Are your kids ready for school?

HARLINGEN — It’s that time again.

Time for school.

And with the rigid schedules of bedtime and balanced meals comes band, football, exploring languages, seeing friends …

So you’d better get to bed on time, says Dr. Raza Khan, a board-certified sleep medicine physician at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.

“Getting good sleep is good for your health, like taking a vitamin,” he said. “During sleep, your body repairs your worn-out muscles and refreshes your brain.”

School-age children need between nine and 11 hours of sleep in order to function well in school, he said.

“For every human no matter the age, the number one cause of poor concentration is poor sleep,” Khan said. “If you’re exhausted you can’t concentrate. You don’t want to be cranky, you don’t want to be miserable.”

But aye, there’s the rub. Some parents may find getting their kids to bed on time about as easy as swinging around the moon with a rubber band. While kids often just want to stay up late to watch TV or rough house or chat with friends online, there could be another reason which bears a closer look.

“There’s a disorder called delayed sleep phase syndrome, which is pretty common,” he said. “It’s common in high school kids. These are basically night owls. They have a hard time falling asleep before midnight and they’re zombies in the morning.”

He said this disorder is a genetic mutation which affects an individual’s biological clock. There’s no cure, but there are ways to work around it.

“Be aware of light and light exposure,” he said. “Avoid bright lights and screens after sunset as much as they can, certainly within an hour or two before going to bed.”

OK, so you don’t want to get up cranky from no sleep, but you also don’t want to be irritable at school because of an empty stomach. Everything needs fuel to function, and that includes schoolchildren. So a good breakfast is important.

“Eating a balanced diet at any age during the school year is especially important so that parents can be assured their children are getting the right fuel to go about their day,” Karina Longoria, Valley Baptist Health System Clinical Nutrition Manager, states in a release from the hospital.

Longoria, a registered dietitian nutritionist, states in the release that a balanced diet is a critical component to a healthy lifestyle for children of all ages.

“Food acts as our source of energy, which means children could perform better in all areas of their academics when they are properly nourished throughout their day,” Longoria said. “If children don’t fuel the body with balanced nutrition, they can possibly feel sluggish, tired, fatigue and other symptoms.”

Ever enjoy a little shot in the arm to get a jumpstart? There’s no better shot than immunizations against diseases that once killed or disabled millions.

“Vaccinations are so important because they can save lives,” states Dr. Jose Campo-Maldonado, an infectious disease specialist at Valley Baptist in Harlingen.

Campo-Maldonado states in a release from the hospital that, before vaccinations were developed, millions of children died each year from diseases that are now preventable.

He specifically pointed out the importance of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine.

“I think that because of the recent multi-state outbreak of measles, that’s a highly transmittable illness, it can be transmitted through the air,” he said. “The rate of transmission of measles is very high from one person to the other, so I think that’s one we should pay special attention to. But in general most vaccines that we use today are important.”