Updated: May 16, 2020
Has your family's immune system been on your mind lately?
Years ago, nobody talked about taking vitamin D supplements. Now, it's in the news for a reason. If we ever needed to ramp up our vitamin D and get outside for more sunshine, it's now.
Sunshine is the best way to get your vitamin D but in case you're curious, some foods that contain high levels are salmon, tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods like vitamin D milk. Since it was estimated that 40% or more of the US population may be deficient in vitamin D before the virus hit, I can only imagine it's worse now.
Besides for less person-to-person contact, more hand-washing, and considering our vitamin intake, what else can we do for ourselves, to make our bodies strong., in order to fight off any virus or pathogen that may come our way? We need to be forward-thinking about things now if change is going to be positive.
It's probably fairly obvious to most of us that our culture has a little problem with sleep, but the bigger question remains: Does it matter much to our immune system?
It's been a longstanding belief of many parents, grandparents, and childcare providers that sleep can prevent many troubles including staving off viruses and improving focus in school. As a teacher of very young children and a family educator for the past 43 years, my experience says, yes, sleep certainly does produce excellent results in both wellness and in learning.
Mary Kurchinka-Sheedy, licensed parent educator and author of Sleepless In America and Raising Your Spirited Child, has this to say,
Fatigue can also take your child "down" by making him more susceptible to infection. Sleep scientists at the University of Chicago found that even in young, healthy people, a sleep debt of three or four hours over the course of a week affects the body's ability to process carbohydrates, manage stress, maintain a proper balance of hormones, and fight off infection.
Sleepless In America ( Kurcinka Sheedy, Mary, Harper Perennial 2007) )
A study published by Dr. Sheldon Cohen Ph.D. in 2009 concluded that "Poorer sleep efficiency and shorter sleep duration in the weeks preceding exposure to a rhinovirus were associated with lower resistance to illness." https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/414701
Sleep is an elusive and often misunderstood factor in our society. It might be fairly easy for me to reel off sleep advice from the dozens of sleep books I've read over the years. Or to tell you stories from the thousands of naps and bedtimes I've facilitated.
But actually doing the recommended sleep hygiene myself is a different thing, as I'm sure it is for you. I can't always get to sleep these days, either.
I did get a free app that helps me with my deep breathing at night in bed and counting down from 500 usually works to squeeze out any thoughts of sudden panic that overtake my once rational but now wandering and sometimes self-sabotaging mind.
One more thought to leave you with. If you're anything like me you rarely let yourself indulge in a full 8-hour night of sleep due to some kind of need to save the world. We may need to re-think that now.
I'm thinking it's a good time to get back to making sleep a priority when thinking about family health and happiness.
Here's a chart that will give you a general idea about how much sleep you and your family should be getting.
1-4 Weeks 15-16 Hours Newborns are developing their internal biological clocks
1-4 Months 14-15 Hours Regular sleeping patterns begin and longer night sleeping
4-12 Months 14-15 Hours Important to establish regular sleeping patterns at this time
1-3 Years 12-14 Hours Naps remain important to sleep health
3-6 Years 10-12 Hours Naps will become shorter
7-12 Years 10-11 Hours Bedtime gets later
12-18 Years 8-10 Hours Teens may need more sleep
Adults 7-8 Hours Times will greatly vary
Pregnant 8+ More sleep and naps may be needed
Need some suggestions for getting kids to sleep?
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Nanci J Bradley, 60+, is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, SELF-care facilitator, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI