winds to a close, people of all ages – from children to teens to college students — are preparing to start back to school. After several months of summer fun, many families are used to a laid-back way of life, and transitioning back to a daily grind can be a challenge. No matter where you and your family will be headed this fall, maintaining health is important. Learn four ways to make this the healthiest fall ever!
If you and your family have been burning the midnight oil all summer, now is the time to settle on a bed time and nightly routine. Although the appropriate amount of sleep varies from person to person, the National Sleep Foundation recommends specific ranges of sleep for every age group. For instance, a preschooler needs about 10 to 13 hours of sleep, while a college-aged young adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
To ensure you and your family get enough rest, use a sleep calculator, like this version from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, to determine an appropriate bed time depending on age.
Stock up on nutritious food
As schedules fill up, filling up on nutritious food while you’re on-the-go becomes more difficult. Instead of reaching for a quick fix, make it convenient to eat right by stocking your fridge at home with in-season produce or low oxalate foods like cheese or air-popped popcorn. Look for lunchbox-friendly foods to make packing lunches a breeze.
If you’re headed off to college, you may be shopping for yourself for the first time. Remember to read nutrition labels for pre-packaged foods and choose those with lower amounts of sodium and sugar. Avoid overeating by portioning your food, and fight stress eating by taking a brisk walk instead of snacking on cookies.
For families and individuals whose summer routine has been no routine at all, planning a new fall schedule is essential for a smooth transition to the school year. Create a flexible time-table for wake up, meal times, and bedtime at least two weeks before school starts to give yourself and your children time to adjust.
Now is also the optimal time to establish routines with digital devices, including tablets, laptops, and game systems. Digital devices emit blue light, which has been found to make you feel more alert; this alertness can cause children and adults alike to lose sleep. To help offset this effect, put away your devices at least an hour before bedtime.
Give Yourself Wiggle Room
The best-laid plans for a healthy school year can — and likely will — erupt into chaos at some point in the school year. One of the best tips for back to school health is to give yourself and your family wiggle room to discover the routine that works best. Add an extra half hour to your morning routine to account for traffic or first-day jitters. If you’re starting college, give yourself a few extra minutes to find your classroom; and if you’re not starting back to school yourself (or don’t have a child in school), add some time for backed-up traffic during school zone commutes!
Enjoy your fall more by using these quick tips for back to school health. Share with us in the comments how you’re preparing for the school year.