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Start year feeling energized
As school starts, sleep and healthy meals matter far more than cool new backpacks and clothes

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Date published: 8/30/2009

ICAN tell by the billions of school physical and school medication forms piled on my desk at the office lately that the first day of school is drawing near, and has already come for Spotsylvania County students. (Sorry, Spotsy kids, but you get more snow days.)

Many parents are concerned about their kids getting a great start in the school year, but it can be a little overwhelming for everybody.

First, let me say a word about preparation before the school year begins for most area students. Your kids may think a cool backpack and new pencils will set them up for success, but the most important things you can supply them with are sleep, food, water and exercise.

Sounds simple, right?


You would not believe how many kids don't get enough sleep on school nights. Children ages 5-12 should be getting 10-11 hours a night, and teenagers at least nine hours each night.

With all the activities many students are involved in, plus homework and parents getting home late from work, it is hard to reach this goal sometimes. But many studies have shown that even mild sleep deprivation affects school performance, and can even make a normal child look as if he or she has ADHD.

Too little sleep also can lead to overeating, depression and accidents, which are especially an issue for new drivers. If you still have some time before school starts, try to start now getting your kids on the sleep schedule they will be on for school days.

During the school year, try to keep the weekend bedtimes and getting-up times close to what they are on weekdays, particularly if your child has sleep problems.

Don't let children have TVs or computers in their rooms, and take away the cell phone at bedtime. I see teens all the time who admit to being up until 2 or 3 a.m. texting on a school night!


Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Kids who don't eat breakfast or who eat a sugary breakfast do not perform as well in school in the morning. Kids should always eat something for breakfast.

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Dr. Roxanne Allegretti is a pediatrician with Preferred Pediatrics in Fredericksburg.