By Dr. Colleen Sholar
With COVID-19 ongoing, and it being fall, that typically heralds the end to summer carelessness and a “back to school” or the grindstone atmosphere, this doesn’t feel like a typical seasonal transition. There are a few things that we should remember are the cornerstone of most of our lives and these still need to be maintained. These include a sleep schedule, healthy eating habits, working on kicking ongoing habits and self care.
I remember going back to school in the fall and my parents making me go to bed when it was still light out, boy I hated that. But they were right, I did need my sleep. The amount of sleep a person needs is not set in stone; it varies by individual and even over the years. Generally:
- babies need 12-16hours a day
- toddlers need 11-14 hours a day
- preschoolers need 10-13 hours day
- school aged kids need 9-12 hours each night
- teens need 8-10 hours each night
- adults generally need 7-8 hours on a regular schedule.
It’s important to have not just adequate hours of sleep but a good quality sleep. Quality sleep generally requires a set sleep schedule. Many people need a bedtime routine and while that may be easily thought of as a bath, bottle, brushing teeth then bedtime story for the kids this may be any routine that is calming to you.
The benefits of improved sleep are many. Getting enough sleep improves your immune system, helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease. It also keeps you in a better mood, helps you think more clearly and helps you get along with others better. Good sleep is part of a healthy daily routine. We know that having a daily routine reduces stress levels which everyone needs during a normal fall, let alone a pandemic.
Healthy eating is an ongoing goal for many. I hope that this is accomplished through a healthy lifestyle and not through a series of crash diets. If you would like help with finding available, affordable and tasty ingredients and recipes Clearwater Valley Clinic has 2 dieticians available for consultations. General recommendations include getting 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, generally eating less processed foods, and avoiding sugary beverages.
Improving yourself often means working on our unhealthy habits. It’s not uncommon for us to have a habit we want to quit and it’s never too late to start making changes.
If you are a smoker Idaho has a program called ProjectFilter which can be found at quitnow.net/idaho. This service offers quit lines, counseling and nicotine replacement.
If you drink excessive alcohol there are support systems. Dietary guidelines recommend moderation which is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men for those who do drink but there is not compelling evidence that anyone has to drink alcohol. We don’t recommend abrupt unmonitored stopping of alcohol in those who drink heavily because withdrawal can be life threatening. If you find that you are drinking more than you should please talk to your doctor or seek out a support system like AA.
There are many other things in life that can be addicting and if you find that there is an addiction interfering in your ability to enjoy your life or causing you harm as a way of coping please talk to your doctor.
So, while this back to school season certainly feels different than any year we have experienced, we need to remember that fall is a time for schedules and healthy habits. We hope that you keep a safe distance from anyone other than your household members and we have evidence to support that you should be doing it masked if indoors outside of your home, but it’s back to somewhat familiar routines. If you or your loved one is having difficulty managing with the stressful impact of this pandemic please reach out for help.